Heathrow Airport Guide

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  • Back in 1946 Heathrow was one of the world's busiest airports. But back then London Heathrow International Airport's one terminal was in fact an army surplus tent situated a short walk from the aircraft.
  • Heathrow started life as a small grass airfield which was privately owned. The Great Western Aerodrome was used largely for test flying with commercial flights taking off from nearby Heston and Hanworth Park airfields.
  • In 1944 it was requisitioned by the Air Ministry to be developed as a major transport base for the Royal Air Force. Before the work was completed the war ended and with it came the prospect of a huge expansion in civil aviation.
  • London needed a large airport with modern equipment and the partly-built site at Heathrow was ideal. One runway was ready for use and when the Ministry of Civil Aviation took it over in 1946 the tented terminal was quickly put in place and a new chapter began.
  • By 1947 three runways had been completed and work on another three - subsequently abandoned as unnecessary - was going on.
  • A new, permanent building arose in the central area at the start of the 1950s, replacing the tent.
  • As traffic boomed Heathrow Airport found itself with an ever-increasing demand for passenger facilities.
  • The Queen inaugurated a new building in 1955 (Terminal 2) and the tunnel which provides the main road access to Heathrow's central area was opened.
  • Next came the new Oceanic terminal handling long-haul carriers, a function it still performs as Terminal 3, followed by the opening of Terminal 1 in 1968.
  • Increased congestion in the central area led to the birth of Terminal 4 in 1986 on the south side of the airport, a modern facility but an inconvenient 10-20 minute transfer from the heart of Heathrow.
  • Today London Heathrow International Airport has superb rail and road links to London and other parts of the country. The extension of the city rail link to the airport central area is now open and Heathrow has received approval to build another passenger terminal.