Gatwick Airport Guide

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  • In 1931 what is now known as London Gatwick Airport was a private airfield owned by Home Counties Aviation Services.
  • Serious development was later carried out and the first terminal, together with taxiways and aprons, was opened in 1936. Passengers arriving by train could walk into the airport through subways and covered walkways.
  • Gatwick suffered from a lack of paved runways and was eventually abandoned by its principal airline operator in 1938.
  • Gatwick's war time role as a Royal Air Force base saw it grow through the acquisition of the local racecourse but when it was returned to civil use in 1946 it was still basically a grass airfield.
  • In 1953 the Government decreed Gatwick as London's second airport.
  • The old airport was closed for major re-development. When it officially re-opened three years later Gatwick had been transformed into a modern facility with a 2000 feet runway, a terminal incorporating a rail station and a covered pier linking terminal with aircraft, the first of its kind in the UK.
  • Charter traffic became big business in the 1980s and with more than a million passengers then using Gatwick the terminal was extended and two more piers built.
  • Gatwick still ranked only fourth busiest of UK airports but British United Airways, then the main operator, was steadily introducing scheduled services.
  • In 1978 London Gatwick Airport became a transatlantic gateway. By the time Delta, Braniff and British Caledonian started up their routes to the USA Gatwick had already extended its runway to handle the long haul jets and further improved the terminal.
  • Passenger traffic hit the 10 million mark in the 1980s and has continued to grow at a phenomenal rate, reaching over 31 million in 2001.
  • The South and North Terminals opened as Gatwick established itself as Britain's second busiest airport and an international player.
  • Gatwick is anxious to build a second runway to meet growing demand. But there is strong opposition from local residents and environmentalists.