As London Southend Airport continues to make both local and national news for its award-winning services, we decided to dedicate this edition’s area spotlight to the ever-developing airport which is fast becoming an integral part of the town. From its 1914 WWI origins, its status as the UK’s third busiest airport in the ’60s, all the way through to the Stobart Group’s £150 million investment, we take a look at some of the key dates in Southend Airport’s history.

Since the Stobart Group acquired Southend Airport in 2008, the award-winning airport has grown from strength to strength. Renowned for its speedy security screening and with its ever-increasing variety of destinations, London Southend Airport is now the airport of choice for many holidaymakers from across the town and beyond.

The excellent service and facilities, including the Holiday Inn Hotel just one minute away and Southend Airport Railway Station just metres from the airport exit, have already earnt the airport several awards including the ‘Best Airport in the UK’ (with under 3 million passengers per year) 2015 & 2016 from the Airport Operators Association, the ‘Which? Best in Britain Airport Passenger Survey’ 2013, 2014 & 2015 and most recently, the airport topped the Which? 2017 survey ahead of the other London airports. But as plans to invest even more into this popular airport continue, let’s take a look back at some key dates and events in Southend Airport’s timeline.

Southend Airport’s roots can be traced back to 1914 when the War Office listed the land as an airfield for fighter pilot flights during WWI. The very first recorded flight took off in 1915, piloted by Flight Sub Lieutenant A W Robinson who was forced to abandon his chase of a German Zeppelin after engine failure at 6000ft and subsequently landed in the Estuary mud in Leigh. Both the Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Flying Corps (later merged together in 1918 to form the RAF) had squadrons based at Southend during the First World War.

In the years that followed, the site was bought by Southend Council in 1933 and officially opened on Wednesday the 18th September 1935 as a municipal airport. The opening ceremony was an unforgettable day including a formation display by members of the

Southend Flying Club, performances from the Astoria Grand Orchestra and the chance for members of the public to take a pleasure flight in an Avro 642 over Southend. However, these initial years were short-lived, as like many sites across the UK, the airport was commandeered by the Air Ministry when WWII broke out in 1939. It then became temporarily known as RAF Rochford where several fighter squadrons were stationed to defend against the Luftwaffe.

At the end of WWII, the airport was once again returned to Southend Council and civilian flights recommenced. Following the introduction of two new runways in the mid-1950s and with continual developments in aircraft design, Southend Airport’s success reached new heights during the ’60s. Southend Airport was now the UK’s third busiest airport, famed for the car and passenger aircraft Carvair which was operated by the British United Air Ferries airline. The air ferries had large bulbous noses which opened like a door where freight and cars were loaded, with the cockpit set above. Each could take up to five cars and twenty-three passengers and made regular flights to the Channel Islands and Europe. However, during the ’70s, as other UK airports grew and flew to further destinations, and with cheaper ferry routes to Europe from the port of Dover, this boom period began to decline. As the need to fly your own car on holiday became more of a luxury than a necessity, the Carvair and similar aircraft soon became redundant. As a result, instead of focusing mainly on passenger and commercial travel, the airport turned its attention towards aircraft maintenance and engineering.

Some years later in the ’90s, after a period of stable but uneventful years, Southend Council sold the airport to Regional Airports Ltd who took over proceedings until 2008. In January 2008, the airport’s true revival began when the Stobart Group bought it for £21 million. Their logistical prowess coupled with their £150 million investment, has seen the opening of a new air traffic control tower, the Southend Airport railway station, a much-needed runway extension as well as an enlarged terminal with an increased number of check-in desks and security screenings and a variety of shopping and hospitality facilities. With development showing no signs of slowing down and strong partnerships being formed with popular airlines including EasyJet and Flybe, we can look forward to seeing what the airport will offer in the years to come.

The evolution of Southend Airport has opened many amazing travel opportunities for residents in our local area. If you are interested in buying, renting or opening a business in close proximity of this important structure, please check out our most recent listings.