Aviation Minister Baroness Vere has praised the aviation industry in Norwich for its commitment to skills development and sustainability, describing it as a ‘hub of greatness’ during a visit to the city.

Baroness Vere toured Norwich Airport, owned by Regional & City Airports which is part of Rigby Group, and the neighbouring International Aviation Academy Norwich in the company of Chloe Smith MP to learn more about how the airport is fast becoming a centre of excellence for sustainable aviation.

The Minister visited two workshops involving KLM UK Engineering trainees to see how the Aviation Academy is training the next generation of engineers. And she was introduced to a group of youngsters who have worked with Norfolk-based community interest company NUNCATS on building the first British electric aircraft project of its kind.

While at the academy the Minister also announced £750,000 of additional Government funding to encourage young people to consider a career in aviation. The funding is part of the Reach for the Sky Challenge Fund and is designed to break down barriers for those who have previously struggled to get a foothold in the aviation industry.

A tour of Norwich Airport followed, where the Minister was briefed on the recent introduction of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) at Norwich, which typically produces up to 80% fewer lifecycle carbon emissions than the conventional jet fuel it replaces. Norwich Airport is one of the few regional airports in the UK to offer SAF to its customers, including SaxonAir which uses the fuel in its helicopters.

Following the airport tour, Baroness Vere met local stakeholders over lunch in the SaxonAir hangar. She also met and chatted to local companies that make up the Net-Zero General Aviation Training Group which was launched last year and is dedicated to developing electric aircraft technology and skills.

Speaking at the end of her visit Aviation Minister Baroness Vere said: “I have been hugely impressed by the collaboration between industry, Norwich Airport, local authorities and training providers in fostering a sustainable aviation sector in Norwich. Not only are opportunities being created for young people of all backgrounds, but local businesses are working together to drive innovation across the industry and reduce carbon emissions. As I said while at the Academy, it really is a hub of greatness.”

Richard Pace, Managing Director of Norwich Airport, said: “It really was a pleasure to host the Minister during her visit and sustainability was the common theme of our discussions – from making the best use of the Apprenticeship Levy to deliver the future skills the industry needs, to accelerating the decarbonisation of airport operations through sustainable fuels and electrification. We look forward to updating the Minister on future progress.”

Chloe Smith MP said:”It was important to bring the Minister to meet the team at Norwich International Airport and International Aviation Academy. I invited her to Norwich as I wanted her to hear about how the Airport is committed to developing sustainable aviation and, with it, creating green jobs. Making progress with sustainable aviation fuel is significant.

“I have worked from the outset to establish the Academy and develop the aviation skills base, ensuring the Academy has national prominence. I was very excited to welcome the formation of the NetZero General Aviation Training Group to boost aviation recruitment here in Norwich last year. The Aviation Academy has always been an asset to the airport and local young people, giving them the skills and opportunity to build a career in this exciting industry.”

Nicola Holden, Commercial Director at Norse Commercial Services which operates the Aviation Academy building, said: “‘It was great to host the Minister at the International Aviation Academy Norwich last week. The visit enabled partners at the Academy to demonstrate their passion for the future of sustainable aviation.”

Wayne Easlea, Managing Director at KLM UK Engineering, said: “It was great to showcase the fantastic talent we have entering the industry through our Apprenticeship scheme. We’re delighted the Minister shares our enthusiasm for providing local young people with the opportunity to become the next generation of aircraft engineers.”

Alex Durand, Chief Executive of SaxonAir, said: “We were delighted to show the Aviation Minister the high level of innovation aimed at decarbonising aviation that’s happening on a daily basis in our region. This is led by a collaborative yet diverse group of partnerships, bringing a dynamism to the various projects we were able to showcase. Our industry talks a lot about the future and what they will achieve, but I think the key message for the day was that meaningful work is already being done in and around Norwich Airport.”

Martin Lane, UK General Aviation Account Manager, Air bp, said: “I was delighted to meet Baroness Vere and provide some further details around SAF. Air bp is pleased to be supplying SAF to Norwich Airport. It demonstrates their willingness to invest in SAF and collaborate to help drive demand. SAF remains one of the key routes to helping decarbonise the aviation industry.”