FARNBOROUGH officially became home to Europe's leading business airport yesterday (Wednesday).

At a special leasing ceremony, the Ministry of Defence handed over the airfield to TAG Aviation.

The ceremony was attended by Transport Minister John Spellar and the Luxembourg-based company's chairman, Mansour Ojjeh.

Shortly after pen had been put to paper, a business jet performed a fly-past to symbolise the deal.

Mr Spellar later opened the new space-age air traffic control tower which dominates the skyline and is pictured above. So far TAG, which began operating at Farnborough five years go, has spent £9-million on developing the airport.

In addition to building the control tower, it has carried out other major work including resurfacing the runways and building 120,000 sq ft of hanger space.

"The investment has been made to bring the airport up the highest civil aviation standards for its new role as Europe's leading business aviation centre," said TAG spokesman Peter Bloomfield.

There will be 28,000 aircraft movements a year at the airport - formerly an MoD flight test centre - when it is operating to full capacity.

About five per cent of these movements will involve larger "whispering" corporate aircraft including the Boeing business jet and the Airbus 319.

TAG says that the airport will form a strategic link between its flight operations in America and Europe.

Yesterday's deal includes a commitment to safeguard the future of Farnborough's world-renowned International Air Show.