RAF Leuchars is a military airport in eastern Scotland, some 4 km south east of Dundee airport and about 50 km north east of Edinburgh. The RAF are currently in the process of moving their two Typhoon squadrons from Leuchars in Fife to Lossiemouth in Moray as part of a defence review. The MoD is now considering use of the airport for some civliian flights in addition to its use as a military base, which will continue. Although the army will be moving to Leuchars in 2015, the base’s runway will still be in use occasionally and the control tower will have to be preserved. Nearby Dundee airport is struggling to maintain business, partly due to its short 1,400-metre runway, compared to Leuchars’ 2,585 metres, which could cater for much bigger aircraft. A MoD spokesman said: “The MoD is happy in principle to speak to any organisation that wishes to look into the possible use of Leuchars as a commercial airfield.” Ryanair commented: “We are currently in discussion with over 100 airports, so competition for Ryanair growth is fierce.” Dundee’s City Council leader opposed the idea as they are trying to get flights from Dundee to London to be successful. Edinburgh airport is unhappy about these Dundee flights getting public subsidy.
Map showing location of Dundee and Leuchars some 4 km south east of it
SCOTLAND could be set for a new airport after military chiefs opened the door for one of their bases to be shared with commercial airlines.
The RAF are currently in the process of moving their two Typhoon squadrons from Leuchars in Fife to Lossiemouth in Moray as part of a defence review.
Although the army will be moving to Leuchars in 2015, the base’s runway will still be in use occasionally and the control tower will have to be preserved.
Nearby Dundee airport is struggling to maintain business, partly due to its short 1,400-metre runway, compared to Leuchars’ 2,585 metres, which could cater for much bigger aircraft.
And today the MOD admitted they would be open to sharing the airport with civilians.
A spokesman said: “Under the Army Re-basing Plan announced in 2013, the army is scheduled to take over Leuchars by summer 2015.
“Typhoon aircraft will transfer to RAF Lossiemouth. However, the RAF’s East of Scotland Universities Air Squadron and No 12 Air Experience Flight will remain.
“The MoD is happy in principle to speak to any organisation that wishes to look into the possible use of Leuchars as a commercial airfield.
“However, any plans would need to take into account Leuchars will continue as a military base.”
Low-cost airline Ryanair welcomed the news, along with businesses in Dundee.
A spokeswoman said: “We are currently in discussion with over 100 airports, so competition for Ryanair growth is fierce.
“However, the runway at Dundee Airport is too short for our aircraft type 737 to 800s.”
Lindsay Darroch, partner and head of property at Blackadders solicitors in Dundee, said: “I would urge Scottish and local governments to redevelop Leuchars airbase and make it an international airport.
“This to me would be an obvious next piece of the jigsaw and would have a huge impact on the local economy and the local housing market.”
Dundee University scientist Professor Sir Philip Cohen said moving Dundee airport to Leuchars would be a “huge opportunity” for the area.
He added: “A new civil airport at Leuchars would attract a huge amount of tourists as well as business traffic and would be highly viable.”
Dundee airport has struggled in recent times and just announced CityJet’s flights to London City will stop at the end of next month.
Flybe have stepped in with a temporary service to London Stansted but the city council is searching for a more concrete arrangement.
Despite Dundee airport’s problems, City Council leader Ken Guild opposed the idea of moving their business to RAF Leuchars.
He said: “To follow through on any suggestion that another ‘local’ airport should be created would be a massively expensive, time-consuming and complex undertaking.
“We have an airport at Dundee right now which has sufficient infrastructure and a long track record of handling commercial flights.
“All of our energies are currently being directed at attracting an operator to fly from Dundee to London and these will continue until that is achieved.
“When it is, I would hope that the service will be supported by the business and academic communities in the city who have a need to travel to London and the south east of England.”
Royal Air Force station Leuchars or more simply RAF Leuchars (IATA: ADX, ICAO: EGQL) is the second most northerly air defence station in the United Kingdom (The most northerly being RAF Lossiemouth). It is located in Leuchars, Fife, on the east coast of Scotland, near to the university town of St Andrews.
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On 18 July 2011 Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced that RAF Leuchars would close, whilst RAF Lossiemouth in Moray would be spared as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. The recently formed Typhoon force, which was stood up in March 2011, will now be moved to RAF Lossiemouth in 2013 with the Army expected to take up residence in 2015 onwards.
Very little information of a closure timeline is known. Several lodger units on the station will be required to find new homes if the Army are unable to accommodate them. These include 58 Squadron of the RAF Regiment, 6 Force Protection Wing, No 612 (County of Aberdeen) Squadron RAuxAF, theEast of Scotland Universities Air Squadron incorporating 12 Air Experience Flight (who have 5 aircraft based at RAF Leuchars), and the headquarters of Scotland and Northern Ireland Region and South East Scotland Wing of the Air Training Corps.
In 2015 the army will take over and The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards will move in along with a REME Battalion and a Provost Company.
THE chief executive of Edinburgh Airport has questioned a decision to subsidise flights between Dundee and London with public money – claiming the move has “implications for fair competition”.
In an open letter, Gordon Dewar called on the Dundee City Council leader to justify the use of taxpayers’ money to retain routes to Stansted Airport – branded “vital” by the authority – when Edinburgh has 44 daily flights to the English capital.
Describing Dundee Airport as “publicly owned and loss making”, Mr Dewar said the council money would be better spent supporting a direct coach service to Edinburgh Airport.
It has been reported Dundee City Council will pay half the cost of running Dundee Airport’s new stand-in service to Stansted until a new operator can take over later this year. But Dundee council chiefs are tight-lipped about the value of their investment due to “commercial confidentiality”.
In his letter, Mr Dewar said: “From an economic appraisal perspective [Dundee City Council leader Ken Guild] would appear to be considering investing taxpayers’ money in saving a maximum of one hour’s access time but offering two frequencies a day to a single airport versus 44 frequencies a day to a choice of six London airports.
“Saving one hour’s drive at the Dundee end of the journey may therefore cost hours of waiting time in London waiting for a very infrequent service.”
He said he would be interested to hear the “economic justification” for the “saving between 20 and 60 minutes per passenger valued at something of the order of £2 per trip”.
Mr Dewar called for a meeting to discuss the issue and the “implications for fair competition and private investment in infrastructure for Scotland”.
Mr Guild said the London route had played an important role in the “ongoing regeneration of Dundee”.
He said: “We are keen that this service continues for the benefit of the city.”
Aviation expert Laurie Price, from Mott MacDonald consultants, expressed sympathy for Dundee’s position, arguing that, by Mr Dewar’s reasoning, Edinburgh Airport operations should be transferred to Glasgow.
He said: “As a private company, of course Gordon Dewar doesn’t want this but equally why is the tram link, being developed with public money, going out to the airport? How much public money went into that?
“I would imagine the subsidy going in from Dundee for air services from London is infinitely less than the public expenditure on the Edinburgh tram.”
Transport Scotland took a very political stance, insisting it will support both airports.
“We are confident there is a place for services from Dundee,” a spokesman said. “In Scotland’s increasingly competitive aviation sector we want to secure a future for the airport.”
Dear Councillor Guild,
I noted with interest the recent media coverage around the creation of a new route between Dundee and Stansted airports. In particular, I was interested in the assertion that Dundee City Council was devoting funds to making the route viable.
I have to say that given the significant travel options and minimal travel time between Dundee and the airports in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, we were surprised with the announcement the description of the route as ‘vital’.
I would seek clarification on the application of a ‘development area’ in this case and the double subsidy that a route subsidy represents when operating out of a publically owned and loss making airport.
Can I ask you to review your decision and meet with me to explore getting better connections between Dundee and Edinburgh Airport thereby using public funds more effectively?…
…Perhaps a better response to improving connectivity and accessibility through investment would be to consider supporting a direct coach service to Edinburgh Airport or perhaps seeking a route change from the existing Dundee-Edinburgh service.
It is my belief, that the cost of subsidy should be measured against the alleged ‘benefit’ of avoiding a maximum of one hour’s worth of travel, whether that is by rail or road…
…I would very much appreciate the opportunity to discuss this issue with you further where we can perhaps deal with the other issues of distortions of markets and implications for fair competition and private investment in infrastructure for Scotland.