Cotswold Airport control tower
|Operator||Kemble Air Services Limited|
|Elevation AMSL||436 ft / 133 m|
Cotswold Airport (IATA: GBA, ICAO: EGBP) (formerly Kemble Airfield) is a private general aviation airport, near the village of Kemble in Gloucestershire, England. Located 4.5 NM (8.3 km; 5.2 mi) southwest of Cirencester, it was built as a Royal Air Force (RAF) station and was known as RAF Kemble. The Red Arrows aerobatics team was based there until 1983, and it is used for the storage and recycling of retired airliners, as well as flying schools, clubs and industry.
Cotswold Airport is in a good position for flying training as it is clear of controlled airspace allowing free movement for training aircraft. It is also centrally positioned between Cheltenham and Gloucester and Swindon, with good road and rail links.
Construction work for RAF Kemble began in 1936, and the first operational unit to arrive at the station was No. 5 Maintenance Unit on 22 June 1938. In 1940, No. 4 Service Ferry Pool moved to the station from Cardiff, and Kemble became one of the main bases for the aircraft ferrying operations of the Air Transport Auxiliary in this region of the British Isles. Around the same time, Kemble was also the home of No. 1 Overseas Aircraft Preparation Unit (OAPU).
From 1966 until 1983, Kemble housed the Red Arrows, the RAF's aerobatic display team, which operated Folland Gnats and BAe Hawks. After the Red Arrows moved to RAF Scampton, the station was used by the US Air Force as a maintenance facility, initially for A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft, followed by Northrop F-5s, McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles, Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers.
Following the end of the Cold War, the US Air Force left the station and it was returned to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The British Army made use of the site to store surplus vehicles and equipment, and military flights ended at the station in March 1993.
The MoD initially leased buildings on the former station before selling the site to Ronan Harvey, a local businessman, in March 2001.
There was a threat of closure because of a mistake which the Cotswold District Council made relating to planning permission when it was sold by the Ministry of Defence. However, this is no longer the case, and the planning status of the airfield has been changed to that of airport. In July 2007, the airfield was again threatened by the council after local residents filed noise-pollution complaints.
In June 2008, the threat of closure eased after the Cotswold District Council allowed flying to continue, but in September 2008, North Wiltshire District Council sought to overturn this decision in the High Court as they said the original decision was flawed.
In August 2009, the airport was awarded a CLEUD (Certificate of Lawful Use) as a commercial airport so the future is assured as an airport and development to that end can occur. Resource Group (Formerly Lufthansa Resource Technical Training Ltd) have relocated their EASA Part 147 Approved Basic Training facility to Cotswold Airport with a purpose-built facility opened in spring 2010. This has the effect of bringing numerous jobs to the local area as well as supporting local infrastructure, such as shops and hotels. There are some 50 engineering students stationed there year-round.
The current airport at the site was renamed Cotswold Airport in 2009, having previously operated as Kemble Airport or Kemble Airfield.
Cotswold Airport has a CAA Ordinary Licence (Number P863), which allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee (Kemble Air Services Limited). The airfield has a tarmacadam runway which can and has accommodated large aircraft such as the Boeing 747.
Aston Down airfield lies 3 mi to the northwest and has sometimes been mistaken for Cotswold Airport by visiting pilots. It formerly belonged to the RAF but is now used for gliding by the Cotswold Gliding Club.
Cotswold Airport is home to Chevron Aircraft Maintenance Ltd. Chevron is an EASA part 145 approved aircraft maintenance facility and has been based at the airport since January 2004, carrying out maintenance, storage and dismantling of aircraft.
Cotswold Airport is also the operating base of Air Salvage International (ASI), who are described as Europe's leading aircraft decommissioning company. Air Salvage moved from Alton, Hampshire in late 2009 to Cotswold Airport, setting up base in Hangar J1. During 2010, the company took over 130,000 sqft of hangar space formerly used by Aeronautic and Delta Jets, and has grown substantially thereafter. In 2017 the airport was described as "Europe's Leading Airliner Recycling Location."
Between 1996 and 2012, hangars at the airport housed the exhibits of the Bristol Aero Collection.
When the airport was used by the RAF it boasted two hard-surface runways (13/31 and 08/26). However, the north-south runway has been closed off, and is used only as a taxiway and for aircraft parking at present (2017).
Future of the airport
A proposal was put forward in 2015 for a "sustainable village" with shops and leisure facilities to be built on the 420-acre site.
However, this development did not occur. As of 2018, the recently appointed Airport Manager, Christian Ackroyd (a former Army Colonel and pilot) intends to increase and diversify aviation business. This includes plans for new hangars, a new GNSS (GPS) approach to enable more corporate jet use and a Part 145 maintenance organisation based at the airport.
In popular culture
Cotswold Airport has been used as a film location for a number of television programmes and series, including: Top Gear, Casualty, Ultimate Force, Car of the Year Show, Wheeler Dealers, Classic Car Club, Drop the Celebrity and Fifth Gear.
- "NATS – AIS – Home". ead-it.com.
- "RAF Kemble". Cotswold Airport. 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
- "Photos: Boeing 747-481 Aircraft Pictures - Airliners.net". airliners.net.
- "Complete Aerospace Solutions – Chevron Technical Services". chevronkemble.com.
- i3m.co.uk. "Aircraft salvage, recovery and disposal services – Air Salvage International". airsalvage.co.uk.
- "Jet cemetery: Where do aircraft go when airlines go to the wall?". The Independent.
- Howarth, Nigel. Kemble-Cotswold Airport: Europe's Leading Airliner Recycling Location, Aviation Week & Space Technology (7 March 2017)
- "McLaren testing at Kemble // Straight line testing at the Gloucestershire airfield". Sidepodcast.
- "Cotswold Airport could be shut for housing". BBC News. 19 February 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- "Welcome to Cotswold Airport". cotswoldairport.com.
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