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Stansted Airport; Its Development And Expansion

Aug 3, 2008
Stansted airport from humble beginnings has become the UK's fourth largest airport, a position that is likely to change should the expansion plans for the site go ahead. The number of car hire desks, shops and restaurants is already large although expansion will undoubtedly increase it. Sitting in the beautiful region of Uttlesford it is a site that makes the most of low cost European airlines to fly to over one hundred and seventy destinations. While Heathrow handles almost seventy thousand passengers annually, Stansted is somewhat smaller handling around twenty million. Do not let this detract from the fact that this is still major airport however. How has this site developed over the years, how has it found itself to be the fourth largest airport in the UK?

Stansted began its existence as a military site during the Second World War being used by the RAF but predominantly being used by the American air force. The airport is named after the close by town of Stansted Mountfitchet, a sleepy north Essex town that was more known for its rich history before the airport was built. Bombers were the first planes to use the Stansted site in 1942. American bombers flew a large number of sorties from the site and the buildings were constructed by the USAAF military engineers.

Stansted was the home of the 344th Bombardment Group who flew the impressive B-26 bombers to sites in France, the Netherlands and Belgium. The 344th played a particularly important role in the Normandy landings, bombing strategic positions such as bridges and fuel depots. The result of these raids was that the German force in Normandy had their routes of escape restricted, especially in the area known as the Falaise Gap. Even though the site has been developed beyond recognition with shops, cafes and car hire provisions, some of the original military buildings remain at the outer limits of the airfield, today they are used by private companies.

Today Stansted hosts services that fly to many destinations in Europe. It has even managed to corner markets such as prestige flying. For instance, the highly reputable department store Harrods has a base on the airport that caters for the richest passengers who wish to charter private jets. Their fully equipped base allows passengers who have the money to fly in directly by helicopter from London or to arrive by chauffeur driven car. This kind of service differs from the regular air travel facilities at the airport by providing a premium service that prides itself on being the best of the best. This however is only a small part of the complete service offered by Stansted.

For those arriving at the airport the choice of a hire car can open up the beautiful countryside that surrounds the site. A plethora of quaint towns and villages that scream Englishness make this a welcome distraction before embarking on an onward journey. Unsurprisingly the residents of this area are not keen on the current expansion plans of the airport. The loss of listed buildings and some of the most stunning countryside in the country is one of the major arguments put forward by campaigners although the damage to the way of life is also a powerful point.

The government has earmarked Stansted for expansion over sites such as Gatwick proposing a second runway to improve the capacity of the airport. Whether the plans go ahead is still a matter of debate, local pressure groups are striving to prevent the expansion but if the proposals are agreed by the national government it is likely the development will be completed regardless of objections.

Despite the furore that surrounds the expansion of the site, Stansted's rise to be one of the country's major airports is still impressive. As one of the four airports servicing the capital executives will be hoping to secure the planning permission and to continue this development in the coming years.
About the Author
Air travel expert Thomas Pretty looks into how car hire Stansted airport services have been instrumental in the site's development.
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