FLY WALES’ Jonathan Rees wants Pembrokeshire County Council to come down to Haverfordwest airport to see what it is all about.
The council has recently approved a consultation on the future of the airport but Jonathan Rees told the Herald that closing the airport would have a big impact on Pembrokeshire.
Jonathan has invested heavily into the business and says that the airport is an asset not just to businesses but to the people of Pembrokeshire as well.
One option that was mentioned at the cabinet meeting in April was the possibility of using Brawdy as an alternative but that idea was also dismissed by Jonathan.
He said: “No one has taken the time to know what is actually going on here, so for them to say this needs to be closed, they should at least come up to the airport first to see what is going on and the jobs it has created and if it did close, the jobs that would be lost directly. We do a lot of NHS work which involves a lot of organ flights all over the UK from Haverfordwest. We may go to pick up surgical teams from London or Newcastle to fly out to wherever the donor is, retrieve the organs and go back to where they are needed. Haverfordwest is able to offer a 24- hour service because we’ve already got the infrastructure of the lighting as a lot of the organ retrievals are done in the evenings. On Saturday evening there was an organ which left here at 11.30 and that was flown to Edinburgh and another that went to Edinburgh on Tuesday morning. The Charter also flies companies around Pembrokeshire. The LNG oil refinery does use this facility and it does use it to fly in people whenever something major is happening. When Marks and Spencer was being built in Haverfordwest, they were flying in and out as well. The packaging companies that are processing, they use us to fly in the buyers for Tesco, Morrisons and Asda. All these companies are quite large employers for the county of Pembrokeshire. We also do work for the MOD in Aberporth. Whilst there is an airfield at Aberporth it is used for the UAV’s which means they can’t use commercial transport. We’ve seen an increase of over 300% in Pilot training, up on where we were last year, bearing in mind we are coming out of one the most severe recessions. We are actually now attracting people and we’ve got students coming over to learn to fly at Haverfordwest from Hong Kong in May. As well as being good for the economy of the airport this will also be good for the local economy with accommodation and services that are provided being used. People do use the facility for pleasure flights whilst on holiday and one comment I’ve had is that it was the icing on the cake of their holiday and they would want to come again.”
He continued: “Brawdy is not an option because, going back to the charter, from the minute we have a phone call, until the craft is airborne, has to be 45 minutes and that’s 24- 7. For us to be out in Brawdy, there are no lights, there is no runway lighting, no control tower, and no security facility. The infrastructure at Brawdy means it is just not an option. The airport has made a loss of £46,000 but my view is that whilst we are getting busier, we are going to be buying more fuel, we are going to be making more profit so that loss will slowly diminish. The airport shouldn’t be looked at as a separate entity because other jobs are supported by the airport. It isn’t just a playground for people. It is a proper business.”
Jonathan also revealed that the area in which they operate could soon be expanding to areas in Iceland, Russia and Yemen.
He continued: “Before the council talks about closure and before they suggest something like Brawdy, why don’t they come up and see what really happens at the Haverfordwest Aerodrome. What I would like is for the council to come up to Haverfordwest airport to have a discussion about what the airport does, what services go from here and who it is provided for. It is a huge asset for the businesses and even to the people of Pembrokeshire and it is a huge asset to encouraging investment. If the airport was to close it would definitely have an impact. I would close the aviation site and I wouldn’t relocate as it wouldn’t be viable. It works here because we can guarantee that aircraft will be airborne within 45 minutes. Everything is close at hand and this is why we are very good at what we do.”