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The History And Development Of Manchester Airport

Aug 5, 2008
Manchester is the UK's largest airport that does not service London. As such it has flights to destinations around the world and a host of auxiliary services such as car hire desks, shops and restaurants. This year it was voted the UK's best airport in a survey conducted by Travel Weekly. With two runways, three terminals and a railway station as well as considerable links to the road network it is definitely well connected. Last year Manchester airport handled around twenty two million passengers. But what is the history of this airport that services the UK's second city?

The airport was constructed throughout the mid nineteen thirties and was originally named the Ringway Airfield as it was located in the parish of Ringway. The inaugural flight form Ringway was to Amsterdam and took place in the summer of 1938. The war however ended the civilian uses of the airport as it was requisitioned for military purposes. As a military base it was used for both flying sorties and training through the war years. In terms of training Manchester was instrumental in the advancement of parachute troops. During this period the site also saw a large number of test flights for a variety of planes constructed by the British manufacturer Avro.

After the war the airport was returned to civilian uses, by the late fifties half a million passengers were using the site annually. As with many airports in this period expansion and development were an important part of planning. The runways were extended to accommodate the larger new jet planes and terminals were built to cope with increased passenger numbers. In the early seventies the site experienced a name change adopting the title 'Manchester International Airport'.

During the eighties the airport's executives decided to court the international long haul flights; this however meant that the runway needed yet another extension for the large long haul planes. The plan clearly worked and by the late nineties almost ten million passengers were using the airport annually. Because of these greater passenger numbers a second terminal was rapidly built in the early nineties filled with car hire desks, shops and cafes; as well as this a link to the national rail network was added. The late nineties saw the addition of a second runway. This second runway allowed the airport to reach the twenty million passenger mark whilst also allowing for the huge Airbus A380; the largest plane to enter circulation in generations.

The government's white paper on the future of air transport meant that all airports, including Manchester had to put down a plan for expansion over the next thirty years. Subsequently the site is now undergoing a process of development including the demolition of old buildings to allow for greater apron space and aircraft movement. In addition, while planning has not yet been granted the airport chiefs want to construct another taxiway for the second runway to increase the operational capacity. Naturally the terminals will be enlarged and modernised, especially to cope with the Airbus' gargantuan size. Part of this terminal expansion will include increasing the number of shops, cafes, restaurants and car hire desks for the large amount of revenue they bring the airport.

Today Manchester has secured its place as the major airport in the north of England. While Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow all fight for government backing for expansion Manchester has no such worries and can rest assured that its position as the UK's favourite airport outside of London will not be overtaken in the foreseeable future.
About the Author
Air travel expert Thomas Pretty looks into how car hire Manchester airport services have played an important role in the site's development.
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