By the end of next month, TAG Aviation (Booth No. 6238) expects to learn the outcome of what could prove a landmark public inquiry into the growth of business aviation traffic at London-area Farnborough Airport. Hazel Blears, Britain’s secretary of state for communities and local government, is due to rule on TAG’s application to boost the number of movements permitted each year on weekends and holidays from 2,500 to 5,000. In June 2006, the local Rushmoor Borough Council rejected this application, and TAG’s appeal resulted in a public inquiry that was held in April.
The central government ruling on this case could prove significant as TAG plans its next step in the development of the privately owned airport, which is much in demand as a dedicated business aviation gateway. TAG–which runs Farnborough under a 99-year lease from the UK’s Ministry of Defence–is working on a master plan that will outline how the airport could be further developed through 2030. It will seek to demonstrate how growth could be managed acceptably and how any side effects, including noise, could be mitigated. But the company purposely will not finalize the plan until after the public inquiry ruling.
The UK business aviation community will be watching the secretary of state’s decision closely in anticipation of a more pro-aviation approach by the government for the country’s airport capacity. Last December, the Ministry of Transport informed the British Business and General Aviation Association that it had accepted the need for an adequate network of airports for these categories of traffic. It subsequently issued a national policy statement urging local and central government agencies to give higher priority to keeping airports open and viable. The ruling on Farnborough’s future could be the first tangible evidence of this new policy and could set a precedent for developments at other business aviation airports.
Under the terms of TAG’s agreement with Rushmoor, Farnborough is limited to 28,000 movements per year. Last year the airport received 21,365 movements, and TAG now expects to reach the movements limit before the end of next year, much earlier than anticipated.
Meanwhile, in a continued bid to demonstrate that its airport can be a good neighbor, TAG Aviation has introduced a quiet flying program to reduce noise over surrounding neighborhoods. The program was run on a trial basis between early May and the end of August, and the company intends to have the resulting new arrival and departure procedures formally adopted by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
The Farnborough Quiet Flying Program is the result of a consultation process with local residents’ associations that was launched in January by TAG Farnborough chief executive Brandon O’Reilly. On June 16, TAG invited local civic leaders and elected officials to take a test flight on one of its Dassault Falcon 2000s to demonstrate the new noise-abatement procedures.
The program was devised through consultation with the residents’ associations and was drawn up by Farnborough air traffic control service provider NATS, along with TAG’s local management and Capt. Alan Brember, chief pilot with TAG Aviation’s charter/management division. Currently, Farnborough is in Class G uncontrolled airspace, in which pilots can essentially fly as they like subject to safety instructions from controllers. The program is aimed at prescribing more accurate flight paths to determine how this might reduce noise. It consists of the following elements:
• Operators are encouraged to use fixed electrical or mobile ground power units free of charge rather than use their own aircraft engines or APUs for ground power.
• Aircraft are cleared for departure before reaching the runway so that they can make quick, rolling takeoffs.
• Pilots are required to use their best rate of climb, flying straight ahead for two miles at this rate before turning.
• For arrivals, aircraft are required to be established on final approach at least three miles from the runway and to stay on the glideslope without cutting corners over noise-sensitive land.
• Thrust reversers may not be used on landing, unless for safety-related reasons.
TAG Farnborough has noticed a drop in noise complaints from local residents since adopting the measures. It has taken into account the fact that some homes on the final approach paths have experienced more noise in refining the new procedures before seeking to have them finally adopted for permanent use.