Stockholm Bromma Airport escapes becoming housing estate: part one – possible electric aviation hub
Commercial aviation in Sweden is heavily impacted by the environment. Sweden is one of the world’s most accommodating countries in environmental safeguarding – and doesn’t the air transport business there know it, having been hit by stiff taxes since 2018.
So it is somewhat ironic that one of the reasons for the reversal, by a new government, of a decision to close Stockholm’s mainly domestic airport, Bromma, and to shift its services to Arlanda Airport, and to build houses and apartment blocks where Bromma stood, is that it could be used as an ‘electric aviation hub’.
That probably means the centralisation of the country’s development of all aspects of electric aviation on one site close to the centre of the capital city, where the world can come and view it in situ; while Bromma itself, located close to heavily built-up areas, would be a perfect test bed for prototype flights and whatever impact they have on communities.
This is part one of a two-part report.
- Stockholm’s Bromma domestic airport had been earmarked for closure, its 185 hectares given over to housing.
- The aviation business was to have been switched to environmentally accredited infrastructure at Arlanda Airport, possibly as early as 2025.
- But the new Swedish government has opted to save Bromma, and hints that it could become a ‘hub’ for electric aviation development in the country – Sweden is already establishing a reputation in that domain.
- Bromma has gravitas – it was Sweden’s third busiest and the Nordic countries’ 12th busiest airport in 2019.
Stockholm Bromma Airport’s closure would have had ramifications for Arlanda Airport
In the report Sweden aviation: part two – little historical appetite for airport privatisation in Nordic countries, published by CAPA in Aug-2022, it was reported that Stockholm’s domestic airport, Bromma, which is located in the northwestern suburbs, would close between 2025 and 2027 to become a housing estate with 30,000-50,000 new homes.
In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bromma was the 12th busiest airport in all of the Nordic countries, with a throughput of 2.3 million passengers.
It was ventured that such a closure would put pressure on the main Arlanda Airport, well out to the north, which might require a new domestic facility (even though domestic air travel is frowned upon). Also, that a privately operated terminal might be considered a solution at Arlanda.
In Feb-2022 the government appointed an investigator to propose a development plan for Arlanda, with the goal of securing sufficient flight capacity to close down Bromma.
The plan would include environmental permits designed to ensure that the development contributes towards the transition to fossil fuel-free aviation at Arlanda.
That might be even more reason for the private sector to get involved.
Bromma closure mainly to free up land for housing
So, essentially the closure of Bromma would take place partly to free up land for much-needed housing; partly to rid an area of the city of the adverse effects of aviation (noise, pollution); and partly so that its replacement in terms of infrastructure at Arlanda could be regulated in a way that fits Sweden’s position on the environment.
Sweden is arguably the most environmentally aware nation on earth, which has already had implications for airline operations by way of the imposition of taxes.
New government takes a different view
At the end of Feb-2023, however, it was reported that the Swedish Government would not continue with previous plans to close Bromma Airport, which were the result of two prior investigations.
A new Swedish government has been in charge since Oct-2022, an alliance that is more to the right of the previous one and has different priorities.
During its term of office, the new government says it will not proceed with plans to close the Bromma airport and will keep it open until 2038. The announcement was made by the Minister for Infrastructure and Housing, Andreas Carlson.
The previous ‘red-green’ government, as it is referred to in Sweden, managed two investigations where the ambition to dismantle the airport became evident.
In the more recent one it was proposed that all traffic should be moved to Arlanda as early as 2025, well before 2038, when the agreement between the state and the city of Stockholm concerning Bromma expires.
In the analysis of the state-owned operator Swedavia, it had been concluded that it is no longer profitable to continue operating the airport.
Location of Bromma Airport with respect to central Stockholm, Sweden
The position of the city of Stockholm is that there would be great opportunities for housing development if Bromma airport were to be closed down, because the area occupies 185 hectares of land.
The councillor with special responsibility for environmental and climate, Åsa Lindhagen, who is also an MP, said, “It is a betrayal of Stockholmers. Here we have lots of land, in the middle of Stockholm, where we want to build new homes, but the government is putting an end to this despite the fact that we have a huge housing shortage.”
Location of Arlanda Airport with respect to Stockholm, Sweden
Bromma could become a hub for research into electric aviation – Sweden already a leader in this field
However, Ms Lindhagen might be somewhat placated by the revelation that Mr Carlson (Minister for Infrastructure and Housing) hinted that Bromma could, while remaining operational, become a hub for research into, and development of, electric aviation.
In Dec-2022 a Swedish firm, the Gothenburg-based Heart Aviation, joined the 'race' to develop the world’s first electric airplane for commercial use – a 30-seater short-range airliner.
It had already test-flown a scale model of a 19-seat electric commuter plane, which attracted interest and orders for 100 aircraft from the US-based airlines United Airlines and Mesa Airlines.
Heart Aviation then announced plans to switch the programme from the commuter plane to building a full-size four-engine 30 seat short-range airliner. United and Mesa agreed to move their orders to the new plane, known as the ES-30.
The ES-30 is designed for short routes currently flown by conventional turboprop planes and will have a fully electric range of 200km, which can be extended to 400km on hybrid power. If payload is cut to 25 people the range rises to 800km, all with normal safety reserves, Heart Aerospace says.
Just like cars, electric aircraft need a longer range than they have presently
However, that range is still on the short side for a country that has far-flung and scattered northern communities. As things stand, it would better suit milk-run routes like Stockholm to/from Gothenburg and Malmö.
The largest electric-powered plane to fly so far is the single engine 14-seat Magnix eCaravan, an all-electric version of the Cessna Grand Caravan 208B utility plane, which had its first flight in May-2020.
Larger ones are in development.
Wright Electric’s 'Spirit' is a 100-seat electric conversion of the BAe-146 regional jetliner. The company says it will be capable of flying routes of one hour and be ready to enter service in 2026.
Sweden will be keen to keep up with neighbouring Norway, which is investing heavily in electric aviation.
Avinor, the Norwegian equivalent of Swedavia, has made it clear that together with aviation industry partners it intends to make Norway a world leader in electric aviation. The goal is to make Norway the first country where electric aircraft account for a significant share of the market, and to electrify all Norwegian domestic flights by 2040.
The Norwegian government has asked Avinor to develop a programme for the introduction of electric aircraft. This will involve an evaluation of possible incentives required to make the electrification of commercial air traffic a success.
It would be quite a coup for Sweden if airlines acquiring electric aircraft to operate in Norway purchased them from Sweden.