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  • Michael Hughes

Brief History of Liverpool Airport

The Liverpool John Lennon Airport that we know and love today, is quite different to the original Speke Aerodrome. Built on the land adjacent to Speke Hall in the 1920s with the first scheduled flights beginning in 1930 as demand increased for air travel from the Isle of Man and Ireland. The airport was officially opened on 1st July 1933.

During the Second World War Speke Airport was taken over by the Ministry of Aviation and temporarily renamed RAF Speke. Due to the airfields proximity to Liverpool Docks, It quickly became a key location. Aircraft were flown to RAF Speke, dismantled and shipped to key locations in Europe and Africa in support of the war effort. It was also used to receive and assemble US aircraft that had been shipped across the Atlantic. During the Battle of Britain Fighter planes were scrambled from RAF Speke, Flight Lieutenant Deny Gillam made history when taking off in his Hawker Hurricane only to be immediately confronted by a German Junkers 88 passing ahead of him. Gillam, with his under carriage still retracting opened fire and successfully shot down the Junkers 88 which is thought to be the fastest air to air combat kill during the Battle of Britain.

RAF Speke was handed back to the Liverpool Corporation in 1961 and the immediate construction of a new runway began which was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on 7th May 1966. Works then began on an international terminal with the ability to handle larger aircraft such as the iconic Boeing 747 ‘Jumbo Jet’. In 1986 the old terminal building was replaced by a newer terminal building nearer to the 1966 runway.

The new airfield was privatised in 1990 with British Aerospace gaining a controlling stake. During the 1990’s Concorde became a familiar sight in the skies above Liverpool on Grand National Weekend as it transported racegoers from London to Liverpool and then and then proceeded on pleasure flights circumnavigating the Liverpool Area. This brings back many childhood memories of hearing the engines of Concorde roaring above, resulting in heads spinning around and eyes scanning the skies attempting to locate the infamous supersonic airliner. Eventually it would be found and everybody would watch the magnificent aircraft as it traversed the Liverpool Skyline.

The Controlling stake in Liverpool Airport was sold to Peel holdings in 1997. After obtaining the remaining shares in 2001, Peel holdings renamed the airport as the ‘Liverpool John Lennon Airport’, the first UK airport to be named after an individual. The new terminal was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2002.

In 2016, Liverpool City council acquired a stake in the airport and more recently Ancala Partners LLP acquired a 45% share leaving the Peel Group with 45% and Liverpool City Council with the remaining 10%. Handling over 5 million passengers per year and flying to 70 destinations, Liverpool John Lennon Airport is the 13th busiest airport in the UK, but boasts its short passenger wait times and Flight Punctuality, something which I can attest to after having regularly checked the flight status of clients with most appearing to land early or at least on time.

After remaining derelict for over a decade, the iconic older terminal was renovated into a hotel in 2001 originally as Marriot Liverpool South Hotel and more recently the Crowne Plaza Liverpool John Lennon Airport Hotel. At the front of the hotel two additional wings have been added, but the airside element of the building was preserved intact which was captured on the cover of Oasis Single ‘Don’t Go Away’. The Original Apron is also intact and contains a number of aircraft. The original Hangars that flank the terminal and apron have been converted into a David Lloyd Leisure centre and a Shop Direct/Very Group Office.

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