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Gatwick Airport: Flying high for 60 years

This Saturday marks a huge milestone for London Gatwick, as the airport celebrates 60 years since it was officially opened in its current form.

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Queen Elizabeth II steps from a Heron of the Queen's Flight on her arrival at the new Gatwick Airport, for its official opening.

Opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 9 June 1958, Gatwick Airport became the first airport in the world to combine air, road and train travel in one close-knit single unit.

The £7.8 million construction project in 1958 transformed Gatwick into a global travel hub. Taking over two-and-a-half years to complete and marking a new beginning for air travel in UK, it became the first airport in the world to have a direct railway link, allowing passengers to enjoy a seamless journey from the moment their travels started.

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Increased passenger demand and the modern age of air travel, with the introduction of aircraft like the Jumbo Boeing 747-400, required three runway extensions in 1964, 1970 and 1973 – the latter enabled non-stop flights from the US West Coast to begin. With an ever-increasing number of passenger planes arriving daily, Gatwick opened its new control tower in 1984, which at the time of completion was the tallest in the UK. In the same year the Gatwick Express was launched, further cementing Gatwick’s position as an accessible and leading destination for global travel.

In 1988, the Queen returned to open the £200m North Terminal, which in turn saw the main terminal renamed as the South. Just 10 years later, a fourth runway extension was required, with easyJet’s residence at the airport starting the following year in 1999.

The noughties began with extensions to both the North and South terminals, totalling £60m. This was followed by Gatwick building the biggest air passenger bridge in the world, which totals 194m in length.

In 2012, new owners Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) announced a £2.5 billion investment programme, further increasing Gatwick’s standing as a world-leading airport. That year also saw Emirates start its scheduled A380 service at Gatwick – making it one of the very few airports at the time that could accommodate the next generation of passenger airplanes.

Four years later in 2016, Gatwick opened the world’s largest self-service bag drop zone. Unmatched in size, innovation and ambition, this highlighted Gatwick’s commitment to putting passengers at the heart of its operations by dramatically reducing queues.

Finally came the big move. Last year saw easyJet, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic all swap terminals – in just 72 hours – as part of the biggest operational reshuffle in Gatwick’s history.

Discussing the anniversary, Andy Pule, Head of Terminal Operations at Gatwick, said:

“Throughout its history, Gatwick has remained at the forefront of innovation, investing billions over the years to ensure that we are constantly pushing the boundaries and delivering the best possible experience for our passengers.

“It’s been an unbelievable 60 years at Gatwick and we have had a magnificent impact in making air travel accessible to millions of people.

“Now, as we move into our seventh decade, we look ahead to continuing our success story, with more global connections regularly being added to our thriving route network, and more pioneering solutions being provided to enhance the passenger experience.”

 

Notable events in Gatwick’s history:

 

  • 1958: Official opening by Queen Elizabeth II

Following a £7.8 million renovation, Gatwick is officially opened by the Queen.

  • 1964: Runway extended

Gatwick extends its runway by 370m to 2500m. By the next year, the airport has 3 piers, all nearly 300m long, and a terminal area of 9,300m 2.

  • 1970: Runway extended further

A second 267m extension of Gatwick’s runway is completed, bringing it to 2,766m.

  • 1973: Runway extended even further  

The third extension of Gatwick’s runway is completed, bringing it to a length of 3,098m and allowing for non-stop flights to the US west coast.

  • 1984: New control tower and Gatwick Express launched

Gatwick opens its new air traffic control tower, the tallest in the UK at the time. The Gatwick Express is launched, while Virgin Atlantic’s first commercial flight takes off from Gatwick.

  • 1985: BA begins commercial Concorde flights from Gatwick

The inaugural flight takes off to JFK.

  • 1988: North Terminal opens

The £200m North Terminal is opened by the Queen.

  • 1998: Fourth runway extension

Due to Gatwick’s increasing global connections, the runway is extended to 3316m.

  • 1999: easyJet move in

easyJet begins operating from Gatwick.

  • 2000: Terminals extended

Both terminals are extended at a cost of £60m.

  • 2005: Making connections

Gatwick’s Pier 6 is built and connected to the airport by the largest air passenger bridge in the world.

  • 2009: New owners

New owners, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) announces a £2.5 billion investment programme.

  • 2012: Emirates

Emirates begins its scheduled A380 service at Gatwick.

  • 2016: Making check-in easy

Gatwick opens the newly built Pier 1 in the South Terminal and the airport’s first early bag store. It also opens the world’s largest self-service bag drop zone in the North Terminal.

  • 2017: Airline Moves

Gatwick’s three largest airlines move terminals, with easyJet consolidating its operations in the North Terminal, British Airways moving its operation to the South Terminal and Virgin Atlantic shifting to the North Terminal.

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Business

Businesses show their support for Gatwick’s growth as protesters continue their campaign

With only four days left before the consultation closes, 29 companies and business organisations that together represent over 25,000 companies Sussex, Surrey, Kent and London have come out in support of Gatwick’s plans.

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With only four days left before the consultation closes, 29 companies and business organisations that together represent over 25,000 companies Sussex, Surrey, Kent and London have come out in support of Gatwick’s plans. The open letter to Stewart Wingate, the airport’s CEO, is signed by organisations including Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Business and sector specific associations (full list below).

In the letter the business organisations describe Gatwick as ‘a linchpin of the regional economy and a significant national asset’ that contributes ’over £5bn to UK GDP and supports 85,000 jobs.’  It goes on to say:

As the UK heads into a new chapter, Gatwick will have a vital role to play in fuelling trade, tourism and commerce, and providing links to global markets. When Gatwick thrives and grows, so too does the national and regional economy, so the airport’s growth ambitions deserve our full support.’

Clearly this growth should not be at any cost, and given our businesses and employees are based in the local communities in and around the airport, we fully understand that the impacts of expansion need to be considered and carefully managed.

‘But we believe the strength of Gatwick’s plans lies in their simplicity. By unlocking much-needed new capacity from within the airport’s existing runways and footprint, Gatwick’s growth plans are a low-impact way of delivering significant benefits.’

We are firmly in support of Gatwick’s plans which we believe will play a crucial role in allowing our businesses, our employees and our region to continue to prosper.’

The support from businesses comes one month after 75% of residents surveyed across Sussex, Surrey and Kent said that they also supported Gatwick’s growth plans, with just 14% opposing.

The public consultation on Gatwick’s draft master plan runs until 10 January 2019 and can be accessed here

Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive Officer, Gatwick Airport, said:

“This vote of confidence in our plans for growth is particularly powerful as organisations representing over 25,000 businesses have thrown their weight behind our draft master plan. 

“Businesses know we can’t take the region’s economic growth for granted. By sending this letter they recognise the airport’s vital role in creating local jobs and opportunities, and that growing Gatwick is essential for the future prosperity of our region.

“With only a few days left I would like to encourage as many people as possible to take part in our ongoing consultation to show their support for the airport’s growth plans.”

But protesters like CAGNE (Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions) say the effect of any part of the plan would be highly detrimental for all residents.

In a recent statement they said:

“This master plan simply blights these areas again to the threat of airport expansion beyond 2030. The fact remains that Gatwick was not selected by the Airport Commission due to lack of unemployment in the surrounding counties; lack of connectivity to the rest of the UK and the world; it is predominantly used for European leisure travel.”

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