Debate about Farnborough traffic continues

 - September 27, 2006, 12:00 PM

Many local residents who successfully opposed TAG Aviation’s application to increase the number of weekend and holiday movements at the UK’s Farnborough Airport are hypocrites, according to their local member of parliament, Gerald Howarth. The politician told the September 13 European Business Aviation Forum that he bitterly resented the position taken by numerous opponents who had previously earned their livings working at the aerospace research establishment at Farnborough and complained that many of the plan’s opponents were only too happy to take cheap flights from airports in other people’s backyards.

Howarth also attacked the opponents’ contention that business jets flying into Farnborough would increase noise and threaten public safety. He pointed out that for years, the airfield had been used for military test flights that were much louder and potentially more dangerous. In his view, many of the opponents of the application were motivated largely by envy of wealthy users of private aircraft.

“You have got to build support for business aviation,” he told the EBAA forum. “And especially near new airports where it is not understood.”

TAG Aviation, which has spent around $180 million developing Farnborough as a business aviation gateway, has yet to confirm whether or not it will appeal the recent rejection of its application by the local Rushmoor Borough Council. The company is entitled to appeal this ruling through the UK central government’s Department of the Environment. Last year, TAG applied to Rushmoor for permission to boost the number of movements permitted each year on weekends and holidays from 2,500 to 5,000 and then offered to introduce this increase incrementally over three years.

Howarth was alone among local Members of Parliament in supporting the TAG application. Two other Conservative Party politicians in neighboring constituencies sided with opponents of the application because they feared being voted out of office, said Howarth, who is a paid consultant for UK fractional ownership provider European Business Jets.

Len Rayment, who last month retired as manager of TAG Farnborough, said that traffic at the airport is currently growing at 24 percent each year and that during August it saw growth of 44 percent compared with the same month the previous year. He confirmed that TAG will build three more large hangar bays at Farnborough within the next two years and reported that it has broken ground on a new 180-room hotel at the site.