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Bristol airport celebrates 60 years of flying – and looks to the future

Created: 3rd May 2017

Two very special aircraft took centre stage as Bristol Airport celebrated 60 years of flying from its current site in North Somerset today (3 May 2017).

Bristol airport celebrates 60 years of flying – and looks to the future

Almost six decades to the day since the Duchess of Kent officially opened the Airport in May 1957, a Douglas DC-3 – a mainstay of commercial airline fleets in the Fifties – returned to Bristol for the first time since making its final passenger flights nine years ago.

The Dakota lined up next to its modern-day equivalent – an Airbus A319 – which easyJet has named Spirit of Bristol to mark the Airport’s anniversary.

Today Bristol Airport is flying high, with more than 8 million passengers expected to pass through the terminal during 2017 but back in 1957 the world was very different place. The airline industry as we know it today was still in its infancy and just 33,000 people used the Airport in its first year of operation – similar to a busy 24 hours today!

The origins of Bristol Airport can be traced back to the city’s early aviation pioneers, forming out of a flying club at Filton funded by public subscription before moving to a site at Whitchurch to the south of the city. Following the end of the Second World War, a ten year campaign began to secure a new site for a municipal airport, finally settling on the former RAF base at Lulsgate.

Bristol Airport is now England’s third largest regional airport, with direct flights to more than 120 destinations in 30 different countries. Having invested more than £160 million in new infrastructure and facilities since 2010, the Airport is well positioned to serve passengers across the South West of the UK, as providing a gateway to the region for international visitors.

Robert Sinclair, Chief Executive Officer at Bristol Airport, said:
“Looking back over our 60 year history is a reminder of how far we have come from the days when flying was a special experience for a small number of people. Air travel today has made new sights, experiences and opportunities accessible to millions, but it is important we in the South West do not take our international connectivity for granted.

“At Bristol Airport, we are incredibly proud of our past and what we have achieved in the last 60 years. We are also excited about our future and very mindful of the important responsibility we have to connect the South West and South Wales to the world and to keep pace with the growing demand for air travel that our vibrant economy generates. New aircraft technology, automation of passenger processes, digital disruption of established business models and, most importantly, the challenges of climate change all mean we will need to adapt and innovate as we write the next chapter in Bristol Airport’s history.

“Over the coming months we will be updating our existing Master Plan, setting out long-term forecasts and future infrastructure requirements, to ensure we are best placed to meet this demand and these challenges. The views of customers, employees, neighbours and other stakeholders will be essential in shaping the Airport’s future so we will be consulting widely on our current thinking later this year.”