History of Leeds Bradford Airport

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Leeds Bradford Airport is situated on the old Yeadon Aerodrome, which began life as the local flying club on the Harrogate Road. The airport in essence started operating in 1935 when internal flights to Newcastle and Edinburgh by North Eastern airways.

This was followed by west Coast services to Blackpool and the Isle of Man. As with all present airfields the advent of the Second World War saw runways widened and lengthened to test Lancasters, Anson, York and Lincoln, which were built adjacent to the aerodrome.

After the war Yeadon Aviation Ltd operated the airport for the local flying club. The first scheduled services were by BKS Air Transport to Belfast, Jersy, Ostend, Isle of Wight and Dusseldorf. In 1959 the Leeds Bradford Airport joint Committee took over the running of the airport and improvements to lighting, runways and passenger facilities were undertaken. BKS introduced the first daily flight to London in 1960 and Aer Lingus to Dublin a year later.

A new runway was constructed in 1965 but this improvement was somewhat off set by a fire to the terminal which required a complete rebuild and was not completed until 1968. The boom in the package holiday trade was born in the sixties and Thompson holidays started flights to Majorca, Minorca and Iberia.

The next major landmark was in 1978 when the government selected Leeds Bradford Airport as the Regional Airport for Yorkshire. Subject to a restriction on night flights the go ahead was given for a £23 million refit in 1982 to extend the runway to 2250 metres which required the Harrogate road to be diverted to run under the runway and improved terminal facilities. These works were completed in 1982 and enabled Jumbo jets (Boeing 747) to operate from the airport opening up important transatlantic routes, the first of which was to Toronto. By 1986 over 500,000 passengers passed through the airport.

Due to new legislation under the 1986 Airports Acts all airports must be operated by Limited Companies, the five councils of West Yorkshire became shareholders in the airport. The split of ownership was Leeds 40%, Bradford 40%, Calderdale 10% and Kirklees 10%. The night time flight restriction for quieter aircraft was lifted in 1994.

The million passengers a year landmark was achieved in 1996, which compares to just over 2 million in 2003. This leaves Leeds Bradford airport lagging well behind other regional airports. Airports, which offer low cost flyers, are the airports, which are gaining numbers the fastest as shown by the table below. Stansted and East Midland airports have enjoyed staggering growth whilst the big 3 Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports show minimal increase.