Farnborough Airport officially came under the control of TAG Aviation on February 5, when the Swiss-based group signed a 99-year lease with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). The signing ceremony marked the end of a 17-year process to transfer the historic military airfield to long-term civil aviation use, and TAG itself has invested seven years of effort, and reportedly around $112 million, to convert the site into a dedicated business aviation gateway for the London area.
In late December the company was finally awarded the necessary Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) airport license. The CAA insisted on handling the license application as if the airport had been a brand-new greenfield development, despite the fact that the airfield has been active for almost 100 years and has had a permanent civil enclave since 1989. Authority over Farnborough now rests with the CAA rather than the Royal Air Force.
TAG’s new FBO complex on the northwest side of the airfield is now substantially complete, including the new ATC tower, which has been operational for several months. By next month TAG intends to relocate all aircraft operations to the three new hangars and adjoining offices, along with the temporary terminal building that it has been using on the southeast side of the airport since 1997. This building will operate alongside the new hangars until a new hangar complex is completed as part of the second stage of the airport’s redevelopment–possibly in time for the July 2004 Farnborough Air Show.
The lease was signed by TAG president Mansour Ojjeh and Ian Andrews, second permanent undersecretary at the MoD. The new control tower was subsequently opened by UK transport minister John Spellar.
In his speech, Spellar stressed that the British government is considering “all options” for allowing additional business aviation capacity at several airports in southeast England, including Farnborough and Biggin Hill. He said numerous options are now under active consideration by the Department of Transport as it prepares to publish a long-awaited new airport policy white paper later this year.
TAG chief executive Roger McMullin said the new lease for the airfield includes a clause ensuring that the biennial Farnborough Air Show can continue to be held at the site. Andrews said he had started working to find a permanent civilian application for the site back in 1986.
In addition to the construction of the new 120,000-sq-ft hangars, offices and control tower, TAG’s development of Farnborough has also included an ILS and approach radar, new airfield lighting, complete reprofiling and resurfacing of the runway and an 18-acre ramp.