Farnborough Airport, Europe’s fourth largest private jet airport aims to move from up to 50,000 flights a year to 70,000.
Farnborough has a rich history in aviation, having been the site of the first powered flight in the United Kingdom by Samuel Cody in 1908, before becoming a hub of aerospace development and research with the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE).
The site was controlled by the MoD until 2003, when operations were ceased and the airport was taken over by a private company for business use. At the time, the airport was restricted to 28,000 flight movements per year, of which no more than 2,500 were permitted at weekends.
This number has since increased, and today the airport at Farnborough is the largest business aviation airport in the country.
The Hampshire airfield said it needed to expand to meet demand by the year 2040.
However, aviation campaign group Safe Landing said “polluting private jets catering to a handful of wealthy super-emitters” should be curtailed.
The group said the airport should move its business towards “more sustainable low-carbon flying for the masses”, involving cleaner fuels and larger planes.
Alton Climate Action Network said private jets produced more greenhouse gas emissions than any other mode of transport.
In a submission to the airport’s forthcoming public consultation, the charity said: “On average, at Farnborough Airport, there are only 2.5 passengers per plane and 40% of aircraft fly empty.”
Councillor Jules Crossley, who represents Friends of the Earth on the Farnborough Aerodrome Consultative Committee, said there should be no expansion until technology improves.
She said: “In 10 to 15 years, we will have noiseless and emission-free aircraft and then we can fly as much as we want.”
Supporting the plans airport CEO Simon Geere said: “There’s always a balance to be struck between environmental impacts and economic benefit. There’s always a trade off, and the right trade off needs to be made. I fully accept that some people don’t accept that trade off. But equally, we and others will see the economic benefits of growth and will want to embrace the opportunity which is really what we’re consulting on.
Today the airport supports directly or indirectly near-on 3,000 jobs and generates £200 million a year for the local economy. So actually there’s a lot of good that comes from the airport’s operation. But equally I accept the environmental impact isn’t necessarily evenly spread across the local area or the wider region. That’s why we need to listen to people carefully as to what their concerns are.”