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Heathrow Airport during construction
Heathrow Airport started life as a canvas tented village

Heathrow's departures in the 1940s
Heathrow departure lounge 1940s style
1943 A Cabinet Committee decides that the Heathrow site should be developed to become London's post-war civilian airport.

1944 The government use emergency powers to draw up a compulsory purchase order to obtain the land. A triangular system of three runways are built, each one 300ft wide.

1946 The first passenger flight from Heathrow takes off for Buenos Aires on 1 January when the airport was transferred from military to civil control.

The aircraft is a British South American Airlines "Starlight" which is a converted Lancaster. It takes more than 35 hours to reach its destination, carrying six crew and 10 passengers.

The airport is still a canvas tented village when it officially opens on 10 May as building work is yet to be completed. The first plane to land is a BOAC Avro-Lancastrian from Australia.

The trip takes 63 hours (two hours ahead of schedule) and the number of passengers is cut from 13 to six as beds had to be installed in the plane.

Heathrow handles 60,000 passengers and 2,400 tons of cargo on 9,000 flights in its first year, compared with the average 1,250 flights per day transporting an annual figure of 64 million passengers in 2000/1.

Heathrow has 18 destinations in 1946 compared with 160 in 2000/1.

1947 Air marshall Sir John Henry D'Albiac is appointed as the first Commandant of London Airport, responsible for running Heathrow. He develops a new parallel system of runways to replace the triangular set up. He also draws up plans for the construction of terminals and a control tower.

The first ground controlled approach system is installed at Heathrow.


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