New £1.6m scheme to build and fly aircraft from former RAF Coltishall could create more than 100 jobs

PUBLISHED: 08:04 18 October 2017 | UPDATED: 08:04 18 October 2017

Aerial view of RAF Coltishall.

Picture taken by Mike Page.

Aerial view of RAF Coltishall. Picture taken by Mike Page.

Mike Page

Aircraft could once again fly from a former Norfolk military base as part of a new £1.6m manufacturing operation.

Scottow Enterprise Park at the former RAF Coltishall airbase. 

Picture: MARK BULLIMOREScottow Enterprise Park at the former RAF Coltishall airbase. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Swift Aircraft Ltd is proposing to renovate Hangar Two at former RAF Coltishall and begin building light aeroplanes.

The scheme, which will create 103 new jobs over two years, will also see the disused runway brought back into limited use.

David Stanbridge, managing director of the Norwich-based company, said a new type of training aircraft would be manufactured at the site.

And he said the former RAF base - renamed as the Scottow Enterprise Park (SEP) in 2013 - was the ideal location.

“Wherever you look around the country, there are not many airfields available,” he said.

“And in Norfolk, the runways have either been dug up or are in disrepair. But that is not the case with Coltishall.”

The business aims to renovate the interior of Hangar Two to put together its new two-seater Swift aircraft.

Mr Stanbridge said it was the first new training aircraft to be certified in Great Britain for more than 25 years.

Each one costs a minimum of £100,000 to build and, once complete, will be flown from the runway.

“Hopefully there is an appetite for this [scheme], because the beauty of this aircraft is that it is very quiet,” Mr Stanbridge said.

“They are not like the Jaguars or Lightning aircraft that used to fly from there.”

The chairman of the Spirit of Coltishall Association - a group which aims to preserve the history of the base - welcomed the proposals.

He said: “The association has been working with SEP for some time to encourage the return of a proper use of the hangars and keep the runway open where possible. SoCA is delighted that Swift Aircraft will be using it at last.”

Simon Coward, managing director at SEP, said he was “excited” to welcome the firm onto the site.

A planning application will be needed to bring the runway back into limited use. It is expected to be submitted later this month.

If approved, full-scale production could begin at the end of 2018.

On Thursday, October 19, people will also have the chance to comment on the plans at a consultation at the SEP estate hub.

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