The History of Farnborough Airport

Farnborough has a unique place in aviation history as the UK’s first airfield and venue of the first powered and controlled flight of an aircraft in the UK, in 1908.

From the earliest days, Farnborough has been a centre of military and civil aviation research. Many innovations from the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough have left their mark on aviation worldwide.

Owned by the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) during two World Wars and 40 years of the Cold War, Farnborough saw its first civil aviation operations in 1989. The MoD declared the airfield surplus to military requirements in 1991; the government then decided the airfield should be redeveloped as a business aviation centre in 1994.

Following a competitive process led by the government, TAG Aviation won the bid and took over in 1997. Planning then took place until 1999. After much redevelopment, TAG Aviation Farnborough Airport Limited took full control under a 99 year lease in 2003 as a fully compliant CAA airport for business aviation. TAG Aviation bought the airfield freehold at the end of 2007.

By 2019 Farnborough Airport had grown beyond all recognition since being granted the original airfield lease in 1999 and a CAA licence in 2003.

In 2019 the shareholders sold TAG Farnborough Holdings Limited (including TAG Aviation, Aviator Hotel and The Swan pub) to a long-term infrastructure fund managed by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA).

Part of Macquarie Group (a top 10 Australian company), MIRA is the world’s largest infrastructure manager with more than 100 million people each day relying on the assets in which it invests. MIRA is an experienced manager of airport infrastructure managing investments in nine commercial airports across Europe and Australia, and 68 fixed-based operations across the US.

The Farnborough International Airshow continues to be held every two years.

Further information: Planning and building control – Rushmoor Borough Council (link opens in new window)