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A (belated) birthday greeting for Heathrow

The first commercial flight from Heathrow was on 1 January 1946, now (just over) 75 years ago. This was by British South American Airways (later re-incorporated into BOAC) of a converted Lancaster to Buenos Aires.

It would be nine years or so before there was anything resembling a real terminal building. At first there were only a series of former army marquees strung along the Bath Road, unheated and containing little more than chairs, settees and small tables. Your flight was allocated to one of these and you walked directly to the plane from there across wooden duckboards when it was ready to go. Later these tents were augmented by semi-permanent wooden huts and this was referred to as "Northside" as the central area was gradually developed and this ramshackle arrangement didn't close to the general public until 1961 with the opening of the second central terminal, Oceanic (now Terminal 3).

Other oddity was that through the 1960s and early 1970s Heathrow was a tourist destination in its own right with the terrace gardens on top of the Queen's Building and Europa Terminal to view the runway operations.

Heathrow - the airport under construction for 75+ years that could be completed in another 30. Maybe.

Posted by
5094 posts

Interesting history bits - thank you, Marco! I was in brand-new Terminal 5 the first week it opened, a few years ago, but since then, flights from Denver have landed at T3.

I’ll sing Happy Birthday twice, to time washing my hands adequately. Cheers!

Posted by
4537 posts

Terminal 3 is very odd as it has been extended and refurbished almost continuously over the years but even now there are parts than can be found that scream 1961 rather than 2021. As it has been mothballed for months it has probably deteriorated a bit more now.

I worked for someone many years ago that remembered the departing from the Northside direct access. Plus my first experience of Heathrow was the terrace gardens as a child over a decade before I flew from there. The terrorism threat put paid to them.