AIRPORTThank you for visiting milesfaster.co.uk Heathrow Airport history and
In the days of the First World War from 1914 and up to 1919 the area
that is now Heathrow Airport was used as a training area and military
airport for the British Flying Corps (actually at Hounslow Heath). On
25th August 1919 the airfield, Hounslow Areodrome, was the take off
point for the worlds first ever international flight by a De Havilland
DH-4A to Paris, France. In 1920 the airport was closed due to variuos
logistical reasons including bad communication possibilities, the bumpy
nature of Hounslow Heath, its tendency to become boggy and muddy in
Winter and its its frequent covering of mist.
the 1930's the area was born again as an airfield called the Great Western Aerodrome
(also had other names such as Harmondsworth Aerodrome and Heath Row
Aerodrome), it was
owned by Fairey Aviation, a private company, and the airport was mainly
for aircraft testing purposes. Charles Fairey had paid £15,000 for a 150
acre plot of clear land.
In 1944 the airfield was requisitioned by the government for use by the
ministry of Air. At the time it was said the airport was needed for long
haul flights to support the war with Japan. However it later emerged
that it was always intended to be used for civil purposes and a
requisition meant a public enquiry would be side stepped. The airport
was used by the RAF on only two occasions. In 1940 Hurricane aircraft
were based here during the Battle of Britain as safety measure, diverted
from their normal base at Northolt. In 1945 Lancaster bombers, Halifax,
DC-3, Anson and York aircraft were also diverted here for a period of
time. With the end of the war in 1945 it was announced the airport would
be used for civilian flights instead of military flights. By the end of
1945 the first runway had been built, the East-West runway at 9,000 ft
long. Two more were on their way, and 1st of January 1946 became the
opening day of the airports civilian life, after being officially handed
over from military control. It was announced as 'the worlds largest
airport and the country's largest post-war building scheme. This was no
small project and £20,000,000 had been set a side for the entire
Heathrow project on a 1,500 acre site.
As for when the airport first officially opened for commercial flights
is a mater of debate. Though some flights had been taking off during the
whole of the year three dates are put forward as being the official
opening. 1st January 1946, 28th May 1946 and 31st May. The dates seem to
depend on who the interested party is.
In its first year Heathrow
saw 9,000 flights to 18 destinations and the airport rapidly expanded
over the next few years. By 1951 796,000 passengers were using the
airport annually significant as for the first time the numbers exceeded
those from the nearby Northolt airport, and hit 1 million by the end of
1953 with 62,000 flights.
Whats in a name?
An article published in 'Flight magazine' of July 19, 1945, revealed the
airport was close to having been called something entirely different
from Heathrow. Believing the airports name might be difficult for
foreign crews to pronounce it had been suggested the airfield should be
called Swintonfield, after The Rt Hon Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, first
Earl of Swinton who was a Conservative politician (1884-1972) and the
UK's first Secretary of State for Air.
There was also a 20 year period when the airport was called 'London
Airport' and not Heathrow. The period from April 1946 until 1966 when
the British Airport Authority renamed it Heathrow Airport-London.
in those early days there were no terminals, just a tented village to
provide the facilities for those early passengers. What today is
terminal 2 was actually the site of the first true terminal building, the
'Europa Building', which saw its first passengers for short haul flights
in April 1955 and was officially inaugurated on the 16th December 2005
by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. A section for domestic flights became known as the
In 1961 the airport constructed a terminal to handle long
haul flights, 'The Oceanic Building', at a cost of £3 million pounds and on the site that is now terminal
3, opening on 13th November 1961. The terminal was only used for flight departures
and was renamed to Terminal 3 in 1968. The terminal turned
out to be uncomfortably hot in summer and very cold in winter. This went
on for 20 years until in the 1980's refurbishment found a tile cutting
machine had been left inside the utility ducts and was blocking the
heating and air-conditioning system. This was removed and the problem of
uncomfortable climate inside the terminal was solved.
In 1968 a new short haul terminal was brought into service
which today is terminal 1, officially opened by the Queen in April 1969.
The 'Europa building' was now renamed as Terminal 2 and the 'Oceanic
building' would now be renamed Terminal 3.
At this point all three terminals had been
built close together in the central area of the airport, inside the
runways triangle. The thinking at
the time was that little car parking facilities would be needed by
Flying at that time was still very much the preserve of the rich and it was believed most
passengers would be chauffeur driven to the terminals for their flights.
This thinking left a legacy that would haunt the modern day management as
the closely built buildings limit the possible expansion of short term car
parking facilities for this central area.
In 1970 terminal 3 was extended to allow its use for arrivals as well as
departures. The extension was also notable as seeing the very first
moving pedestrian walkways in the UK. Also in 1970 the airports two main
runways were lengthened to a length of 2 and a half miles.
In April 1986
terminal 4 was officially opened. The terminal was mainly for the long
haul home of British Airways. With the opening of terminal 4 saw the
total separation of departing and arriving passengers for the very first
time. The terminal was built on the South side of the airport away from
the other terminals. At the same the other 3 terminals were upgraded and refurbished.
In June 2005 redevelopment work to Terminal 1 saw a doubling in the size
of the terminal lounge with 1000 extra seats. 20% extra retail space was
also added for 22 new stores.
In 2006 Heathrow constructed a brand new £100 million pounds glass
fronted pier building at terminal 3. This was to accommodate four brand new aircraft
stands able to accommodate the Airbus 380, the worlds largest passenger
In March 2008 Terminal 5 opened on the far western side of the airport
October 1968 was the year the airports multi faith chapel was built.
Actually built underground with a tall cross marking the spot above
January 22nd 1970: First Jumbo jet with fare paying passengers landed at
Heathrow with 324 passengers. Pan Am flight two.
June 1972, Passenger plane on route to Brussels crashes shortly after
19th May 1974, the IRA planted a series of bombs in the Terminal 1 car
park injuring 2 people.
16th December 1977 saw the opening of the Piccadilly tube line extension
out to the 3 Heathrow central area terminals. This was the first major airport in the
world to be linked in such a way from a major city.
November 1983: £25 million pounds worth in gold stolen from warehouse at
Heathrow. Known as the Brinks Mat robbery it was the largest ever
robbery in the UK at the time.
23rd June 1985: Air India flight on route from Heathrow to Delhi
explodes in flight as the result of a terrorist bomb over the Atlantic
ocean just South of Ireland.
12th April 1986: Piccadilly line extension to Terminal 4 opens.
21st December 1988: Pan-am flight on route to New York from Heathrow
explodes in mid air over Lockerbie in Scotland, destroyed by a terrorist
9th March 1994, IRA fires 5 mortars into the grounds of the airport.
11th March 1994, IRA fires 4 mortars into the airport grounds. Again none
13th March 1994, 4 more mortars fired by the IRA and again none
1994 saw the opening of the Flight Connections Centre making Heathrow
the first airport in the world to have dedicated facilities for
passengers making transfer connections.
7 June 1995: First landing by a Boeing 777 operated by United Airlines.
In 1999 Paddington Station was connected to Heathrow terminals 2 and 3 and
4 by a non-stop trains service owned by BAA, the Heathrow Express.
26th November 2003, The last ever flight by the iconic Concorde took
place from the airport.
2006 New control tower comes into operation. Located at the end of a pier in Terminal 3.
Cost was £50 million pounds. The tower stands 87 metres (285ft) high.
The previous control tower by Terminal 1 wasn't high enough to have
views over Terminal 5. The Control Towers glass cab at the top is over 5
storeys high and weighs 840 tons.
May 2007: Go ahead given for a new terminal called Heathrow East to
replace terminals 1 and 2.
August 2006: Heathrow became the first UK airport to use finger print
identification to speed up security checks. It was first trialled on a
21 April 2007: Switch to new control tower is the first such change in
the past 50 years. The tower was required to allow for the opening of
terminal 5 in 2008.
August 2007: Report shows the airport operating at near 50% over
capacity, designed to handle 45 million passengers a year it was
handling 68 million annually.
15th October 2007: Two planes, a British Airways Boeing 747and a Sri
Lankan Airlines Airbus A340 had 'minor' collision. The Sri Lankan plane
lost a 5 foot wing tip section.
November 2007: Public consultation launched by UK government into 3rd
runway and 6th terminal.
December: Terminal 4 sees the arrival of the Yotel capsule cabins for
short stay accommodation of a few hours or longer if need be.
17th January 2008: Flight BA038 from Beijing lost engine power 30
seconds before landing. Just managing to glide over the boundary fence,
landing on the grass and sliding to a halt just at the tip of the
southern runway. The Boeing 777 was carrying 136 passengers and airline
16 crew. There were just 3 minor injuries.
14th March 2008: Terminal 5 opened by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
>>>Terminal 5 history
18th March 2008: First commercial giant airbus A380 flight lands at Heathrow.
Singapore airlines SQ308.
27th March 2008: Terminal 5 opens to the public. Flight BA026 from Hong Kong is the first plane to use the terminal.
15th January 2009: Government gives go ahead for third runway in the
area of Sipson, north of the airport.
7th September 2009: 3 men convicted of planning to blow up 7 aircraft
which would have taken off from Heathrow terminal 3. It was dubbed as
the 'Liquid Bomb Plot'.
26th November 2009: Terminal 2 shuts permanently for demolition.
1st February 2010: Full body scanners introduced.
4th April 2010: A small fire broke out in the control tower which was
brought under control within 20 minutes. 9 flights were diverted during
Named best airport to shop at the annual World Airport Awards.
May 2010: Planning application for 3rd runway withdrawn after election
of a Conservative/Liberal Democrats coalition government made it clear
they would not support the proposal.
12th March 2011: World record set for highest stand-up comedy gig in the
world. The gig was onboard the BA A321 which took off from
Heathrow terminal 5
. Acts included Dara O
Briain, Jack Whitehall and Jon Richardson and the show as at 37,000ft
March 2011: Skytrax award for best shopping facility.
April 2011: Named best airport to shop at the annual World Airport Awards.
August 2011: Heathrow Airport named as host airport and official supplier to the
2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games
March 2012: Heathrow gets a sixth terminal. The roof was finally completed on a
temporary 'pop-up' terminal which operated for just 3 days of the London 2012
Olympics, August 13-15 2012.
April 2012: Heathrow passes the 70 million passengers in a 12 month period
landmark. This in part helped by a calendar quirk whereby there were two Easter
holiday periods (one of the airports busiest periods) within the same 12 months.
Named best airport to shop at the annual World Airport Awards.
September 2012: Named as Britain's worst airport for punctuality by the Civil
2012: The busiest ever year for Heathrow which saw it handle 70 million and a 0.9%
increase on 2011 and £2.46 billion pounds in revenue.
April 2013: Terminal 5 named Worlds Best Airport Terminal and collected the Best Airport for Shopping trophy at the Skytrax World Airport Awards.
Named best airport to shop at the annual World Airport Awards.
2013: Record passenger numbers at 72.3 million for the year January thru
December 2013. Estimated to have run at 98% of total flight capacity.
29th April 2014: The new terminal 2 (Queens terminal) was opened to journalists
for its first public viewing.
May 19th 2014: Terminal 5 rebranded/renamed as Terminal Samsung Galaxy S5 as a
June 4th 2014: New terminal 2 (The Queens Terminal) opens.
June 23rd 2014: Her majesty Queen Elizabeth officially opens terminal 2.
July 2014: 6.97 million passengers travelling via the airport makes it the
busiest ever month.
August 2014: Named as worst airport in the UK for delays in a report from specialist solicitors Bott & Co.
August 2014: Handled in excess of 7 million passengers for the month of August,
a new record.
December 2014: Figures show Heathrow as the 3rd busiest airport in the world
with 72.4 million travellers for the previous year. It was also the second
busiest international airport (cross borders), having been the busiest
previously, that title now taken by Dubai.
January 2015: Winner for Best Airport in the Business Travel Awards
March 2015: World Airport of the Year at Air Transport World (ATW) 41st Annual Airline Industry Achievement Awards.
May 2015: Terminal 2 named Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
project of the year.
June 2015: ACI EUROPE Best Airport 2015 Award winner
30th June 2015: Terminal 1 closes for demolition after 47 years.
July 2015: State-appointed commission finds Heathrow Airport best option for a
new runway in the south east of England.
April 2016: Record 6.1 million passengers travelled via the airport.
August 2016: Claimed itself to be the worlds first dementia friendly airport. Heathrow began a program to train airport staff on how to help
travellers suffering cognitive decline.
25th October 2016: UK government gives Heathrow the go ahead for a third runway.