ON July 26, Newcastle International Airport celebrates its 75th anniversary. The region’s biggest airport has grown from a grass airstrip and a few huts in 1935, to the modern and dynamic gateway it is today, as Iain Laing reports.
The skies turned orange in March 2003 with the arrival of easyJet to Newcastle. This significant event heralded the start of the low-cost revolution in the North East. The new Newcastle International brand was launched in October. With a new brand, extra capacity, new routes, multi-million pound developments and passenger figures hitting 3.9 million, 2003 was proving to be another record-breaking year.
In August 2004, local celebrities Ant and Dec opened the latest terminal extension which doubled the size of the departure lounge and provided a wide range of new shops, services, restaurants and cafes.
Newcastle International was the fastest-growing regional airport in the UK in 2005 as passenger figures topped five million per year. An average of one new route per month was being added to the departure board and the number of destinations served from Newcastle grew to 86.
The airport secured its first-ever scheduled long-haul route with Emirates Airline, flying daily direct from Newcastle to Dubai and opening up onward connections to over 50 destinations. The route launched on September 1, 2007, and quickly became a strong performer. A new state-of-the-art £8m air traffic control tower was opened in September 2007 by MP Nick Brown and the president of Emirates Airline, Tim Clark. At 45m tall, the Emirates Tower is more than twice the height of the Angel of the North.
In November 2007, Dave Laws was appointed as the airport’s new chief executive. He has worked at the airport since 1978, starting his career as a fire officer then working his way through many areas of the business including health and safety, personnel, passenger services, aeronautical relations and commercial.
In July 2008, Newcastle International acquired Samson Aviation Services Ltd, the private aviation business located on the south side of the airport site. The deal formed part of Newcastle International’s wider plans to redevelop the entire south side of the airport site, including the creation of a luxury £20m business park and the expansion of Newcastle College’s Aviation Academy.
And now it celebrates its 75th anniversary. Alongside the commemorative book, the airport has commissioned new branding for the milestone birthday, created a 75th anniversary Metro carriage and is planning an exclusive exhibition of archive film, photography and memorabilia.
The airport will sponsor Sunderland Airshow, which takes place on the weekend prior to the anniversary on July 24 and 25. The on-site fire service will also take part in the celebrations with a 75-mile bike ride from the original terminal for charity, with the celebrations culminating in a special gala dinner in September.
To mark the anniversary, many of the airport’s business partners will be playing their part. This month, Jet2.com announced it will be operating shopping trips from Newcastle to New York this Christmas.
Mr Laws said: “The heritage of this airport, and the role it has played in the development of the North East region through the decades, is very important to all of us here. To celebrate this landmark, we have a wide range of events and activities planned. This is a very special year for Newcastle International as we reflect on our incredible history and also look forward to an exciting future.”