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The History of Aviation


Heathrow - London

Heathrow Airport is the UK`s most important international airport as it is the largest and busiest airport in Britain. It is also the world`s third busiest airport for passenger flights and is globally renowned for its fantastic shopping facilities, speedy service and customer service. It is also easily reachable from all UK public transport systems and being located only 14 miles west of central London, it is convenient for access to and from London.

Aviation at the site that is now Heathrow Airport began in the early days of World War 1, as it was used as a military airfield for the Royal Air Force. By the 1930s the site had been much developed and was used by the Fairey Aviation Company for aeroplane assembly and development and aviation technique testing. In 1943 in the height of World War 2, the site was again required by the Air Ministry who turned it into an RAF transfer station. Following the end of the war, power was transferred over the Ministry of Civil Aviation on 1 January 1946 and the first flight from the new public airport was to Buenos Aires via Lisbon.

The airport was opened officially for civil use on the 31st May 1946 and before the end of 1947 Heathrow already had three runways, with more under development. The runways were laid out in a star formation to help combat the ever changing wind conditions in the low sea level area. In 1953 Queen Elizabeth II laid the first slab of the modern runways and she also opened the first permanent terminal building – the Europa building which is now Terminal 2. The Oceanic Terminal, later to be called Terminal 3, was constructed in 1961 to handle the baggage and longer process of co-coordinating long haul, mainly transatlantic flights. Terminal 1 opened in 1968, at which point the airport was turning over 14 million passengers on average per year. These original locations of the three terminals has been a constant hamper on expansion plans as early architects had not foreseen that air travel would ever be popular along the masses. For example Heathrow airport parking facilities were not considered as it was assumed that only the wealthy would fly and they would always be chauffeur driven. Nevertheless, today Heathrow offers many off-site parking areas and airport transfer buses.

In the 1970s, the airport developed significantly as movable walkways were installed, the London Underground Piccadilly Line was extended to the airport and the Heathrow Express train line was created. As these facilities and prices of air travel improved, more and more people were traveling by plane. As numbers rose to an annual average of 30 million the need for expansion was recognized and Terminal 4 was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1986. Into the 1990s terminal facilities improved as retailers and restaurants were encouraged to place stores inside the terminals. Terminal layouts were also changed so people had to walk through the shopping areas, maximizing their exposure to the retail sector.

More recently Terminal 5 was opened in 2008 to much controversy. 19 years in the making the Terminal was seen as necessary to the expansion of the airport and the convenience of passengers. However, many people protested about the terminals location, its impact on the environment and its extortionate cost. Nevertheless the planning went ahead and despite initial problems with baggage the terminal is now prized for its smooth running, stunning design and fantastic facilities. Now, the modern Heathrow airport is used by over 90 airlines and flies to 170 destinations worldwide. It is critically acclaimed for its style and convenience.

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