Rigby Group moves to be major player in aviation sector with second big deal

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SIR Peter Rigby’s Patriot Aerospace Group has moved to support its purchase of a 60% stake in Exeter Airport with its second major aviation acquisition in the space of a week.

The Coventry-based group, which acquired the controlling interest in Exeter Airport from Balfour Beatty in a deal announced on Monday, has now concluded a fresh deal with the construction firm to acquire RCAM (Regional and City Airport Management Ltd) for an undisclosed fee.

RCAM is a specialist airport management company responsible for the overall operation of Blackpool and City of Derry Airports.

Led by John Spooner, a former managing director of Manchester Airport, the business accommodates up to 3m passengers a year and supports a range of cargo, freight, corporate and general aviation services.

The deal sees RCAM take over the management of Patriot Aerospace’s airport assets, which comprise Exeter and Coventry Airports and Cardiff Heliport. The acquisition could also spark fresh hopes of a return to passenger flights from Coventry Airport.

The airport operations sit alongside the group’s flying activities – now trading as British International Helicopters following its acquisition of BIH in May. BIH is now the largest British helicopter operating business with specialist divisions covering offshore and defence, utility, engineering, charter and flight training.

The group is currently integrating both its newly-acquired interest in Exeter Airport and BIH into its overall operations. It said the acquisitions demonstrated the group’s intention to become a leading player both in the regional airport sector and helicopter operations. Today the aviation arm of the business employs more than 450 people.

Sir Peter said: “The Rigby Group has invested in RCAM as we believe regional airports have a significant role to play in the future of the British aerospace sector and there is definite potential for growth in terms of both freight and passenger capacity.

“With major hub airports currently working to near or over capacity and questions of how to meet the demand being debated as part of the Davies Commission, we see a clear opportunity for regional airports to ease the strain, partly through effective management and operation.”

John Spooner said the RCAM business was based on the belief that regional airports are local transport facilities, operated locally for the benefit of local communities.

“Regional airports are vitally important to the economic development of regions, not just in the UK but also overseas. Obviously smaller airports do not have the benefits of scale enjoyed by the larger hub airports: to survive and prosper, smaller regional airports need to cooperate and collaborate and this is exactly what RCAM can do – bring regional airports together to enable them to operate safely, sensitively and increasingly efficiently.

“The passionate belief of the Rigby Group in the importance of the regions to the national economy makes Patriot Aerospace an ideal owner of RCAM.” he said.

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