The Queen has opened London’s new and extended airport at Gatwick on the Surrey-Sussex border 25 miles (40km) south of the capital.
Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived by air from London Airport at Heathrow.
Wearing a fitted blue coat and a blue and white hat, she was greeted by Lord Munster, the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, and the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Harold Watkinson.
The Queen and the Duke inspected a guard of honour of 10 airline captains.
Then they walked to the main airport building through the pier or “finger” that allows passengers to get to their planes under cover – the first such structure ever built at a British airport.
The government decreed Gatwick London’s second airport five years ago and it has been closed until now for major re-development.
The royal couple were shown models and plans of the new layout before the Queen made a speech at a restaurant overlooking the airfield and unveiled a commemorative plaque.
More than £7m has been spent rebuilding the airport and adding a railway station – Gatwick claims to be the first in the world to combine airport, trunk road and rail facilities into one unit.
But the ambitious venture has not been without its detractors.
Referring to the controversy caused by the expansion, Her Majesty said in her speech: “I sympathise 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.”
Mr Watkinson then reminded those present that the Queen had inaugurated the central terminal at London Airport two and a half years ago, marking a major step in the development of British civil aviation.
“Nobody will know better than your Majesty the fascinating possibilities in front of us as new types of aircraft bring the Commonwealth, and indeed the whole world, closer together.
“We hope that this new airport at Gatwick has been planned to fit the new air age that lies ahead,” he said.
Courtesy BBC News
Gatwick Airports Ltd began operating in May 1936 with a scheduled service to Paris. Its official launch followed a month later with the opening of the world’s first circular air terminal.
During World War II Gatwick was under military control, but reopened as a civilian airport in 1946. Rebuilding work began in 1956, and services recommenced in 1958.
In 1988 the North Terminal, costing £200m, was opened and the main terminal was renamed the South Terminal.
Gatwick became the busiest single runway airport in the world, the second largest airport in the UK and the world’s sixth busiest international airport.
By 2005, 32.6 million passengers were passing through the airport’s two terminals. Around 90 airlines operate from the airport, serving around 200 destinations.
In 1979, when the last major expansion took place, an agreement was reached with the local council not to expand further before 2019, but recent proposals to build a second runway at Gatwick led to protests about increased noise and pollution and demolition of houses and villages.
Gatwick’s owners, BAA, published a master plan in March 2005 to show how the airport could develop over the next 10 and 25 years. The document can be viewed on the BAA Gatwick website.