Two oil-busting jets are to be based at Teesside International Airport.
The first of a pair of Boeing 727s landed on Wednesday (16 November) operating on behalf of Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL). Owned by aerospace services 2Excel Aviation, the two aircraft would deployed anywhere in the world in the event of a major oil spill to spray dispersant material.
A specialist dispersant breaks down oil slicks into smaller, less harmful droplets so they can be more easily biodegraded in a way which minimises environmental and economic damage.
Each of the aircraft contain seven tanks which hold almost 4,000 gallons – with pumps allowing each to spray dispersants. The two planes will be based in the region after moving from Doncaster-Sheffield Airport.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Our airport is going from strength to strength with more holiday flights and game-changing investments due to our Freeport.
“The arrival of these 727s is yet another feather in the cap of our airport. It goes to show how we’re rapidly building a reputation to envy in the aviation industry.
“This move by 2Excel will attract good jobs and engineering support to our airport which all goes to helping to secure its future for the people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.”
To date, the TERSUS emergency system has never been required to respond to a live incident but both the aircraft and 2Excel’s crew take part in regular drills using fresh water in place of the dispersant. They train regularly, flying on average around six times a month. This can see the planes fly as low as 150ft at speeds of around 150 knots – much slower than standard commercial services, which fly at around 500 knots.
Their operation is sponsored by the oil industry and closely monitored by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, the Marine Management Organisation and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Andy Offer, 2Excel’s co-founder and Director, said: “While disappointed that we are being forced to move our operational base away from Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, a place we’ve been proud to call our home for a decade, we have been overwhelmed by the swift response from across the industry.
“We know that it is a close-knit community, but the number of offers to help us manage the unexpected transition and to provide temporary basing options have been much appreciated. We’ve also proved we are agile, flexible and responsive, proceeding at pace to devise a solution.
“Special thanks must go to Humberside and Teesside Airports, where many of our aeroplanes will be based for the first time. The professionalism of these operators and their willingness to accommodate us is much appreciated. They have provided a great welcome at very short notice. And we are happy to be returning several other aircraft to the company’s spiritual home at Sywell Aerodrome, where we retain our corporate HQ and where 2Excel started out with The Blades aerobatic team.
“We look forward to working with all those at our new bases who have made us so welcome.”