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  • Writer's pictureMike Lintott-Danks

The Midlands Cargo Hub

With sporadic movements through the day, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, East Midlands airport sparks to life in the late evening as cargo flights from across the UK, Ireland and further afield all descend into the Leicestershire airport.

The former RAF Castle Donington base situated between Nottingham, Leicester and Derby was transformed into East Midlands airport in 1965 with an extension to the runway and building of the terminal. Many airlines have used the airport throughout the years and it is mainly used by low cost carriers and holiday airlines to destinations across Europe these days with Ryanair and being the largest carriers.

The maintenance facility on the airport has been used continually, initially by British Midland and for the last 20 years by BCT Aviation Maintenance. BCT provide line and base maintenance for a variety of airlines from the UK, Europe and

the UAE. The line maintenance is the core of BCTs business and is provided to over 50 airlines, including BA City Flyer, Air India and previously Thomas Cook. The Hanger 30 Base maintenance facility provides a wide variety of checks and scheduled maintenance including, scheduled engine and APU changes, Composite repairs, End of lease and lease transition services and scheduled component replacements.

RVL Group is a specialist aviation multi-services provider based at East Midlands for both private and public organisations. RVL offer expertise in diverse areas including aerial surveillance, passenger and cargo movements, aircraft maintenance and modification and aerial spraying of oil spill pollution dispersant. They have a variety of aircraft that provide these services including three types of twin engine Cessnas and Beechcraft Kingair’s.

Other than the main terminal apron there are extensive areas at the eastern and western ends for the arrivals of the evening cargo flights. DHLs enormous facility, their largest in the UK, was opened in 2000 covering 25ha at a cost of £35 million to build. The offices and warehouse cover 40,000 square metres with the latter having nearly 4km of conveyor belts to transport the over 1,200 tonnes of freight a night. The apron outside the facility has 18 stands to handle the various flights that arrive through the day and especially at night.

The vibrant yellow DHL aircraft are not the only airlines that grace the DHL facility with daily flights from Kalitta and Cargo Logic with Boeing 747s arriving in the day, CargoJet and Polar Air Cargo with a Boeing 767, ASL Airlines Boeing 737, Swift Air Boeing 737s and ATR 72s and Blue Bird Cargo with a variety of Boeing 737s.

The opposite end of the airport is another cargo area with 12 hard stands that is able to park the wide variety of aircraft that deliver their cargo to the various facilities. These facilities include UPS’s EMA hub, Royal Mail, Swissport Cargo, TNT and the HAE group. Cargo aircraft and airlines that use these facilities include UPS and Star Air Boeing 767s, FedEX Boeing 757, West Atlantic Boeing 737s and West Air Europe BAe ATPs.

West Atlantic provides flexibility to many other logistics companies including DHL, FedEx, UPS, DPD, Royal Mail, TNT and HAE. They tailor the aircraft to the needs of the customer with either ad-hoc or long term leases of cargo aircraft. Their fleet of over 50 aircraft include Boeing 767s, 737s (including the first cargo conversion 737-800), Bombardier CRJ200 PF and the rare British Aerospace ATP.

The ATP operates feeder flights from a variety of smaller airports across Europe and the UK to the larger facilities for onward journeys. This aircraft was originally built to compete with the Bombardier Dash-8 and the ATR42 in the fuel efficient, low noise turbo-prop market flying lighter short haul routes. The ATP was an evolution of the Hawker Siddeley HS.748 with a lengthened fuselage, upgraded avionics and engines. Sadly, the ATP came to the market too late and only 65 aircraft were built. After leaving service as passenger aircraft, they found a new lease of life flying cargo and West Air Sweden. More information on West Atlantic can be found on their website at

East Midlands airport is a great place to see a wide variety of cargo airlines and aircraft in one place in the UK and with the addition of the East Midlands Aeropark adjacent to the airport it offers an interesting place to visit and photograph over a couple of days.

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