The History of Gatwick Airport
1241AD to 1958
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The early plans for Gatwick consisted of two parallel East - West runways and a shorter North East - South West runway with the terminal between them. The 2nd main runway would have been where the North Terminal is now. But eventually the plans went ahead with a single runway....where it currently is of course.
The work to develop Gatwick into Londonís second airport was authorised in 1955, it would essentially be a new airport. Airports Limited were compensated £350,000 when Gatwick was bought from them by the Ministry. The Gatwick Racecourse was sold to the Ministry of Civil Aviation.....finally. Both schemes and the eventual final single runway scheme made racing difficult as the racecourse was built upon either way.
On 31st March 1956, Gatwick Airport closed again and the development of the airport we know today started. The work would cost of £7.8 million and take just over 2 years later the New London Gatwick Airport would be ready.
But in the meantime, early in 1957 Transair were the first independent to start to build their new £300,000 base at Gatwick. In May 1958 they started the move to Gatwick and their new maintenance base. The hangar could accommodate two or three aircraft and it had a lowering floor to enable the Viscounts to be lowered for easier access, with pits for the propellers to lower into of course. With their new offices next door it was a very self-contained set-up on the south side of the runway. By the 8th June all their aircraft and 400 staff had made the move to Gatwick.
By July 1953 the scheme for Gatwick still had two runways (see below), but they had shrunk to 6000ft and the cross runway was shortened too. The airport overall was narrowed a bit too. The maintenance area moved to its current location and the terminal (what is now the South Terminal) is in the correct location near enough. Note the stations still have their names as per 1953.
Gatwick - 1958 - with its single Southern Runway.....it would be 1969 before the missing 1,000 feet of runway was added at a greater cost than if it was done as originally planned. The Transair hangar is just out of shot, the one you can see is Air Courier's hangar, they moved in soon after Transair.
The new Gatwick Airport was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 9th June 1958 after arriving in a Heron of the Royal Flight.
Below we have photos from the Royal opening of Gatwick.
The first flight after the official opening was due to be a BEA DC-3 flight to Jersey, a private charter by Surrey County Council on a goodwill visit. However the first aircraft to use Gatwick was a Transair Viscount, it landed with troops returning from Malta on 30 May 1958.
Transair's new Hangar at Gatwick, it would later become BCal's Hangar 1
The maintenance base would grow as Gatwick became busier. Below is the BCal maintenance base; the original Transair Hangar is in the right hand foreground and the photo extends past BCal's large DC10 Hangar 5, past what was Morton's wooden hangar and onto British Airtours and Laker's hangars.
|The North Terminal
||A nice overview
|A busy Gatwick
||The new air bridge - sized to allow A380's to pass
||From above - the airport in the countryside
Below we have a few images of Gatwick in 2013 / 2014........its a busy place......and also the south terminal's round satellite building. (where did they get that idea from?). It was designed originally for large widebody aircraft and now caters for smaller short haul types.
Below we have one option for Gatwick if a 2nd runway is ever built. Essentially this would see the new terminal built over the maintenance area and the new runway would be beyond the current perimeter....and the A23 would be diverted again. The runway on the right hand side below, is the current runway at Gatwick.
The Beehive was refurbished in the late 1980s / 1990s and it became offices for small businesses and also GB Airways.
Below we have some photos from insde the terminal and also one of the Beehive under angry skies.
And finally.....as always I like to end with something and I did not know this until I started researching for this feature
Remember the Gatwick Racecourse picture from page 1?
In the photo, you can see the large bandstand set in a grassed area in front of the granstand.
Well, it was built in 1891 and Im pleased to say that the bandstand still exists in 2014.
It was bought by Crawley Development to spruce up their town centre for the princely sum of £60.
Below we have a photo of the bandstand in the 1970s, and one of the bandstand today in 2014.
The plaque shows the provenance and also that the builders of the stations at Gatwick, James Longleys, also refurbished the bandstand. Though someone in the Council thought the ground was the best place for the current plaque......sometimes I do wonder.
James Longley's, builders of all three Gatwick Stations, also built the Gatwick Cargo Centre for BCal and that opened in July 1977. My late grandfather, Leslie Wigmore, was foreman for Longleys on the Cargo Centre build. It all seems joined up sometimes.