One of London’s primary business aviation gateways, TAG Farnborough Airport in Hampshire, England, experienced record air traffic movements in 2018. The annual total of 30,279 movements represented a year-on-year increase of 13.8 percent over 2017, and was also 8.2 percent up on Farnborough’s previous busiest year in 2007, just before the economic crash.
“TAG Farnborough Airport’s improved performance last year is a clear vote of confidence from the business aviation sector,” remarked CEO Brandon O’Reilly. “It underlines the success of TAG Farnborough Airport’s philosophy—to consistently offer a five-star service of the highest standard with no compromises—and our position as Europe’s leading business airport.”
O’Reilly offered two reasons for the airport’s growth: the continued popularity of London as a global destination, and the squeeze being placed on business aviation at London’s commercial airports. In terms of aircraft size, no appreciable change was reported in the large aircraft (ACJ, BBJ) class or in the midsize sector, but a significant uptick was experienced in the 30- to 50-tonne (Gulfstream, Global) sector, with a greater number of smaller aircraft also using the airport.
Speaking to AIN, O’Reilly noted that there had been a slight decrease in traffic to and from Russia, but a major increase in transatlantic traffic, with flights to and from the U.S. up by 22.5 percent. European destinations had shown a 15.5 percent increase.
Movements are expected to surpass 32,000 in 2019, which could push the annual passenger figures past 100,000 for the first time. Farnborough expects to collect approximately 50 percent of Northolt’s business when the West London airfield closes for runway work. There is plenty of capacity for further traffic growth, as Farnborough has been approved for up to 50,000 movements per year.
Traffic increase was just one exciting development for the airfield last year: “2018 was an important year of milestones for TAG Farnborough Airport,” explained O’Reilly. “We were delighted to be selected by Gulfstream as the location for a state-of-the-art, purpose-built maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility, and to be awarded carbon-neutral status, the first business airport in the world to achieve this.”
Gulfstream selected Farnborough as the site for a major European MRO center, bringing at least 350 skilled jobs to the area, many to be fulfilled locally. Being built on a 16-acre site at the eastern end of the airport, the 220,000-square foot building is being constructed on the site of the former “A” Shed, which has already been demolished. Building work begins in April and is expected to be completed by July 2020. The Gulfstream facility could generate as many as 3,000 extra aircraft movements each year.
Located in a relatively built-up area, TAG Farnborough has always strived to be a “good neighbor” in both local terms and on a wider environmental scale. In May, the airport was accredited by Airport Councils International Europe as being carbon-neutral, becoming the fourth UK airport (after East Midlands, Gatwick, and Manchester) to achieve this.
Another important development was the approval in October by the CAA of Farnborough’s airspace change proposal, which should see the implementation in February 2020 of controlled airspace with standard instrument departures and terminal arrivals. Designed in conjunction with local authorities, the new prescribed flight profiles will not only reduce track-miles, but also take aircraft over less-populated areas. Combined with steeper climb-out profiles, this aims to reduce noise pollution in the surrounding area.