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History of Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport Guide

gatwick airport history

Gatwick airport takes its name from the land on which the airport stands, the former Manor of Gatwick, just north of Crawley in Sussex. In 1241 Richard de Warwick sold land in the manor of Charlwood to John de Gatwick. This land was owned by the Gatwick family until the 14th century and became known as the 'Manor of Gatwick'. Although it was later bought by different families, the name of the monor of gatwick remained.

In 1890 the Manor was purchased by the Gatwick Race Course Compay, and they opened a race course in 1891, complete with its own railway station. In 1930 land alongside the racecourse was purchased for use as a small aerodrome, which was licensed in August 1930 and became known as Gatwick Aerodrome.

Gatwick Aerodrome was initially used by the Surrey Aero Club, a small flying club, but in 1932 it was sold to the Redwing Company, a manufacturer of a side-by-side two-seater aircraft. The next year Morris Jackman bought Gatwick Aerodrome for £13,500 and formed Airports Limited, which was licenced by the Air Ministry in 1934 for use as a commercial airport.

Sunday 17 May 1936 saw the first scheduled service from Gatwick Airport to Paris. The single fare for the Hillman's Airways flight was four pounds and five shillings (equivalent to around £160 today) which included the first class train fare from London's Victoria train station to the aiprort.

The number of flights and destinations offered from gatwick airport increased rapidly and during 1936, with passenger flights to Paris, Malmo via Amsterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen and the Isle of Wight offered.

The airfield was nothing to write home about, since it comprised Gatwick racecourse. Passenger amenities and facilities at the airport were growing fast and 'the Beehive', the world's first circular airport terminal, was opened in 1936. This Art Deco building had several novel features, including a 130 yard long subway from the train station, so that passengers could remain undercover from the time they left Victoria train station until the time they boarded a plane.

During the second world war Gatwick was requisitioned by the Air Ministry and used by the RAF. It remained under the control of the Air ministry for some more years after the end of the war, but from 1946 onwards a small number of charter airlines operated for civilian flights from gatwick.

In 1952 the Government gave approval for the development of Gatwick as the 'new london airport', an alternative to London's now congested Heathrow. The decison to expand Gatwick meant that it closed in March 1956 as construction commenced. The new Gatwick airport was completed in just 33 months at a cost of £7.8 million and was officially opened on 9 June 1958 by Her Majesty The Queen.

This new gatwick airport had many state of the art features and was also the first airport in the world to combine air, rail and road transport in such a close-knit single unit. It was a huge success and 186,172 passengers flew from gatwick in the first seven months, which was a great number in those days. In 1959 passenger figures grew to 368,000.

Ever increasing passenger numbers meant that the airport had outgrown its capacity and work began on enlarging it as early as 1962. Two more piers were built and the terminal was doubled in size. In 1964 the runway was extended to 8,200 feet to accommodate the growing number of jet aircrafts using Gatwick airport.

Passenger figures exceeded 2 million for the first time during 1967. The runway was extended again to 9,075 feet in 1970 and again to 10,165 feet in 1973. Pier 2 was opened in 1977 and was extended in 1984, providing extra jetty-served stands. In 1983 the satellite replaced the old North Pier and incorporated the first rapid transit system of its kind outside the USA.

Work began on a second terminal in 1983. Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh inaugurated the £200 million Gatwick Airport North Terminal in 1988. A second pier was opened at north terminal in 1991 providing pier served stands for 11 aircrafts.

Gatwick Airport is a operated by British Airports Authority (BAA) who its shares were first issued to the public in 1987. It has grown to become one of the biggest and most sucessful airport operators in the world.

As for the future, gatwick was formerly known as the airport for holidays and charter flights, but it has become less dependant on these flights and established itself as a major international hub for scheduled services, which now account for over a quarter of its 30 million annual passengers - set to grow to over 40 million by 2011.

Gatwick is the busiest single runway airport in the world, the second largest airport in the UK and the sixth busiest international airport in the world. It has recently eastablished iteslf as one of the largest no frills airlines bases in Europe too.

It is still a single runway airport and there is constant talk of adding an additional runway. There is a legal agreement in place which precludes the building of a second runway at gatwick airport before 2019.

In 2004 the UK Government decided that there should be two runways in the South East over the next 30 years. They would like the first to be at Stansted (around 2011-2012) and the second at Heathrow (2015-2020) but only if some very stringent environmental conditions are met.

At the same time, the government reserved and safeguarded land for a second runway at Gatwick, in case a new one at Heathrow cannot be built. Ever increasing demand for flights from gatwick airport means that talk of an additional runway at will not go away.

Here are some interesting facts and figures on gatwick airport.


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