If the government is serious about converting military airfields into commercial airports as was suggested yesterday, it would be well advised to look at TAG Farnborough Airport. The transformation of Farnborough from an airport looking every one of its 90 years to a modern facility catering for business aircraft is impressive.


With increasing demand for slots from the airlines, the government is looking at plans for new runways at Heathrow and Stansted. The idea of converting RAF Finningley in Yorkshire into an international airport for Doncaster has been mooted.

At Farnborough, stage one of its transformation is complete with three new hangars, capable of housing BBJ-319s, now commissioned. Much remains to be done and TAG Aviation admits that the redevelopment of Farnborough, its first airport conversion, has been "more demanding and more expensive" than it expected.

But TAG is on the verge of CAA certification – which will trigger the signing of a 99-year lease – and believes it has developed a commercially-viable airport that can service the business aviation needs of London.

As pressure for slots mounts at London's airports, business aircraft operators are finding themselves squeezed out.

TAG admits its location is further from London than Biggin Hill in Kent where Jet Aviation has chosen to base itself in the UK, but TAG commercial director Len Rayment says the time it takes to get to London's West End is significantly less.

"With chauffeur services on hand, we can have passengers into a hotel on Park Lane one hour from touchdown. That's what counts, not the geographic distance."

TAG Farnborough Airport will handle around 15,000 movements this year and its business plan assumes operations at around that level. But Roger McMullin, chief executive of TAG Aviation says it "would be attractive to increase the number of flight movements in future".

He won't be drawn on how much the new development has cost but admits an overspend of around 50% in the five years since TAG won approval for its proposal.

The service offered will be a "premium priced airfield" he says, but stresses that service levels will be in line.

Source: Flight Daily News