Doncaster Sheffield Airport
Doncaster Sheffield Airport, formerly Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield, is an international airport at the former RAF Finningley station, in the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster within South Yorkshire, England. The airport lies south-east of Doncaster Town Centre and east of Sheffield. Handling 1.22 million passengers in 2018, the airport is the smaller of Yorkshire's two large commercial airports.
The airport opened to passengers in 2005. It was initially operated by Peel Airports, a division of The Peel Group. Doncaster Sheffield Airport has a CAA Public Use Aerodrome Licence that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction.
HistoryThe airport owes its origins to military aviation, having been founded as Finningley Airfield in 1915.
During the First World War, it was used as a base by the Royal Flying Corps as they intercepted German Zeppelins targeting the industrial cities of the North. In the Second World War the airfield was used primarily for training purposes, serving as a finishing school for new crews of the larger aircraft in Bomber Command; only a few combat missions took off from Finningley. The Cold War saw the airfield's importance rise when it was used for nuclear-armed Vulcan bombers. Training once again became the priority in the 1970s and 1980s before the airport was decommissioned in 1995.
Following the ending of scheduled services from Sheffield City Airport, the former RAF Finningley was reopened as Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield in April 2005, after low-cost flights and rising passenger demand made a new commercial airport feasible. The name of the airport was controversial with 11,000 people signing a petition to oppose it.
The airport's first commercial flight flew to Palma de Mallorca in Majorca, departing at 0915 on 28 April 2005. The airport was projected to serve at least a million passengers during 2006. The actual figure for its first year was 899,000, making the airport the 23rd largest in the UK. By August 2007 the new airport had handled 2.28 million passengers.
Long haul flights to North America began in summer 2007, with Flyglobespan operating to Hamilton, Ontario, and Thomsonfly to Orlando, Cancún and Puerto Plata. All these routes have since been discontinued. In 2007, over one million passengers used the airport, however, this had decreased to around 700,000 by 2012, before increasing again to 1.255 million in 2016.
In December 2009, EasyJet announced that from April 2010 it would operate flights from Doncaster to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Faro, Palma de Mallorca and Prague. These flights were expected to carry 300,000 passengers in the first year of operation. However, EasyJet withdrew all flights from the airport with effect from 4 January 2011.
By 2010 the Peel Group was attempting to secure outside investment for Peel Airports. In June 2010 it was announced that Vantage Airport Group had agreed to buy a 65% stake in Peel Airports, with Peel Group retaining the remaining 35%. However, following a significant decline in passenger numbers, Peel Airports sold Durham Tees Valley Airport back to Peel Group in February 2012. In the second half of 2012, monthly passenger numbers at Robin Hood fell significantly and in December 2012 it was announced that Robin Hood would also be sold back to Peel Group. As a result, by January 2013 only Liverpool John Lennon Airport was still owned by Peel Airports, with Vantage Airport Group owning 65% of this company. At Durham Tees Valley Airport and Robin Hood Airport, Vantage's involvement had ended. Robin Hood Airport was once again wholly owned by the Peel Group, while at Durham Tees Valley Airport, Peel were majority shareholders, with local councils retaining a minority stake. In 2014, Peel took back full ownership of Liverpool John Lennon, bringing all of Peel's airports back into group ownership, with Liverpool retaining its own management structure separate to Doncaster and Durham.
In September 2016, the airport signed a deal with Sheffield United Football Club. This resulted in Doncaster Sheffield Airport being the club's official air travel provider. To promote the partnership, a large advertisement has been displayed across one of the stands at Bramall Lane Stadium. As a method of increasing passenger numbers at the airport, the football club has also been giving away free flights to their fans. Since the new airport link road opened, which connects Parrots Corner to the M18's junction 3, Sheffield is only 30 minutes away by road which supports the partnership between the airport and the football club further.
In December 2016, the airport received an entirely new corporate design including a change of name from Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield to Doncaster Sheffield Airport, with the Robin Hood title being downgraded to a lesser used graphic appendix. In September 2017, the airport entered a sponsorship deal with Sheffield Arena giving it the new name of Fly DSA Arena.
In April 2019, Flybe announced it would be closing its base at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, and remove all crew and aircraft from 26 October 2019.
Runway and terminal buildingThe airport has a single runway designated 02/20, with a length of, making it longer and wider than those at many other airports in Northern England. This stems from the airport's history as a former long-range nuclear bomber base, and makes the airport suitable for wide-bodied, long-haul or cargo-carrying aircraft. The runway is long enough that the airport was designated a Space Shuttle emergency landing site.
The passenger terminal has 24 check-in desks, six departure gates and three baggage carousels.
Airport hotel and car parksA Ramada Encore chain hotel opened on 10 November 2008, with a 102-bed capacity. It is situated less than ten minutes walk from the Terminal building.
There are four on-site car parks at the airport. Short Stay, Long Stay, Premium Parking and Meet & Greet. All car parks are operated and managed by the airport and are all within walking distance of the terminal building.
Airport business parkWork is also progressing on a new business park across from the terminal, which will link to the access road into the airport. In March 2014 the site for the park became part of Sheffield City Region Enterprise Zone.
Hangar buildingsNo. 3 Hangar is presently occupied by 2Excel Aviation providing Design, production and Maintenance services.
Defence company BAE Systems formerly operated its Aircraft Maintenance Academy from No. 3 Hangar at the airport, before moving to Humberside Airport. Other companies that operate within the hangars include Bespoke Training Systems Limited, a Cessna Citation service center, and Anglo European Express Ltd.
Flight trainingThe airport is home to two flight training schools for fixed wing and one helicopter flight school. Doncaster Sheffield Flight Training, Yorkshire Aero Club and Hummingbird Helicopters which provides Introductory flying lessons and training towards the Private Pilot's Licence.
Airlines and destinationsThe following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights to and from Doncaster Sheffield:
Vulcan XH558In 2011, the Vulcan to the Sky Trust relocated Avro Vulcan XH558 The Spirit Of Great Britain to the airport, arriving from its former temporary winter base, RAF Lyneham, on 29 March. It was the last airworthy example of the Vulcan bomber fleet, restored to flight by the Trust in 2007. One of the reasons for the move to a commercial airport was to improve access for the public to see XH558 up close, something not possible while based at operational RAF bases. The move was deliberately not announced in advance, both to keep costs down at the not yet complete new base, and to not overshadow ongoing repatriation flights of Britain's war casualties to Lyneham from Afghanistan. The airport remained XH558's home base until its final flight, a display over the airport, on 28 October 2015.
With XH558 now permanently grounded, the Trust intends to remain at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, and make the Vulcan the focus of a new educational and heritage facility, the first stage being to establish the Vulcan Aviation Academy & Heritage Centre. This will feature an academy building for 14-18 year olds, with the Vulcan housed in an adjacent heritage centre, where it will be maintained so as to be able to perform regular fast taxi runs, the frequency of which would be funding dependent.
RoadThe airport is located close to the M18 motorway; a road link from Junction 3 of the M18 to Parrot's Corner was opened on 29 February 2016 before being extended to the airport on 15 June 2018. Part of the Finningley and Rossington Regeneration Route Scheme, the road is called the Great Yorkshire Way, and is a continuation of the A6182 from Doncaster town centre. In addition the M18 has been widened to three lanes northbound from junction 2 to Junction 3. Also nearby are the A1 and the M180.
Taxis are available directly outside the terminal building. These are operated by the airports official partner Little Arrow Taxis.
BusThere are regular First South Yorkshire and Stagecoach Yorkshire bus services directly linking the airport with Doncaster Frenchgate Interchange and Sheffield Interchange.
The 57a and 57c bus services replace the previous "X4" express service and are operated by First South Yorkshire. The services link the airport with Doncaster town centre calling at a number of local areas along the journey before arriving at Doncaster Frenchgate Interchange.
The "X6" bus service, operated by Stagecoach Yorkshire, is a daytime only express service that departs from Sheffield Interchange. The service calls at Wickersley, Bramley, Advanced Manufacturing Park, Doncaster iPort and arrives at Doncaster Sheffield Airport approximately 65 minutes later. This replaces the previous "737" express service.
Rail, located on the East Coast Main Line, is from the airport and is adjacent to the Doncaster Frenchgate Interchange.
In addition, the airport lies alongside the Doncaster to Lincoln railway line, and plans for a station at Finningley to replace the station that closed in 1961 were granted planning permission in 2008. However, a 2012 report by Network Rail stated that more trains on the line would be required to make the station viable. There have also been plans to connect the airport to the East Coast Main Line with a dedicated rail link.
Accidents and incidents
- On 6 January 2010, Paul Chambers, who was intending to travel from Doncaster Sheffield, posted a message to Twitter threatening to bomb the airport. He was later arrested, tried and convicted of sending a menacing message. In July 2012, the conviction was quashed on appeal.
- On 15 August 2014, a Links Air flight from Belfast City Airport, operated by G-GAVA, crashed on landing at the airport following a landing gear failure which caused substantial damage to the aircraft. One passenger was taken to hospital with minor injuries. The airport was closed for several hours.
- The airport has also been a filming location for popular television series such as ITV's Emmerdale, BBC One drama Hustle, and In the Club.
- The airport was a filming location for Film4 Productions film Four Lions.
- The airport was one of the settings for the BBC mockumentary Come Fly with Me. Matt Lucas and David Walliams spent two weeks at the airport filming. The programme aired from Christmas 2010 through January 2011.
- The airport had several appearances in the 1984 BBC nuclear war docudrama Threads, where it was destroyed by a Soviet nuclear warhead.
- The airport has a historical connection to Nottinghamshire and still resides in the boundary of the Diocese of Nottingham.
- Some later Robin Hood legends, and the popular 20th-century books, films and TV programmes, are set in Sherwood Forest.
- The Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster is closer to what is left of Sherwood Forest than the city of Nottingham is.
- The forests of Sherwood and Barnsdale merged in this area of Yorkshire.
- The name would provide an identity which would raise a lot of attention for the airport and create a marketing opportunity.