Gatwick airport is celebrating what it is referring to as its 60th anniversary this weekend.
Commercial flights have in fact operated from the airport since the 1930s (with an aerodrome dating back as far as the 1920s), but the facility underwent a two-and-a-half-year, £7.8 million construction project in the 1950s, before being officially reopened by Queen Elizabeth II on June 9, 1958.
The works included a single pier terminal with 11 gates (the beginning of what is now known as the South Terminal), and a direct railway link – an innovation at the time.
To celebrate the anniversary Gatwick has published a potted history of the airport, with highlights including:
1964: Gatwick extends its runway by 370m to 2,500m. By the next year, the airport has three piers, all nearly 300m long, and a terminal area of 9,300sqm.
1970: A second 267m extension of Gatwick’s runway is completed, bringing it to 2,766m.
1973: The third extension of Gatwick’s runway is completed, bringing it to a length of 3,098m and allowing for non-stop flights to the US west coast.
1984: Gatwick opens its new air traffic control tower, the tallest in the UK at the time. The Gatwick Express is launched, while Virgin Atlantic’s first commercial flight takes off from Gatwick.
1985: BA begins commercial Concorde flights from Gatwick to New York JFK
1988: The £200m North Terminal is opened by the Queen
1998: Fourth runway extension, to 3,316m
1999: Easyjet begins operating from Gatwick.
2000: Both terminals are extended at a cost of £60m.
2005: Gatwick’s Pier 6 is built and connected to the airport by the largest air passenger bridge in the world.
2009: New owners, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) announces a £2.5 billion investment programme.
2012: Emirates begins its scheduled A380 service at Gatwick.
2016: Gatwick opens the newly built Pier 1 in the South Terminal and the airport’s first early bag store. It also opens the world’s largest self-service bag drop zone in the North Terminal.
2017: Gatwick’s three largest airlines move terminals, with easyJet consolidating its operations in the North Terminal, British Airways moving its operation to the South Terminal and Virgin Atlantic shifting to the North Terminal.