A milestone year for Heathrow
Celebrations planned to mark 70 years since start of commercial flights
LAST Friday marked 70 years since Heathrow became a commercial airport.
Originally built for military purposes during the Second World War the then newly named London Airport was handed over to the Minister of Civil Aviation on January 1 1946.
The first commercial flight to depart on the day was a British South American Airlines Lancastrian ‘Star Light’ which flew to Buenos Aires. The airport was then officially opened to its first wave of passengers on May 31 that year.
Long standing employee Keith Haywood of Ruislip, nearly 87, has worked at the airport for over 70 years.
He said: “I feel very privileged to have seen Heathrow develop and grow from its first day in 1946.”
Keith was among a group of young traffic trainees who watched the first flight depart and currently works two days a week at British Airways Heritage centre at the airline’s headquarters at Waterside.
The airport will officially celebrate its anniversary on May 31.
Heathrow CEO John Holland Kaye said: “This is a significant milestone which marks the incredible transformation of Heathrow.
“Heathrow has come a long way from being a military airfield to a national asset which is now a globally recognised brand.
“I’m looking forward to celebrating the history of this amazing airport this year but I’m also looking forward to the next 70 years as Heathrow aims to be the best connected and most environmentally responsible airport in the world.”
In 1946 passenger terminals were made from ex-military marquees which formed a tented village along the Bath Road where passengers walked over wooden duckboards to reach the aircraft parked on the muddy airfield.
By the end of Heathrow’s first year in operation, 63,000 passengers had travelled through London’s new airport, growing to 796,000 by 1951, and to date has rocketed to 73 million passengers annually.
Since 2003, Heathrow has spent £12bn on expansion and redevelopment projects including the opening of Terminal 5 in 2008 followed the year after by a major refurbishment of Terminal 4. The demolition of Terminal 2 in 2010 paved the way for The Queen’s Terminal to open in 2014 and the closure of Terminal 1 in June 2015 will make way for the extension of Terminal 2. If the third runway goes ahead it is expected a new terminal will be built adjacent to Terminal 5.
n BACK THEN: Above, Heathrow's Central Terminal in 1961, and right, a photo taken in 1937 showing the annual ploughing match under way on what is now the northern runway at Heathrow Airport