By Humphrey Carter

AIR travel sector bosses based at Palma's Son Bonet airfield in Marratxi yesterday backed plans to expand operations at the air base although Spanish airport authority AENA yesterday denied that it intends to lengthen the runway.

John Greenall, pilot and director of Sloane Helicopters said yesterday that the plan to expand operations has been welcomed, especially the idea of creating a new executive terminal for private jets. “Palma airport is getting very busy, especially the private jet terminal and Son Bonet is the perfect location,” he said. “There are only two problems which will need to be resolved. “Firstly, the current runway is 1'350 metres long but not long enough for most private jets, it's sufficient for biplanes and the smaller executive jets but it will need to be extended by around 600 metres if it is to be able to handle Gulf Streams and the like. “Aena will also have to set up customs and passport control otherwise flights from Britain, which is not signed up to the open-frontiers Schengen Agreement, will be unable to fly into Son Bonet,” Greenall explained yesterday. “Rumours about expanding operations at Son Bonet have been floating around for years but I think this time it may be serious talk and something may come of it over the next few years. “Access to the airport is much easier than at Son San Joan and the services already exist at Son Bonet for private jet passengers to leave their plane, cross the runway, jump into one of our helicopters, for example and they could be either home or boarding their yacht ten minutes later. “Due to the high number of flight movements and tight air traffic control restrictions, commercial helicopters are not allowed to operate in and out of Son San Joan airport. Flying into Son Bonet would prove a real attraction to the executive and private jet industry,” he said yesterday. “Having said that, the airfield is less than ten minutes from the Palma to Alcudia motorway. “The private and business jet sector is continuing to grow, it's a market Majorca should be really looking to tap into,” he added.
Palma airport private jet terminal may also find itself being forced to move if passenger figures continue to grow towards the 30 million a year mark as forecast within the next decade and Son San Joan continues to expand as a European and North African connecting flight centre.

Fresh talk about using Son Bonet to boost the island's private airline industry has also been welcomed by the luxury end of the property and tourist industry which fears that sometimes, Majorca does not have the quality infrastructure or services to meet the demands of multi-million pound property owners who either already own villas on the island or are property hunting.

A private jet airport, which is what Son Bonet could become, would also pave the way for scheduled business jet links to European city centre airports such as the hugely successful City Airport in London.

Making the most of Son Bonet would make Majorca even more accessible to European visitors and business people and it would also show that Majorca is serious about developing a business incentives and tourism market.

As the Bulletin reported yesterday, Palma's new convention centre and luxury hotel is due to open in early 2011 - a new executive and business jet terminal would give that complex an added edge.