Friday, 19 June 2015

Britain's historic airport

Just six miles west of Manchester, Barton is one of Britain's busiest general aviation airports.
Opened in 1930, this was the first municipal airport and boasted the first control tower in Britain; it was able to communicate with aircraft in flight. The control tower, Grade II listed has recently been renovated as have the original hanger and terminal building. Barton was preceded as Manchester's airport by a temporary airfield in Wythenshaw which opened in 1929. This operated for less than a year while the new facilities were completed and a 2 seater air charter service was offered at one shilling per mile. Passenger services operated from the start with a three times a week flight to Croydon. Within a few years Belfast, Glasgow and the Isle of Man were among new destinations.

It was soon realised that Barton did not offer scope for expansion, nor facilities for larger aircraft and by 1938 services transferred to the new airport at Ringway. The airport was used for maintainance and assembly of military aircraft during World War II and it became the destination for the only wartime air service from Ireland operated by an Aer Lingus DC3.

Barton is now owned by a Peel Group subsidiary and has been re-named City Airport. It has four grass runways and a newly equipped heliport. More than 120 aeroplanes are based there as well as a police helicopter and air ambulance. The airport encourages visitors and offers a restaurant and bar as well as a museum and aircraft viewing area. The control tower balcony is also open to the public and provides an excellent view.

Little changed since opening, Barton still looks very much like an airport of the 1930's and is often used by TV and film companies to provide a period setting.

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