Features

Snapshot: 1946, Heathrow opens

26 Feb 2016 by Michelle Harbi

Michelle Harbi recalls the launch of ‘London Airport’ 70 years ago.

Heathrow airport is celebrating seven decades of commercial flight this year. During the Second World War, the government requisitioned Richard Fairey’s Great West Aerodrome, located by the hamlet of Heath Row, to develop a military facility. On January 1, 1946, it was handed over to the civil aviation ministry and, on May 31, London Airport officially opened.

Snapshot: Heathrow airport

Picture credit: Heathrow airport

The inaugural departure was a British South American Airlines flight to Buenos Aires operated by a converted Lancastrian bomber called “Star Light”. The first arrival was a British Overseas Airways Corporation Lancastrian from Australia.

In its first year, 63,000 passengers passed through the airport’s “terminals” – ex-military tents set up along the Bath Road, where flyers could relax in floral armchairs or browse a branch of WH Smith. Today, Heathrow handles more than 73 million passengers a year.

Snapshot: Heathrow airport

Picture credit: Heathrow airport

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