Belfast Telegraph

50 supersonic facts about Belfast International Airport that are no flight of fancy

Amanda Ferguson swoops into the archives to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our oldest airport


1 In November 1917 Aldergrove was chosen as the Royal Flying Corps training establishment for the First World War. After the war, Aldergrove stayed open for Royal Air Force aircraft and for the fledgling civil traffic to and from Ulster.

2 In June 1921 King George V and Queen Mary visited the new Northern Ireland. Aircraft landed at Aldergrove with cameramen and reporters and returned to London with newsreel and photo of the event.

3 In May 1925 Northern Ireland's own Special Reserve unit No 502 (Ulster) Squadron RAF was formed at Aldergrove. One of the most famous RAF squadrons – it was the first to sink a German U-boat in the Second World War – it was disbanded in 1957 but last month a flypast by Hawk jets welcomed its return.

4 In the Second World War (1939-1945) Aldergrove remained an RAF base, particularly for Coastal Command.

5 In 1946 Nutts Corner became the main airport in Northern Ireland, after the existing site at Sydenham was deemed inappropriate.

6 On September 26, 1963 operations were transferred from Nutts Corner to Aldergrove because the weather was better. The first passenger flight to land that day was a BEA Viscount from Manchester.

7 On October 28, 1963 HRH Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother reopened Aldergrove as a civil airport and inaugurated the present terminal.

8 January 4, 1966 saw the start of the first regular jet service, by a British United BAC 1-11 to Gatwick.

9 There was hysteria among local music fans when The Beatles used the airport in the 1960s at the height of Beatlemania. Other stars on the Tarmac included singer Roy Orbison in 1965 and world heavyweight champion boxer Joe Frazier in 1971.

10 In 1968 Aer Lingus and BOAC started scheduled services to New York via Shannon and Prestwick respectively.

11By 1969 the annual passenger numbers had reached the one million mark.

12 In 1970 the Minister of Development revealed a £3m expansion plan for the airport which included the extension of the main runway by over 3,000ft.

13 On June 1, 1971 the newly formed Northern Ireland Airports Limited took over the airport from the UK Department of Trade and Industry.

14 On April 1, 1977 British Airways launched the first Belfast Heathrow shuttle.

15 On July 3, 1977 the first Jumbo jet operated from Aldergrove on a charter service to Toronto via Shannon.

16 In 1980 the first scheduled service to a European city was started by NLM Cityhopper, which operated flights to Amsterdam.

17 In 1983 work finished on the second stage of development which included the international pier, moving the check-in and installation of the moving walkway.

18 In 1983 the name of Aldergrove was officially replaced with Belfast International Airport.

19 By 1984 annual passenger numbers had risen to the 1.5 million mark.

20 On March 26, 1984 British Midland went into competition with BA on the Heathrow route.

21In 1987 the new Executive Aviation Terminal was opened.

22 By 1987 annual passenger numbers had reached the two million mark.

23 In 1989 Britannia Airways launched £29 fares to Luton, the precursor to the low cost era, subsequently launched in earnest by easyJet and Ryanair.

24 On July 17, 1991 a new cargo centre at the airport was officially opened.

25 In 1993 a new on-site airport hotel was opened located just 60 metres away from the front entrance of the terminal building.

26 On July 20, 1994 Belfast International Airport was privatised following a management buy-out, resulting in the creation of Belfast International Airport Holdings Ltd.

27 On November 30, 1995 Air Force One landed at Belfast International carrying US President and First Lady, Bill and Hillary Clinton.

28 On August 13, 1996 Belfast International was bought by TBI.

29 In 1998 easyJet started operations from the airport with two daily scheduled flights to Luton in Bedfordshire.

30By 1999 passenger numbers hit 3m.

31 On October 21, 2003 Concorde touched down on its farewell tour.

32 By 2004 annual passenger numbers had reached over the 4 million mark.

33 On January 5, 2005 The TBI group is bought over by ACDL.

34 On May 27, 2005 Continental Airlines started direct services between Belfast International Airport and New York Newark.

35 In 2006 annual passenger numbers hit the 5 million mark.

36 December 2007 Aer Lingus opened its first base outside the Republic at Belfast International.

37 October 22, 2010 HRH The Queen marks completion of the terminal infrastructure including the new central circulation core

38 On November 6, 2011 BIA is the host airport for the MTV European Music Awards in Belfast.

39 From June 15 to 18 2013 BIA is host airport for the G8 conference

40 October 1, 2013 US-based ADC & HAS Airports Worldwide completes acquisition of Belfast International from TBI Limited.

41 BIA is most technologically advanced airport on the island of Ireland. It is the only one offering cross runway capability in adverse weather conditions (2780 metres and 1951 metres).

42Belfast International Airport is the second largest airport on the island of Ireland.

43 It has over 4,000 staff and nearly 80 domestic and international destinations by non-stop service.

44 Staff at the airport process more than 70,000 flights in and out each year.

45 60% of passengers to and from Northern Ireland for business use Belfast International Airport. Business passengers account for 30% of the airports total passengers (CAA survey statistics).

46 There are three extensive car parks on site – short stay, main stay and long stay – with over 7,000 spaces available within close proximity to the terminal.

47 Lost property regularly found includes false teeth (below), prams, wheelchairs, keys and mobile phones.

48 It is one of the UK's most important airfreight centres. Around 50,000 tonnes of cargo are processed each year, plus 100,000 tonnes of road freight. Most of NI's online orders arrive via the airport.

49 Team secretary Esther Turtle from Lisburn is the longest serving employee, with 42 years.

50 More than 120,000,000 passengers have passed through BIA. An anniversary exhibition of photographs and memorabilia is in the landside departures area.

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