Suzannah Harvey is the CEO of Cotswold Airport located in Kemble, near Cirencester. TBE couldn’t resist interviewing this intriguing character. Making waves in a very male dominated industry Suzannah breaks the stereotypical mould of an airport CEO. In this interview we find out more about the business and the lady behind it.
Can you begin by telling us a little bit about the history of the airport?
Kemble Airfield (as it was previously known) became operational on the 22 June 1938. In 1940, No. 4 Service Ferry Pool moved to the station from Cardiff, and Kemble became the headquarters for the aircraft ferrying operations of the Air Transport Auxiliary across the country.
From 1966 until 1983, Kemble housed the Red Arrows, the RAF Aerobatic display team; which operated Folland Gnats and BAe Hawks from there. After the Red Arrows moved to RAF Scampton, the station was used by the US Air Force as a maintenance facility, initially for A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft, though followed by Northrop F-5s, McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles, Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers.
Following the end of the Cold War, the US Air Force left the station and it was returned to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The MoD initially leased buildings on the former station before selling the site to Ronan Harvey (my Father), a local businessman, in March 2001
What is it used for today?
Cotswold Airport is used for such a wide variety of activities but the majority of our business is GA (General Aviation), aircraft maintenance, storage and recycling. We also help develop F1 Testing, car launches (the recent Range Rover Sport worldwide PR launch), feature film and photo shoots, corporate events and a vast array of training facilities from driver to fire fighting.
How long have you worked at Cotswold Airport?
I joined the Board in 2008 but had been involved on the corporate events side prior to that whilst running my own modelling agency.
What do you like most about your role?
Its just so varied. There is never a dull moment here, from rescuing hedgehogs crossing the runway, to meeting the likes of David Couthard and sorting out collapsed drains…..We had a 747 come in some time ago now and the avionics engineers found 6kgs of cocaine hidden on the aircraft. It had probably been there for some considerable time but that afternoon turned into a scene from Miami Vice.
How does the airport contribute to the local economy?
We like to support local causes and actively help the local primary school with their fundraising events. We have also supported the development of local facilities for children and recently purchased Grosmos Gromit, who now resides in our restaurant, for £28k raising money for Bristol Childrens Hospital. We will also be supporting Great Western Air Ambulance this year by hosting a 747 fundraising ball on the 23rd August.
Aviation is perceived to be a very male dominant world, would you say this is still the case?
Yes I would, there are few women in senior management roles within aviation but we annually provide a scholarship scheme where we engage 10 students (aged between 14 and 18) and provide two weeks of aviation training. This include about 6 hours flight training, Air Traffic Control experience and visiting sites such as Rolls Royce and Airbus. I have seen a significant increase in the number of young ladies that apply and ultimately end up participating in our programme. One has just joined the Navy as an Officer Pilot.
What did you do before your role at Cotswold Airport?
My background is in recruitment and I started my own business in 2003 which was a successful modelling agency. I had over 1000 personalities on my books and mainly dealt with TV commercials. This had to take a back burner to my responsibilities at Cotswold Airport and being an only child I had to step up to the mark within the family business.
What motivates you?
My family. I am a single mother with twin boys who turned two at the end of December. I want to provide a secure, happy future for them. I like creating and building things but I guess surmising the ultimate motivation (hopefully without sounding crude) is money.
If you could invite any character in history to your next party who would it be and why?
Buzz Aldrin….and Yes I have already tried but he’s too expensive. Why? Because I want to go to the moon.
What should we look out for next from Cotswold Airport?
We are developing our navigational aides this Spring and will be installing a new, LED lighting system which will enable us to have a GNSS (Global Navigational Satellite System) approach which basically means we can be “more operational” in adverse weather conditions. Our charity fundraiser on the 23rd August for Great Western Air Ambulance should be a real hoot also. It’s on one of our 747’s that has been kitted out for corporate events which should raise some serious money for a really great cause. We will have some big name DJ’s and a charity auction.
To find out more about Cotswold Airport visit: www.cotswoldairport.com