This week in 1946 – Heathrow Airport

On 11 January 1946 The Engineer reported on the opening of one of the world’s most famous civil airports: Heathrow.

To those living beneath its flight paths it may be impossible to imagine a time when it wasn’t there, but on 11 January 1946 The Engineer reported on the opening of one of the world’s most famous civil airports: Heathrow.

Handed over to the ministry of civil aviation by the air ministry, the airport had originally been developed during World War II to handle the heaviest types of military aircraft. But even at the earliest planning stages it had been earmarked as a potential civil airport.

‘Heathrow is only 14 miles from the centre of London. It is outside the built-up area and is capable of further development without extensive demolition of private property,’ wrote the magazine. ‘The site is well served by train services,’ the report continued, ‘being only two miles from the Waterloo and Staines section of the Southern Railway and the same distance from Hounslow West Underground station. The question of a direct service of trains is being considered.’

At the time of writing only one of the airport’s proposed three runways had been completed while a second, from north-west to south-east, was nearing the final stages of construction.
The first flight, prior to that summer’s inauguration of regular passenger and freight services between the UK and South America, was, wrote the magazine, ‘made in a Lancastrian aircraft “starflight” piloted by Air Vice-Marshal Bennett’.