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The History And Development Of Leeds Bradford Airport

Jul 26, 2008
Leeds Bradford Airport lies between the two West Yorkshire cities of Leeds and Bradford and is a vital link in the UK's airport network. It was originally opened as the 'Leeds and Bradford Municipal Aerodrome' or to locals Yeadon Aerodrome in the thirties. In the mid thirties the airport began scheduled flights to a number of different UK destinations; these were London's Heston, Newcastle, Edinburgh and the Isle of Man.

These services flew on a thrice weekly basis at the beginning of the airport's operation. At this stage the car hire desks, shops and restaurants that fill the terminal today were not present, even though the terminal had begun its construction.

Like most of the airports in the UK the Second World War saw the airfield being requisitioned by the RAF. While it was not used for flyer sorties like many airports on the coast but it played an important part in the development of new aircraft for the war effort. Near to Yeadon was where the Avro factory was based. This factory was connected to Leeds Bradford Airport by a taxiway that allowed the first Avro bombers to be tested. Of the planes produced at the Yeadon plant, the Lancaster, Bristol Blenheim, Anson, York and Lincoln are the most famous. Of these varieties manufactured, the most numerous were the Anson, of which four and a half thousand were produced during the war.

After the war had ended the Yeadon site was returned to civilian use. It was not for another decade however that a number of routes were established to other parts of the UK and Europe, the destinations available at this stage were Jersey, Ostend, Southend, Dusseldorf and the Isle of Wight. Further destinations were added throughout the sixties including destinations such as London and Dublin.

As with many of the airports in the UK, Leeds Bradford benefited from the growth of the package holiday; during the seventies the first package holiday route was opened to the Iberian Peninsula. The eighties saw the airport experience a large amount of growth including an expansion of the runway and a significant development of the terminal building that included improving the facilities such as shops, cafes, bars and car hire provisions. Thanks to the improvements Leeds Bradford was able to open a transatlantic service to Toronto and Concorde even visited the site, although a regular service using the supersonic jet was never set up.

The terminal has been continually expanded since this period, resulting in a huge increase in the numbers of passengers passing through the airport. Last year it is estimated that around three million passengers passed through the airport. This increase has been almost exponential, doubling since 2002. The reasons behind this are largely regarded to be down to the commencement of budget airline operations to a variety of European destinations. In addition to a growth in passenger numbers the site ahs also become the base of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. Flights further afield than Europe are also in operation from Leeds Bradford presently; two of these long haul operations fly to Islamabad, probably because of the region's large Pakistani population.

Leeds Bradford is set to continue its expansion in the coming years with further development of the terminal buildings, parking space for car hire services and passengers, hotels and improved road links. From its rather humble beginnings as a public aerodrome the airport has become one of the major airports in the north of England providing a valuable link to Europe and beyond.
About the Author
Air travel expert Thomas Pretty looks into why car hire Birmingham airport services have helped in the development of the site.
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