Birmingham Airport is celebrating its 70th Anniversary and since its first ever flight in May 1939, the Airport has grown from strength to strength to become the Midlands gateway to the world and position of regional pride.
It was decided by Birmingham City Council in 1928 that the City required a municipal airport however, the depression cut these plans short. In 1933 plans were prepared which identified Elmdon, Birmingham, as the preferred site which lies eight miles south-east of the City.
In May 1939, services to Croydon (with connections to the Continent) Glasgow, Liverpool, Ryde, Shoreham, Manchester and Southampton began.
The War Years
The Airport, known as ‘Elmdon Airport’, was officially opened by HRH The Duchess of Kent on 8th July 1939, and was owned and operated by Birmingham City Council until the outbreak of the Second World War when civil aviation ceased and the Airport was requisitioned by the Air Ministry and used as an Elementary Flying School and Fleet Air Arm by the RAF. It was also used for flight testing and as a delivery base for Stirling and Lancaster bombers. During this time the Air Ministry built two hard surface runways (2469 ft and 4170 ft respectively) to replace the original grass strip.
Still under Government control, the Airport re-opened for civil flying on 8th July 1946, exactly seven years after the official opening. The City of Birmingham took over responsibility again in 1960 and in April 1974, the newly formed West Midlands Metropolitan County Council took over the Airport, which incorporated the seven Metropolitan areas of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
In 1949, scheduled services began with British European Airways to Paris and flights to the continent steadily grew with services to Zurich, Düsseldorf, Palma, Amsterdam and Barcelona starting between 1955-1960.
Opening of International Building
The terminal extension, know as the International Building, was opened during 1961 and an extension to the main runway took place between 1967-1970 to allow turboprops and jets to use the airport. VC10 services began to New York and by the early 1970’s the airport handled one million passengers a year through a very congested passenger terminal.
In 1974 the newly formed West Midlands Metropolitan County Council took over the airport (the seven West Midlands districts incorporated: Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton).