The big picture: Stansted’s runway celebrates 80th anniversary

5 Aug 2023 by Mark Caswell
London Stansted began life as a American Airforce Second World War base in 1943 (image from

London Stansted airport has celebrated the 80th anniversary of its runway, which officially opened in July 1943.

The airfield originally opened as George Washington Field and was used as an American military base during World War Two.

Four B-26 Marauder squadrons from the 344th ‘Silver Streaks’ Bomb Group were based at the airfield, with a total of 140 missions flown before they were relocated to France at the end of 1944.

Stansted's airfield was home to the USAAF Eighth Air Force (image from

The site was handed over to the Civil Aviation Authority in the years following the end of World War Two, becoming home to many charter services.

The runway was extended to 3,048 metres in the 1950s, and the current Foster + Partners terminal building celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2021.

London Stansted celebrates 30th anniversary of terminal building

Commenting on the news Gareth Powell, London Stansted’s managing director, said:

“Stansted is very proud of its past and the critical role the airfield played during World War Two as a US Air Force base. It’s amazing to now look back and acknowledge those early efforts have ultimately culminated in the Stansted Airport we see today.

“Back then, US Engineers would have been unaware that thanks to their skill and expertise, Stansted would 80 years later be one of the busiest airports in the country serving over 26 million passengers a year through one of the world’s most iconic terminal buildings.”

Last month Stansted published new plans to extend its existing terminal building, which if approved will see a three-bay extension added to the back of the building.

Stansted airport unveils terminal extension plans

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