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Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 22:25 GMT
Stansted flying high

airbus A hijacked Sudan Airways airbus directed to Stansted in 1996


Stansted airport, once a World War II airfield, is now the third largest in the UK for freight after Heathrow and Gatwick.

After rapid expansion in recent years the Essex airport now moves more than 200,000 metric tonnes of freight a year.

Passenger numbers have also increased rapidly, by about 40% in the last three years. In the 12 months to the end of November 1999, Stansted catered for 9.5 million passengers.

The big turning point for Stansted came in 1991 when the Queen opened a new terminal.

Around 30 airlines now use Stansted and the airport plans to extend its annual passenger numbers to 15 million by around the year 2004.

Go boost

British Airways' decision to base its low-cost operation, Go, at Stansted, was also good news for the airport.

Go began services in May 1998 and has a rapidly expanding number of routes which it now operates from Stansted.

The largest scheduled airline at the Essex airport is Irish carrier Ryanair, while other prominent carriers are KLM UK and German carrier Lufthansa.

Over the last 20 years, it has become routine for Stansted to be designated as the destination for hijacked aircraft heading for the UK.

Planes landing there can be kept well away from the terminal building and other aircraft while negotiations with hijackers take place.

The airport's record in this respect has been good, with most hijackings ending peacefully, no passengers hurt and the terrorists surrendering.

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