The milestone has finally been achieved following extensive work on the site, which will eventually handle around 28,000 flights a year compared to the current 16,000.

A 99-year lease granted to TAG was signed by Ian Andrews, second permanent under secretary at the Ministry of Defence, following the award of a Civil Aviation Authority Licence.

Before the signing ceremony, TAG chief executive Roger McMullin said that they were marking two highly significant events in the history of the airfield, namely: “The transfer of ownership of the airfield from the Ministry of Defence to TAG, and the transfer of the regulation of flying at the airfield from the Royal Air Force to the Civil Aviation Authority.”

Mr McMullin recalled the history of the airfield, including Samuel Cody’s first flight in 1908 and the many years of experimental test flying in the post-war years.

He added: “This has been a significant investment for TAG and it demonstrates our declared firm intention to make Farnborough the finest business aviation airfield in Europe.”

The runway has been extensively rebuilt with a new 170-metre starter strip and a 40-metre full width runway extension at the western end.

120,000 sq ft of new aircraft hanger will house business jets of all sizes, alongside 18 acres of new aircraft parking and taxiing aprons.

The most distinctive feature of the airfield is the new futuristic control tower equipped with the latest communications and data system. It was officially opened by guest of honour MP John Spellar, minister of state for transport.

“Today marks a new beginning for Farnborough as a fully licensed civilian airport,” said Mr Spellar, who unveiled a plaque at the foot of the tower.

“The international air show has been held here since 1948 and, I am delighted to say, is set to continue that tradition in the years ahead.”

He congratulated all those parties involved in the project, saying: “Developments of this kind do not just happen.

“They rely on the vision and determination of the promoters, and the co-operation of local council members and officers to work to overcome obstacles and reach agreement.”

Council leader Cllr Jon Marsh said that it was a great day for Farnborough and the people of Rushmoor.

“It secures the future of the airfield and the international air show that we have all been working towards for many years.

“This has been done under the controls that the council has put in place under the planning permission.”

Rushmoor chief executive Andrew Lloyd said he was delighted that the airfield was now fully CAA licensed.

He assured local residents that all the strict controls were in place to make the airfield safer than ever.

The growth of the airfield has involved a long and often controversial planning process during which many local people have raised concerns about increased air traffic over the town.

Commenting on the development, TAG director Ann Bartaby said: “I have never seen a council deal as thoroughly with public consultation as Rushmoor have with this.

“They have always been careful to make sure that everybody who could be affected was consulted.”

Rushmoor development control committee is due to meet on Monday to discuss the final conditions of the planning application for the airfield.