Blackpool Airport has seen a great many changes since flying activity started here in 1909. Today, the airport offers fast, efficient commuter services for the business community, and attractive destinations and schedules for short break and longer holiday travellers.
Flying since 1909
In 1909 flying began in Blackpool, at the same time that the great French aviator Louis Bleriot was making the first historic crossing of the English Channel.
Britain's first official major air show, officially recognised by the Royal Aero Club, was held in Blackpool at Squires Gate. More than 200,000 spectators gathered to watch pilots in their flying machines give breath-taking displays.
1910 - Horse-racing Course
A year later the Squires Gate land was turned into a horse-racing course when it was leased to a syndicate of businessmen. The venture collapsed at the outbreak of World War One and the site was turned into a military convalescent home, which eventually closed down in 1924.
It was not until 1927 that the local authority announced that a municipal aerodrome was to be built near to the town's Stanley Park; some of the aircraft hangers still exist as part of Blackpool Zoo. At the time you could fly to the Isle of Man on a return flight for £l.80.When rival companies began flying from Squires Gate in 1932 as well, it became clear that one airfield would have to close and a decision was reached in 1936 by the Ministry of Transport that Squires Gate would make a better airport.
1939 - Royal Air Force
In 1939 the airfield was taken over by the Air Ministry and developed for the Royal Air Force. Three runways were built, along with hangars and ammunitions stores. At the same time, a large aircraft factory was constructed and occupied by Vickers.
Between 1941 and the end of World War Two, Vickers produced a total of 3,841 Wellington bombers all of which were test flown from Blackpool Airport's existing runways.
Blackpool also provided a base for Spitfire fighters which were protecting the nearby city of Liverpool from raiding German bombers.
1949 - Civil Airport
At the end of hostilities Squires Gate was designated a Civil Airport and by 1949 substantial alterations and improvements had been carried out in order to attract a new breed of air traveller.
Blackpool Corporation assumed control of the airport from the Ministry of Aviation in April 1962. In 1987 Blackpool Airport was turned into a private limited company with the council holding 100 per cent. In October 1995 a new £2 million terminal building was declared open, and exactly a year later the old wooden terminal was demolished.
2005-06 – Investment and new airlines
From 2005 several new flight routes and new airlines were introduced.
Jet2.com started flights to Belfast International, Palma, Tenerife, Murcia and Alicante. The low cost airline also revealed that it would be the first airline to base aircraft at Blackpool starting in April 2006.
There was a new £2m refurbishment of the passenger terminal giving the airport capacity to handle two million passengers a year. It was officially opened by former England and Lions rugby captain Bill Beaumont. In 2008, the airport also signed a two-year sponsorship deal with Blackpool Football Club to raise its profile in the local community and beyond.
2009 – 100 years of flying at Blackpool Airport
Blackpool hosted a week of celebration in October 2009 to mark a century of flying from Blackpool.
Exactly 100 years after pioneering aviators first started flying in the resort in 1909, school children, aviation enthusiasts, past and present airport employees and organisations gathered for a series of special events and activities.
A giant 10-foot high suitcase went on display in the airport terminal, featuring an interactive exhibition about 100 years of flying in Blackpool.
A commemorative centenary website was launched featuring fascinating archive material about the airport, including photographs, air show programmes, newspaper cuttings and even an airport employee pay packet document dating back to 1965!
The website also included an interactive ‘memory bank’ that invited individuals to share their memories of flying or working at Blackpool Airport. A mural and plaque designed by North West school children and students was also unveiled and a time capsule was buried in the airport grounds.
2009 - Free passenger parking at Blackpool
Free passenger parking was introduced at Blackpool Airport as part of a new marketing and investment strategy.
Alongside the introduction of 14 days free passenger parking, a new £10 Airport Development Fee (ADF) was introduced for all departing passengers aged 16 years
Funds from the ADF contribute to the infrastructure development and investment at Blackpool Airport. So far the money has been used towards upgrades to the taxi-way and runways, extensions to the car parks, improvements to security and a new fire and operations centre. The airport has also upgraded the passenger amenities within the departure lounge including new carpets and toilet facilities.
The revenue is also being used to help develop new route opportunities for Blackpool Airport and to help fund the free passenger car parking.
For more information about ADF click here.