TAG Farnborough Airport is attending EBACE this year with its own stand—separate from parent company TAG Aviation—for the first time (Booth M73). The UK airport saw strong growth in traffic in 2018 (13.8 percent compared with 2017) and according to CEO Brandon O’Reilly, “We’re pleased to say that for the first four months of 2019 we are the same level as we were during 2018—it hasn't tailed off. We’re in a good position.”
With Northolt closing for six months starting in April, he said Farnborough was expecting “an uptick in traffic”—the airport has projected that it expects to get up to half of Northolt traffic, but O’Reilly recognized it would be shared with other London-area airports.
“My view on the London market? To me, it seems robust. We’re seeing stability and a slight increase due to Northolt for now.” And with Brexit? “As I’ve said before, the uncertainty is seen by some as a business opportunity, but there is nil effect I can attribute to it [at present].” Meanwhile, he added, “There has been no change in terms of origin and destinations [of traffic] and aircraft types. All is very much the same as last year, which is very pleasing.”
With Ramadan starting on Monday [May 3], O’Reilly said, “we always get some movements of larger aircraft associated with that.” The largest business jet types Farnborough can accommodate are Boeing BBJ737s and Airbus ACJ320s, although for the biennial airshow (the next one is in July 2020) the airport receives even the largest aircraft, such as Airbus A380s, but they are not fully laden with fuel and passengers going on long trips.
In terms of notable developments at the airport, O’Reilly said the 16-acre plot earmarked for Gulfstream has now been transferred to the U.S. airframer on a 30-year lease (with two possible five-year extensions). “We first entered the bidding on that in January 2017, and we’d been successful at EBACE last year. We’ve been busy preparing the land and achieved our target of handing it over by 31st March.
“Gulfstream is now in possession of the site and they’re mobilizing their construction workforce. What they’re constructing will be the largest piece of infrastructure here at Farnborough, and they’re hoping to complete it in summer 2020.”
He added that Gulfstream has also leased one of the “wavy” hangars that make Farnborough’s terminal/FBO design so iconic, “Bay 6, down at the far end. They’re already doing some light maintenance there,” he noted. “We’ve started to see an increase in movements of Gulfstream aircraft.”
Meanwhile, Dassault has acquired TAG Aviation’s maintenance operations. “Dassault has bought TAG Aviation Engineering and will have a major foothold here once the transaction is complete,” he said. The airport will then have two of the big five aircraft OEMs with service centers at Farnborough. Bombardier's facility is at London Biggin Hill Airport.
O’Reilly also noted that Farnborough is now accredited as a carbon-neutral airport by ACI, and it continues to work on schemes to maintain and enhance that. Following its success in this area, on May 18 the airport hosted an event in partnership with EBAA relating to sustainable alternative jet fuel (SAJF). After the event, participating aircraft flew to EBACE powered by the new fuel. “The idea behind the event with EBAA is to educate the community on the availability and use of the fuel,” he said, adding that Farnborough hopes to offer SAJF to its customers. The fuel for the May 18 event was supplied by Air BP, Nesta, Avfuel, and World Fuel Services.