Roger McMullin told a press conference at the Farnborough Airshow that extending flight movements beyond the 28,000 a year permitted under planning regulations would be "an attractive thing".

But he pledged that TAG, which won planning permission to run business flights from the airfield in October 2000 and has invested millions into the site, was committed to sticking to current rules.

There are currently around 16,000 flight movements per year and restrictions on aircraft size.

"TAG's future at Farnborough is closely linked to the Rushmoor community, and we are committed to maintaining the strength of this partnership by complying fully with both the letter and the spirit of our planning approval," he said.

Mr McMullin, a Vietnam flight veteran, said TAG was very conscious of being a good neighbour to the people of Farnborough.

He said TAG would need to win the community's backing for flying extensions, which would be years away.

He was speaking on Tuesday — exactly a year since TAG began building work — to outline progress on the business flight development.

Mr McMullin, who pronounced Farnborough as "Farnborrow" throughout the press conference, said that the only remaining hurdle to securing the future of the airfield for the next 100 years was obtaining a Civil Aviation Authority licence. The company hopes to get that by early 2003.

Questioned about longer term plans to extend flight movements — a contentious issue with people living near the flight paths — he said: "That would be an attractive thing. It would not be honest to say otherwise. The cap was established under the planning permission and we are committed to that.

"We've completed noise monitoring equipment on the site which will record the levels and frequency of noise, and that will be reviewed.

"But we think time is on our side; noise is coming down all the time and is becoming less of an issue.

"We would hope to have the community come to value us more and more as time goes by and at some time in the future I would hope they would approve of us increasing the flight movements."

He added: "There were a small number of people who were very vocal against our plans. They were very active during the planning stage in trying to block the use of the airport.

"Having said that, when I talk to people in the community I get the feeling we are very, very well-received by the large percentage of them."

Mr McMullin said the whole project, which aims to transform Farnborough into the safest and most modern business flight centre in Europe, had overrun original budget estimates by 50%, although he would not reveal the total cost.

It includes £9million worth of runway improvements and a state-of-the-art control tower.

The press conference took place as news was emerging of the government's plans to expand Britain's public airports with nine new runways.

But Mr McMullin ruled out any possibility that this would affect TAG's operations at Farnborough, which would be restricted to business flying.

Pictured is the longest range plane in the world, the Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600, landing at Farnborough Airfield. The new control tower is in the background.