Les Palmer reports on the Association's
13 May visit to the TAG Airport at Farnborough...
Question: What cost £1 million
to purchase and £74 million to fix?
Answer: The TAG airport at
This was the opening statement made by our tour guide as we
commenced our visit. Nine Members came on the visit which had
originally been booked by the Handley Page Association who were unable
to keep the date. Having a unique relationship with both groups Harry
Fraser-Mitchell was able to alert our Secretary of the opportunity and
together they plugged the gap.
engineering group (TAG-Heuer watches etc) is a Swiss based, Saudi owned
concern who purchased the redundant MoD site upon closure of the
DRA/RAE. They devised a business plan that recognised the need to
establish a very special airport in the UK to cater for the increasing
numbers of the very rich and famous who do not wish to fly in and out
of major public airports.
TAG have created a facility which provides the utmost
security for their clients together with an uncluttered environment
that sees them quickly through procedures and on their way to whatever
business or pleasure needs gave rise to the flight. Need a 'limo' at
the steps and Customs and Immigration on board? All part of the service!
The hangars have the space for the Boeing business jet as the
visitor. Full servicing facilities are available and the whole place is
spotless. The terminal, hangars and control tower are all magnificent
examples of very modern architecture constructed to portray aerodynamic
No photography is
allowed and no customer names are ever
divulged outside the need-to-know groups working at the airport. Some
2,800 yearly movements are licenced at present with twice this number
planned. Environmental requirements are a top priority; water treatment
plants and an animal sanctuary have been established. The perimeter is
grazed by Mongolian horses and cattle who have the best close cropping
ability to cope with Hampshire gorse.
The tower, in addition to
its everyday function, affords the visitor a most spectacular view of
the airfield and its surroundings which, for our visit, included the
early construction work for the Farnborough Air Show. Air traffic
control is provided by NATS (National Air Traffic Services) between the
hours of 0600 and 2200 daily with the airport open for normal business
from 0800 to 1800. During Air Show week the controller staff is
augmented by some twenty-two additional NATS personnel to handle the
greatly increased number of movements. Normal TAG business is curtailed
during demonstration flying.
prominent landmark seen from the
tower is the original HQ of Lord Trenchard, 'father of the RAF', now
the home of the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Museum to which, on
completion of our tour, we made our way. Greeted on our arrival by Mr
and Mrs Harry Fraser-Mitchell we were ushered into Lord Trenchard's
former office to enjoy a splendid buffet very generously provided by
Harry and beautifully presented by kind lady volunteers from the
Afterwards we were
given a superb presentation by
David Wilson, delivered with the passion of a true aviation enthusiast.
The main topic was Samuel F Cody's British Army Aeroplane No.1 which,
at Farnborough on 16 October 1908, performed the first officially
recognised powered aeroplane flight in Great Britain. Farnborough was
the home of the Royal Engineers who had responsibility for balloons,
kites and aeroplane development.
We were then privileged to be taken to
a nearby hangar where a group of Trust members was creating a replica
of 'No.1' for display at this year's Farnborough Air Show,
with models of other aircraft of the same period. Countless hours of
research and construction have gone into creating the full-scale model.
Wood had been sourced in Sweden and the USA.
One of our Members
observed that the castings being used looked to be of a higher standard
than perhaps could have been produced a hundred years ago. "A great
observation," stated our guide, but Cody was a friend of fellow
American engineer Hiram Maxim of Vickers machine gun fame and it was he
who made the castings for 'No.1', hence the high quality achieved. The
copy castings for the replica cost £17,000 to have made today.
The Museum contains many very interesting items associated
work of the former Royal Aircraft Establishment including the fatigue
research on the deHavilland Comet. The Museum, which is well worth a
visit, is not open every day; for information call 01252 375050. Visits
to TAG Airport by recognised groups may be arranged by calling 01252
As a 'thank you' for the
visit to the Museum the
Association has sent a cheque for £50 to help with the cost of building
the 'No.1' replica.