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1955: Queen opens London Airport terminal

The Queen has inaugurated new buildings in the centre of London Airport, part of a new complex designed to handle a growing number of air passengers.

Her Majesty arrived by car with the Duke of Edinburgh and was greeted by a guard of honour made up of air crews from the British and Commonwealth airlines, headed by BOAC Captain JT Percy.

The daughter of the Minister of Transport, Sarah Boyd-Carpenter, presented Her Majesty with flowers from around the world that had been flown in by four Commonwealth airlines.

The name of the new buildings was only revealed at the end of the Queen's speech as she unveiled a plaque naming it "The Queen's Building".


"Until today we may say with pride that [London Airport] ranks among the foremost in the world"

The Queen

The Queen wore an air force blue coat, with a grey hat and a diamond brooch on her lapel in the shape of the BOAC Speedbird emblem.

In her speech she said: "The inauguration of this great terminal today marks an important stage in the story of London Airport.

"In the ten years which have passed since the earliest development of this site, the airport has grown in size and in international fame.

"Until today we may say with pride that it ranks among the foremost in the world.

"Whatever form air travel may take in the future, and we may be certain that striking changes lie ahead, London Airport will I am sure continue to grow in importance as one of the world centres of air traffic."

The Queen's Building houses the airlines' offices and the main entrance for visitors to the airport. It also boasts a post office, cinema, roof gardens, lecture hall and grill room.

It forms part of the new central terminal that has been in use since April and comprises the passenger Europa building and the new control tower.

London Airport was officially opened on 31 May 1946. The first arrival was a BOAC Lancastrian from Australia.

There was no passenger terminal and travellers had to wait for their planes in a temporary tent village on the north side of the airfield.

The tents were replaced with prefabricated concrete villages as building work began on permanent structures to handle the thousands of passengers using the airport.

In Context
The central terminal area is now known as Terminal 2.

London Airport has since been renamed Heathrow and is one of the world's busiest airports with four terminals.

Following the longest public inquiry in British planning history - a total of three years and 10 months - the government gave approval on 20 November 2001 for BAA to build a fifth terminal at Heathrow.

Construction on the terminal five (T5) site began in 2002. When fully complete in 2011, T5 will have the capacity to handle 30 million passengers a year.


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