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May 6, 2021

Farnborough airport: A long history of aviation successes

Farnborough Airport recently won an aviation prize for the 15th year consecutively, but the hub’s history of successes goes back more than a century. From being the UK’s first airfield to hosting the famous Farnborough International Airshow, we profile the airport’s outstanding achievements.

By Ilaria Grasso Macola

Farnborough Airport has once again won the number one position in the Aviation International News International fixed-base operator (FBO) Survey 2021.

The airport, located approximately 56km south-west of London, won the top title in the Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific category for the 15th year consecutively.

“We are hugely appreciative to all our customers and partners for their ongoing recognition and support,” commented Farnborough Airport CEO Simon Geere. “To be honoured in these prestigious awards for the 15th year is a resounding affirmation to Farnborough Airport’s commitment to outstanding customer service and operational excellence.”

Farnborough, a hub for private jets, is one of the UK’s oldest airports and it has a long history of successes in the world of aviation.

 

Farnborough: one place, many different lives

The first records of Farnborough airport go back to 1905 when it was established as the UK’s first operational airfield. Three years later the hub made aviation history when it was chosen as the site for Samuel Cody’s flight, the first powered flight to ever be attempted.

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Owned by the UK Ministry of Defence until the end of the Cold War, Farnborough was primarily used as a military and aviation research base. It was only in 1989 that the airport started its first civil operations.

During the 1990s Farnborough changed its face: the airport hosted UK Ministry of Defence and other ministries’ units until 1994 when the government decided to turn it into a business aviation centre.

In 1997 US company TAG Aviation won the government’s redevelopment bid and planning started in 1999. Four years later, the company bought a 99-year lease to operate Farnborough as an airport for business aviation.

The airport expanded over the years and was eventually sold to infrastructure manager MIRA, which currently operates the hub.

 

The Farnborough International Airshow

Farnborough is not famous only for being the site of the first powered flight but over the years it has attracted international recognition for the Farnborough International Airshow.

Open to the public since 1948, the Farnborough International Airshow has become one of the most important exhibitions in the sector of global aviation. In 1962, the once annual exhibition turned into a biennial exposition.

The Airshow’s latest edition was 2018, which saw 1,500 exhibitors from 48 countries around the world as well as 80,000 visitors, of which 55% was from the UK.

The 2020 edition was supposed to take place in July 2020 but because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was replaced with a series of online events.

“Cancelling this year’s Farnborough International Airshow remains a source of acute disappointment but the team is working hard to develop a virtual event which brings as many aspects of the show to people as possible,” commented Farnborough International CEO Gareth Rogers.

Organisers hope that next year’s live exhibition will “reconnect colleagues from around the world, enabling business growth and recovery.”

 

Putting sustainability at the forefront

In September 2019 the airport was awarded the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) 2019 Sustainability Impact Award.

The IEMA, the world’s biggest professional body for environmental practitioners, recognised the airport’s effort into developing a sustainable business model.

“TAG Farnborough Airport is committed to developing its business in a responsible and sustainable way through the comprehensive management of our environmental impact,” said Miles Thomas, the airport’s environment manager, when receiving the prize.

The IEMA award is not the only prize Farnborough has won for sustainability, as in 2018 the hub received accreditation by the Airport Council International (ACI) that certified its level of CO2 neutrality.

According to Farnborough stakeholders, the awards are a sign of the airport’s environmental policy which focuses on noise reduction as well as carbon-offsetting. In 2019 it participated in a programme to offset its residual emission through renewable energy projects, after having offset a total of 1,605 tonnes of CO2 the previous year.

“Our voluntary participation in the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme provides the opportunity to achieve this through projects that are not only designed to meet our carbon footprint offsetting requirements but also provide direct benefit to our local community,” commented Thomas.

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