Aerospace company a potential new neighbor for RAF Mildenhall
Stars and Stripes August 30, 2006
RAF MILDENHALL — Could U.S. aircraft at RAF Mildenhall one day share the runway with a private business that modifies and maintains military aircraft?
According to a recent report by the British consulting group Arup, there are no “show stoppers” in front of a concept to move Cambridge-based Marshall Aerospace to the edge of the U.S.-run base and allow it access to the airstrip.
Marshall Aerospace, which owns and operates the Cambridge City Airport as part of its business to repair and outfit aircraft, is in the early stages of considering relocation as government officials mull a plan to use airport land for housing, said John Watkins, a senior executive at the company.
Watkins stressed that no decision has been made on whether to move the company anywhere, however, pending the Cambridge council’s verdict on where to put the houses.
“No decision has been made, that’s absolutely central,” Watkins said.
However, as part of the feasibility study for housing expansion in Cambridge, Arup identified four potential relocation sites for Marshall. Three were on the periphery of RAF Mildenhall, with taxiways connecting a to-be-built facility to the main airstrip, according to the report.
The fourth was located at RAF Wyton, a British base in Cambridgeshire.
A possible plan at Mildenhall, according to the report, would be for Marshall to build its facilities along the fence line of the base and access the airstrip via taxiways through the fence.
Watkins said the new facilities would need to house a total of 14 C-130s and at least one C-17 in order to handle the 1.52 billion-pound ($2.9 billion) contract it recently signed with the Ministry of Defence to maintain the Royal Air Force’s Hercules fleet.
Officials from the U.S. Air Force and the British Ministry of Defence would not answer questions about a potential move by Marshall to the American facility or whether the U.S. would be receptive to sharing the runway.
Both agencies issued only general statements about the matter in response to queries by Stars and Stripes.
Watkins, however, said the study — which addressed whether the sites could handle Marshall’s airport and operational planning requirements — showed the move to Mildenhall was “technically feasible.”
Neither the Air Force nor Watkins would say much about whether the two have had talks about outsourcing the U.S. military’s maintenance needs to the company.
“That’s an opportunity that Marshall would like to pursue,” Watkins said. “But there are no contracts in place.”
Any potential move, he said, would be years down the road if it does happen, and depend heavily on when Cambridge development officials implement a city expansion plan.