a woman in a pilot's seat
Cotswold Airport Suzannah Harvey

An Interview With Model Turned Airport CEO Suzannah Harvey

When I was in England two weeks ago, I emailed Cotswold Airport with the hope to visit the Negus 747. Within minutes I received a reply from Suzannah Harvey (@Suziejet), the CEO of Cotswold Airport directly. Suzannah later turned up in her Porsche 911 Turbo and I knew she wasn't your typical Airport CEO.

Give us your background

I was born in Windsor, London but spent my early years growing up in Mozambique and Swaziland, as my father was working on DC-3s for the national airline. We returned to the UK when my Father started Polydron, a company based on one of my Grandfathers inventions. He also invented the manufacturing process of the ballpoint pen and the altimeter used on the space shuttle.

Northamptonshire is my home county and I started a modelling agency in ‘03, having modelled on and off since I was 14. It grew to having over a thousand models and personalities on my books, my main clients were in TV advertisements and Motorsport sectors. Clients included RSA (Ridley Scott Agency), Proctor and Gamble, Pirelli, Ducati, 4 Creative (Channel 4 in Uk), Superbikes, British and European Touring Cars etc. I moved to the Cotswolds in ‘08 to take my position on the board at Cotswold Airport. I’m a single mother of identical twin boys who are turning 9 next week.

How did you start your love of aviation?

I grew up around the industry with my father's background as an aeronautical engineer in the RAF, he got me gliding and hot air ballooning from a young age.

a woman in a pilot's seat

How did you become the CEO of Cotswold Airport?

My Father in-fact purchased the airport in 2001; but he quickly went non resident for tax purposes, so he was always abroad. I was asked by the resident board of directors to join as there was a synergy with my modelling agency, and my motoring clients, and the emerging non-aviation events that were building momentum at the airport. 

It’s a complicated story, but I had to disband the board in ‘12 due to the uncovering of fraudulent activity. I was left pretty high and dry (the company was not in good shape) so I had to take the helm by default and here we are!

What are the plan on Negus 747?

She will be preserved and mainly utilised as an educational and tourist attraction, but she will also available for private hire for corporate events and launches. We hope to eventually host a weekly cinema screening also. Any profits from revenue, over and above the costs for maintaining her, will go back into our annual scholarship programme; it will hopefully fund a few PPLs for the kids when they’re old enough.

Currently, we have a few seats from Negus available for purchase on ebay.

British Airways Negus 747 will be preserved at Cotswold Airport
British Airways Negus 747 will be preserved at Cotswold Airport
a woman standing on the stairs of an airplane

There are many other 747 stored in your airport, what are the plans for these planes?

It’s all very uncertain at the moment. Most will be scrapped. A few may move on for a reprieve as Cargo freighters.

What advantage and challenge as a private airport has in England?

We have full customs clearance at Cotswold Airport, this makes it a convenient location for business jets, being only just over an hour by train to London, as it is an easy commute.

Cotswold Airport
Cotswold Airport

“We are the largest privately owned airport in Europe, with our runway being only 2m shorter than Bristol International.”

Unfortunately we get no government or local authority support unlike Gloucester (Staverton) which is owned by two councils. Even though Gloucester makes significant losses each year, they have just been awarded £15m of tax payer money to sort their runway out. We will be funding our own runway resurface in the next few years. Hardly seems fair to me that tax payer money is awarded to a loss making local authority owned business.

What are the development plans of your airport? 

We have just achieved our GNSS approach thanks to the perseverance of Chris, my Ops Director. He is an ex Lft Colonel from the army and he deals with the Operational side of the airport. I mainly deal with strategy and business development, all the boring legal stuff, and the management of our commercial real estate. I also look after our other two hangars at Colerne.

Would you do the same if you had the chance to start all over again? 

Abso F’kin lutley 🤩

What will aviation look like for you in 2030 or 2050?

By 2030 zero emission air travel will be starting to propagate fully, for short and mid range flights, alongside the proper commercial utilisation for manned drones.

By 2050 hypersonic air-travel will be the norm not the exception. One of my tenants is developing fuel systems for a hypersonic engine.

Video of my last BA 747 video

Follow Suzannah Harvey on her instagram.