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NEWS Last modified on January 1, 2016

London's Heathrow Airport turns 70 years old

Today marks 70 years since Heathrow officially became a commercial airport, and it plans celebrating the landmark throughout 2016. 

Built for the military during WWII, the site became London Airport on January 1, 1946, when it was handed over to the UK's Minister of Civil Aviation by the Air Ministry (pictured above).

The first commercial flight to depart that day was a British South American Airlines Lancastrian ‘Star Light’ which flew to Buenos Aires.

Since its opening, the UK’s only hub airport has grown significantly to handle over 73 million passengers annually and is now one of the best known airports in the world.

In 1946 passenger terminals were made from ex‑military marquees that formed a ‘tented village’ along the Bath Road.

Each was equipped with floral-patterned armchairs, settees and small tables containing vases of fresh flowers. To reach aircraft parked on the apron, passengers walked over wooden duckboards to protect their footwear from the muddy airfield.
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By the close of Heathrow’s first operational year in 1946, 63,000 passengers had travelled through London’s new airport.

The annual throughput had risen to 796,000 per annum by 1951 and British architect Frederick Gibberd was appointed to design permanent buildings for the airport.

Long standing employee and local resident Keith Haywood, 87, has worked at the airport for over 70 years and pushed one of the first flights back aged 17.

He said: “I feel very privileged to have seen Heathrow develop and grow from its first day in 1946.”

Since 2003, Heathrow has invested £12 billion in transforming Heathrow. As a result, the gateway says that over 60% of Heathrow passengers now experience "modern, world class facilities in Terminal 5 and Terminal 2."

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. ca8a8af3931a821b4cde4c35f3194ee4 XL
"I am very proud to be a part of ‘Team Heathrow’ and the 75,000 colleagues helping to make every passenger’s journey better.  

"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."

Heathrow highlights
1944: Construction of London Airport's runways begins

1946: London Airport officially opens as a commercial airport

1955: Her Majesty the Queen opens the Central Terminal Area and Control Tower

1957: The first non-stop flight to California sets a new record for distance and time
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1964: The Beatles are mobbed at London Airport

1966: The British Airports Authority is created. London Airport is renamed 'Heathrow'

1969: Terminal 1 is opened and existing buildings renamed T2 and T3

1976: Concorde makes its first passenger flight

1977: The London Underground link is opened

1986: His Royal Highness Prince Charles and Princess Diana inaugurate Terminal 4

1987: The British Airports Authority is privatised as BAA plc

1998: The Heathrow Express rail service is launched

2006: The Airbus A380 makes its first UK landing into a newly built Pier 6 at Terminal 3

2007: A new air traffic control tower is operational – the tallest in the UK

2008: Terminal 5 is officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen in March; The first commercial A380 flight arrives at Heathrow

2009: Terminal 4 underwent a major refurbishment to improve facilities

2010: Demolition work started on Terminal 2 to make way for its £1 billion replacement which opens on June 4, 2014671e1b97d5db31a8bc1d973f463cac5a XL
2014: The brand new Terminal 2: The Queen's Terminal opened for business on 4 June. The first airline to move in was United Airlines

2015: Icelandair moved in to Terminal 2 on March 25

2015: Terminal 1 closed
old T1


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