DALLAS – Today in Aviation, London’s Gatwick Airport (LGW) reopened after two years of reconstruction in 1958.
The special ceremony to mark the official reopening was attended by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, who had arrived from LHR. Shortly afterward, the first commercial flight, operated by a BEA Douglas DC-3 Dakota, departed the new facility bound for Jersey.
The revamped Gatwick became the first in the world to combine an airport, trunk road, and rail facilities in one close-knit single unit, otherwise known as a multimodal facility.
The British Government declared that LGW would become London’s second airport, after Heathrow (LHR), in 1952. Gatwick would be fully renovated to serve this purpose for £7.8m.
To carry out the work, the airport was closed in 1956. Limited helicopter flights were still operated by British European Airways (BEA).
Renovations saw a new terminal building and a 7,000 ft (2,100 m) concrete runway. This became the first in the country to have high-speed turn-offs on to a parallel taxiway.
Aviation at Gatwick can be traced back to the late 1920s, but scheduled services from the airport began in 1936. The first flight departed to Paris from the world’s first circular air terminal known as the ‘Beehive.’ The airport was requisitioned during World War II but reopened as a civilian facility in 1946.
Today, LGW is the second busiest in the UK and the world’s most efficient single-runway airport. It remains the UK’s best-connected airport by rail and directly connects to more stations than any other European airport station.
Over the 60 years since the new terminal opened, passenger numbers grew from 186,000 passengers to over 46 million in 2019.
Featured Image; A busy Gatwick Airport in the 1960s. Photo: Gatwick Airport.