Bristol Airport

Bristol Airport, located at Lulsgate Bottom in North Somerset, is the commercial airport serving the city of Bristol, England and the surrounding area.

At first it was named Bristol Lulsgate Airport and from March 1997 to March 2010 it was known as Bristol International Airport. In 2003, the airport drew 45% of its passengers from the former county of Avon area, 13% from Devon, 10% from Somerset In 2010 it was the ninth busiest airport in the United Kingdom, handling 5,747,604 passengers, a 1.9% increase compared with 2009.

The airport has a CAA Public Use Aerodrome Licence (number P432) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers and for flying instruction.


In 1927 a group of local businessmen raised £6,000 through public subscription to start a flying club at Filton Aerodrome.[5] By 1929 the club had become a success and it was decided that a farm located in Whitchurch near Bristol would be developed into an airport. In 1930, Prince George, son of King George V opened Bristol (Whitchurch) Airport — becoming the third such airport in the United Kingdom. Passenger numbers grew from 935 in 1930 to over 4,000 in 1939.

During World War II, Bristol's Whitchurch Airport was the only civil airport still in operation in the UK, meaning all flights usually bound for London were terminated in Bristol. The newly formed British Overseas Airways Corporation was transferred to Whitchurch from Croydon and Gatwick Airports. They operated on routes to Lisbon, Portugal and to some other neutral nations.

RAF Lulsgate Bottom

In September 1940 No 10 Elementary Flying Training School at RAF Weston-super-Mare established a Relief Landing Ground on 14 acres (5.7 ha) at Broadfield Down by the hamlet of Lulsgate Bottom, near Redhill. Being high, at 600 feet (180 m), the site had a poor weather record, during warm front conditions when it was often covered in low cloud.[6] However, when this occurred the alternative airfields at Filton and Cardiff were usually clear and operational; and as Lulsgate was clear when the low-lying airfields were obscured by radiation fog in calm weather, it was agreed to open the facility. Few facilities were constructed, however pillboxes, defensive anti-aircraft and later two Blister hangars were added.[6] The site was attacked by Luftwaffe bombers on the night of 16–17 March.

In 1941 RAF Fighter Command used the site for an experimental unit, and after requisitioning land from several adjacent farms, contracted George Wimpey & Company to begin work on 11 June 1941. The main runway was 3,900 ft (1,200 m) long, and the first aircraft to land was a Luftwaffe Ju 88 at 06.20 on 24 July 1941. Returning from a raid, it was confused by the RAF electronic countermeasures radio beacon at Lympsham, which was re-radiating the signal from a Luftwaffe homing beacon at Brest, France.

The airfield was declared operational on 15 January 1942, with the Miles Masters, Airspeed Oxfords and Hawker Hurricanes of No. 286 (AA Cooperation) Squadron becoming resident, in their duties to provide realistic exercises to ground anti-aircraft defences. However, as the site lacked some uncompleted basic facilities, No. 286 moved to RAF Zeals in May, and handed the site back to Flying Training Command. No. 3 Flying Instructor School took up residence, re-training ex-operational bomber crews to teach at Operational Training Units. This continued with visits from various other squadrons until May 1946.

Lulsgate Bottom Airfield

On the cessation of war activities, and the reduced need for pilot training, the RAF ceased training at the site 14 April 1946, and abandoned it completely from October 1946. From 1948, the site was the home of the Bristol Gliding Club. In 1948 and 1949, the Bristol Motor Cycle and Light Car Club hosted motor races on a 2-mile (3.2 km) circuit, but due to planning and noise issues moved in 1950 to a site that became known as Castle Combe Circuit.

Bristol Lulsgate Airport

Whitchurch airport continued to be used after WW2, but the introduction of heavier post-war airliners made a runway extension highly desirable. However, this was difficult at Whitchurch, because of the nearby housing estates. Consequently, a decision was taken to develop a new airport on the site at Lulsgate Bottom Airfield. Sold to the Bristol Corporation in 1955 for £55,000, the gliding club moved to Nympsfield.

The new airport was called Bristol Lulsgate Airport, and was opened in 1957 by Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. All of the Whitchurch airline operations and the Bristol and Wessex Aeroplane Club moved there: in its first year it was used by 33,000 people. In 1963 the runway was lengthened and in 1965 extensions were made to the terminal. In 1968 a new 5,000 square foot (460 m²) building was constructed. In 1974 the airline "Court Line" collapsed, causing a fall in passenger numbers.

By 1980, 17 charter airlines were operating from the airport. Additions in 1984 included an international departure lounge, duty free shops, a 24-hour air-side bar, an arrivals concourse, and a short-term car park. On 1 April 1987 all employees were transferred from Bristol City Council to Bristol Airport Public limited company. The operation and net assets of Bristol Airport were transferred from the City of Bristol and the company commenced trading. Over the next few years business boomed with over 100,000 passengers each month in the summer of 1988. The growth of the airport at this time is attributed to the work of the managing director Les Wilson, who died in a car crash in November 1995.

 Bristol International Airport

In March 1997 the airport's name was changed to Bristol International Airport, and in December 1997 51% of the airport company was sold to FirstGroup plc, while the remaining 49% was retained by Bristol City Council. A new terminal building was built in April 1999 and opened in March 2000, and the A38 road was diverted to cater for the installation of a Category 3 instrument landing system. In 2000, passenger numbers exceeded two million for the first time.

The airport was purchased by Macquarie Bank and Cintra in January 2001 for £198m.[8] Passenger numbers passed through three million in 2002, largely due to the arrival of the low-cost carrier Go Fly. Continued expansion by EasyJet led to another increase in passengers — to 3.8 million. In May 2005, Continental Airlines introduced a direct flight from Bristol to Newark with Boeing 757 aircraft, which ceased on 7 November 2010. Macquarie's stake was spun off as part of MAp Airports in 2009.

Bristol Airport

In March 2010, the airport was rebranded as Bristol Airport. The airport gained a new logo, said by the airport's owners to represent ‘people’, ‘place’ and ‘region’; and a new slogan "Amazing Journeys Start Here".

Bristol Airport currently does not operate any jetways, so all aircraft have to park on the apron and passengers either walk out to their flights, or are carried by bus. On 28 May 2010, an £8M project finalised with the opening of a 450 metres (1,480 ft) walkway, which connects the terminal building to eight new pre-boarding zones. The promise is to "make the airport journey more convenient, easy and enjoyable", and reducing the need for buses to take you to the aircraft.
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