Aberdeen Airport is located in Dyce, an area around five miles away from the city of Aberdeen. The airport is increasing its passenger load steadily with almost three and half million passengers passing through last year, an impressive eight percent more than in the previous year.
Being the third largest airport in Scotland it plays an important part in connecting this northerly country with the rest of Britain; if flight movements are taken into account, Aberdeen can be placed in the top ten. The airport is currently owned by BAA who has worked hard to build up facilities on the site such as restaurants, cafes, shops and car hire provisions. The airport utilises a single primary terminal building for its charter holiday flights although there are a further three terminals for helicopter services to the various oil rigs in the North Sea.
The airport first opened in the early thirties and its primary objective when opening was to provide a vital link between the northern islands and London. This purpose was taken by Inverness airport later on so Aberdeen found other ways to attract custom. During the second world war the Aberdeen airport became and important airfield in the north of Britain. Many fighters were stationed at Aberdeen during the war for protection, the threat being the German bombing raids from Norway. However despite the importance of this role, Aberdeen was primarily used as a base for reconnaissance aircraft. At the end of the war the airport was nationalised and returned to civilian use.
It was in the sixties that Aberdeen airport made the most of the North Sea oil boom. The helicopter flights to the oil rigs became a major part of Aberdeen's income. Aberdeen became a city based on oil and the airport became the largest commercial heliport in the world. Currently the heliport ferries nearly five hundred thousand passengers to the rigs each year, controlling the movements of almost forty thousand helicopters. The airport is such a large base for the oil industry that helicopters make up around half of the movements at the airport at any time.
Although its primary function is as a heliport servicing the oil industry, the facilities at Aberdeen are increasingly being focussed towards those using the airport for tourist charter flights. The terminal has a variety of shops, restaurants, games areas and car hire desks to provide services for both inbound and outbound tourists. Increasingly there are hotels surrounding the airport. At the moment there are four although in the next year or so another is gong to be built; a one hundred and seventy room Hilton. The growth of these hotels is most probably due to the large number of stopover guests who are waiting to fly out to the oil rigs.
Like most airports in the UK Aberdeen has put in place an action plan for further expansion and growth. Currently airport chiefs are hoping that a runway extension of three hundred metres will be given planning permission. It is hoped that by lengthening the runway the possibility of direct flights to the USA will be a possibility, although this will be dependent upon demand for such a service. In addition an extension of the runway would also increase the number of flights available to Europe. These plans have been rejected by local residents and environmental campaigners for the harmful effects on local natural habitats and the way of life in the area. This situation however is present throughout the country at nearly every airport; ultimately if BAA gets government backing to expand an airport, it is going to become a reality.
Aberdeen has become the airport of choice for the oil industry although increasingly executives are trying to court more tourist flights. Like many airports, the issue of expansion is a large one that must eventually be settled. But as airports need to expand to improve our travel links, it is inevitable that some local residents and environmental campaigners will be upset.
Air travel expert Thomas Pretty looks into why car hire Aberdeen Airport services have been important to the site's development.