Gulf of Saint-Tropez Airport... 50 years of service to business aviation

Published on 22/09/2014 at 14:00 • Updated on 23/09/2014 at 17:21

50 Ans - Aéroport du Golfe de Saint-Tropez

Over the last half-century, Gulf of Saint-Tropez Airport has successfully established itself as a leading contributor to the economy of the peninsula with which it shares its name, and has come a very long way from the small country airfield opened here on 8 August 1964.

As an essential gateway to its surrounding region, it offers a uniquely fast and comfortable point of access and a strategic alternative to the congested road network for upscale clients visiting one the world's most beautiful peninsulas; a resort destination that attracts more than a million people from all over the world every year.

Aéroport de St-Tropez

Located between two valleys 15 km from Saint-Tropez in the hills and forests that typify the rural community of La Mole, Gulf of Saint-Tropez Airport luxuriates in a pastoral landscape at the foot of the Massif des Maures mountain range. Its single 1,190-metre runway makes it one of the world's smallest international airports. But the volume of traffic it handles puts it proportionately on the scale of many world-class hubs!

With an average of 8,000 aircraft and helicopter movements every year, Gulf of Saint-Tropez Airport has built a loyal client base of regular visitors by providing a bespoke welcome that takes care of every detail immediately after landing, backed by a broad range of premium services. In summer, the airport provides three scheduled commercial services: Nice by helicopter, and Geneva and Sion in Switzerland by fixed-wing aircraft. With an aircraft parking area of 10,500 m² on tarmac and a further 11,300 m² on grass for smaller aircraft and helicopters, the majority of airport clients are private users with homes around the Gulf. In fact, 70% of flights - including helicopter services - every year are private; the remaining 30% being commercial services. As an international airport, it is subject to high levels of security, with regular inspections made by police, customs and the civil aviation authority. This is an airport on the human scale accessible within 15-45 minutes from the majority of the region's leading business centres, making it a valuable regional asset that is highly regarded by business clients.

In July 2013, Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur (ACA) acquired a 99.9% equity holding in Gulf of Saint-Tropez Airport as part of its accelerated external growth policy. 

skyvalet

Since that time, Gulf of Saint-Tropez Airport has been an integral part of the Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur Business Aviation Hub, and therefore features its new airport assistance service: Sky Valet.

Dominique Thillaud, Chairman of Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur, explains: "Every part of the Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur business aviation hub shares the same commitment to offering our clients all the services they expect on a bespoke and fully confidential basis under a single trusted umbrella brand. One word is common to everything we do: upscale! Sky Valet is the visible guarantee of a truly upscale brand with the ability to deliver bespoke services and serve business passengers seamlessly at every stage of their airport experience.

Our entire operation is structured around the client. ACA is committed to going beyond being simply an infrastructure manager; we create services for an aviation sector that powers the growth and influence of our region".

As is the case with Cannes, the Gulf of Saint-Tropez Airport management company is also the FBO (Fixed Based Operator) providing the full range of support services (from pilot services to flight operations and car hire), as well as every aspect of the airport hospitality infrastructure (lounges, business centre, crew rest room, showers, etc.). 

Skyvalet logo

Sky Valet has its own distinct identity that delivers the FBO function through a dedicated website - www.skyvalet.com - featuring all the services offered in Nice, Cannes and Saint-Tropez airports, as well as direct points of contact for personal client relations.

Michel Tohane, Director of the General Aviation Business Unit:"This operation forms an integral part of the Group's development strategy, which is to boost airport capacity for general aviation on the Côte d’Azur and Italian Riviera by building a geographically coherent service offer. Saint-Tropez is a new and prestigious destination in our portfolio, and one that allows us to offer our clients a consistent level of high-quality services and standards of excellence across all our airports". 

In joining Nice Côte d’Azur and Cannes Mandelieu, Gulf of Saint-Tropez Airport completes the Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur business aviation hub, establishing it as the second-largest business aviation hub in Europe after Paris-Le Bourget, attracting investment of more than €7.28 billion in the economy of south-eastern France, and providing 5,300 direct jobs.

"I am from my childhood as if it were a country"

Its strategic position at the heart of the region is complemented by exceptional historic and literary associations that link the airport with an heroic destiny.

On 8 August 1964, Count François Gazeau officially opened a private airstrip between theRoute Nationalemain road and the river near the Chateau of the Fonscolombe family, which owned the Château de la Mole. The position of the Château gave it a perfect view overlooking the first light aircraft airstrip, which was used not only for pleasure, but also for business as a kind of private club for keen flyers exclusive to family members and friends…

Château de la Mole

It was from the Château de la Mole that the thoughts of Saint-Exupéry flew around the world. His words"I am from my childhood as if it were a country"forever established the Château de la Mole as an essential milestone in his historic career as a writer. It was here in the Château owned by the parents of his mother Marie de Saint-Exupéry that he learnt to love nature. In those days, the estate's income came from its vines and sheep… The austere mediaeval fortress of La Mole dominated by a plateau with a dormant volcano was to have a formative influence on his imagination. The young Antoine de Saint-Exupéry spent a lot of time with his maternal grandparents in this 11th century Château, later described by the author inLe Petit Prince. His mother's final resting place is the family vault in the Château chapel. La Mole was visited often and regularly by Saint-Exupéry, and although he never landed here, he flew over it on his final wartime mission on 31 July 1944 shortly before he and the aircraft were lost over the Mediterranean off Marseille…

Historique et dates phares 

historiques

8 August 1964: Count François Gazeau officially opens a private airstrip between theRoute Nationalemain road and the river near the Château de la Mole. The first pleasure and business airstrip for light aircraft near Saint-Tropez was born.

15 March 1973: The airfield is converted to restricted private usage at the request of its operator, effectively making it available for all to use.

30 May 1983: A French ministerial decree classifies the airfield as Category D, and therefore authorised to operate leisure, commercial and business flights, as well as aerial work.

March 1986: Signature of the first agreement with the French Civil Aviation Authority in the context of European regulations imposing regular checks on aviation easements as a condition for airfield operation.

At the beginning of 1990, the Aéroport du Golfe de Saint-Tropez company upgrades and develops the existing infrastructure at La Mole to provide the area around the Gulf of Saint-Tropez and the Corniche des Maures with a local airport to complement the larger airports of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region: Nice Côte d’Azur, Toulon-Hyères and Marseille. Its ambition is to provide the Gulf of Saint-Tropez with a facility that will open up the economy of the region. Despite being the second most popular department of France as a tourist destination, the Var was the only one to have no international airport.

 

30 July 1991: A ministerial decree is granted certifying the airfield as compliant with international aviation standards and all avigation easements. Under the terms of an agreement with the French State, the runway is no longer private, and remains open 365 days per year from sunrise to sunset, since night flights are prohibited. The capital may be private, but the obligations are public: those of a manager on behalf of the French State are very real and are subject to inspection by the DGAC (the French Civil Aviation Authority).

1993: Complete reconstruction of the 25,000 m2 of runway and taxiways. A new runway is commissioned following remodelling and resurfacing with an anti-skid top dressing. This feature is unique in Europe, and offers one of the highest levels of grip in service at any airport!

1994: Launch of the Geneva-Saint-Tropez scheduled service with Crossair.

January 1994: Prefectoral decree regulating the general policy of the airfield in accordance with DGAC directives. The airport meets international security standards since it complies fully with all aviation regulations. In order to meet ICAO standards, the 31 hectares of the perimeter are enclosed by security fencing with a video surveillance system to prevent any risk of unauthorised intrusion.

1995: Opening of a new, more modern, terminal building for between 150 and 180 passengers to support the growth in commercial and private traffic by delivering 4-star services that include in-flight catering, car hire, hotel and taxi bookings on demand, childcare, transfers, office rental and flight reservations.

SUMMER 1997: Lufthansa announces 3 scheduled flights to and from Munich

1998: The airport is acquired by the Michel Reybier industrial group (wines and luxury hotels).

1999: Opening of an air taxi service between Nice and Saint-Tropez operated by Air Saint-Tropez and offering 5 daily return services by helicopter.

2000-2001: Introduction of an environmental consultative committee. The airport consults proactively with local residents.

New passenger areas bring a new dimension to the airport infrastructure, which although still very small in format is perfectly matched to the regulated airside areas for scheduled national and international commercial flights in a context of increasing security.

The development of commercial traffic by introducing more direct flights and minimising sound pollution levels are now key priorities for the airport management company.

2006: The process of consulting with local residents, politicians and national and international bodies is consolidated with the formation of a partners network to implement shared initiatives for airport economic development.

2007: Construction of a bar/restaurant with terrace and a new control tower to replace outdated existing facilities.

2008: Creation of helipads all over the peninsula.

 

2008-2013: The Geneva-Saint-Tropez scheduled service continues.

 

July 2013: Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur, France's second-largest airport operator outside Paris, acquires 99.9% of airport equity from Groupe Reybier after 15 years of ownership. The aim of the acquisition is to maintain Gulf of Saint-Tropez Airport activity at its current level by maximising its efficiency and making the upgrades necessary for the airport to play its full role in complementing and completing the ACA business aviation hub and providing continuity with its extremely high levels of service. Working groups are also set up to work on the issue of noise reduction. For aircraft, a new approach circuit design study is implemented, together with a refined routing study for helicopter traffic. 

 

September 2013: The launch of the scheduled Sion-La Mole service provides a new link with Switzerland, courtesy of airline Air-Glaciers.

22 November 2013: New call for consultation. The Chairman of ACA, the airport director and the Chairman of UPV (the Var Employers' Association) invite the region's business leaders to a presentation of the airport's business services, its economic growth and its structural role for the region.  The senior executives express their willingness to work alongside the airport.

Since August 2013: The ACA energy-saving policy is extended to include Gulf of Saint-Tropez Airport. Infrared cameras are installed to cut airport power consumption by 25% and reduce light pollution.

Scheduled services continue: the longstanding Geneva route and the Sion service, now in its second year. In July and August, a second helicopter round-trip service for Nice is added in the middle of the day.