Snapshot: 1936, Gatwick opens

4 Jul 2016 by Marisa Cannon

Marisa Cannon reflects on growth at the airport 80 years on from its first commercial flight

Gatwick airport 1936

Previously a small flyers’ club in Surrey, it’s now 80 years since Gatwick officially opened for commercial aviation.

On May 17, 1936, a De Havilland DH 86 aircraft chartered from Jersey Airways by British Airways Limited departed for Paris from the airport’s newly constructed terminal. Dubbed “the Beehive”, the art deco building was the world’s first circular terminal and had six gates, operating alongside four grass landing strips. Other destinations served by British Airways in the first year included Malmo via Amsterdam, the Isle of Wight, Hamburg and Copenhagen.

Requisitioned by the Air Ministry during the Second World War, Gatwick reopened to the public in 1946. By 1952, it had been designated London’s second airport, with a new terminal and concrete runway planned. Today, it’s the world’s busiest single-runway airport, with a flight departing every 60 seconds.

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