London Gatwick Airport 1960

MIAMI- Today in Aviation, London Gatwick Airport (LGW) reopened its gates on June 9, 1958, after a rebuilding project, becoming the first multimodal airport in the world.

Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the South Terminal, saying that the airfield incorporated the latest design techniques to combine air, rail and road links, according to historical files of LGW.

It was the world’s first airport with a direct railway link, quickly gaining a variety of British, European, American, African and Caribbean Airlines.

At the time, more airlines joined as airports such as London Croydon closed.

The no longer existing British European Airways (BEA) made the first flight to Jersey, Channel Islands after it transferred most of the route from London Heathrow (LHR) to LGW.

A 1936 aerial view of “the Beehive.” Courtesy Marnix (Max) Groot at airporthistory.org

From an aerodrome to an airport


Officially the second airport of London since the early 1950s, LGW was first designed as an aerodrome in the 1920s to later service commercial operations in the 1930s.

With its first terminal built, “The Beehive”, the airfield started it first scheduled flights in 1936. But as World War II began to rage, Gatwick was put under military control.

Once the war ended, civilian operations were allowed again and major development work began in 1956.

Prior to the announcement, the airship remained closed, so the expansion implied a new reality for the neighbors of the area.

Regarding this, the Queen said “I sympathize with all those people whose lives are going to be affected by this airport.”

“But I hope that there will be some measure of compensating advantage to local inhabitants when it is in full operation,” added her Mejesty.

Postcard of Gatwick Airport dating from 1960.

Design plan for air, rail and road transport links


Under “the new London Airport” plan, the design included a pier or “finger” building that allows passengers to aboard planes under cover.

Additionally, a new terminal, the South one, was developed to be larger and more modern than the built in 1935.

While the new roofed structure was the first ever built at a British airfield, trunk road and rail facilities into one unit were also part of LGW’s rebuilding, at the time worth over £7m as reported by the BBC.

An so, the builders acquired more land and diverted the A23 road between London and Brighton around the new LGW’s boundary.

Regarding the train connection, as the 1935 railway station closed, the owners of the Southern Railway, Imperial Airways and airport built a new station within the airport terminal complex placed on the old racecourse station and connected via underground.