THE HISTORY OF CITY AIRPORT
In the inter-war years, the City of Manchester, in its quest to establish a municipal airport, chose the location of Fox hill Farm, alongside the present A57 in 1928. This choice was strongly influenced by the City’s Cleansing Department’s ownership there of 2600 acres and additional persuasion by John Leeming, who went on to lead the Lancashire Aero Club into existence at the airfield.
Building of the Airport commenced in March 1929 and to initially reduce costs, the area was limited to 80 acres east of Fox Hill Glen.
The Airport officially opened on 29th January 1930 with a large Hangar, which was designed to house the most advanced passenger aircraft of the day, the Imperial Airways Argosy. The airport became the first municipal airfield in the UK to be licensed by the Air Ministry and the iconic Control Tower was completed shortly after. Both the Control Tower and original Hangar are now Grade II listed buildings and remain in operation today.
The first landing was by an Avro Avian, with the first large aircraft to use the airfield being Imperial Airway’s three-engine Argosy on 23rd May 1930.
Our History Timeline
The Airport is officially opened.
Imperial Airways Operate thrice weekly service
Summer 1930: Imperial Airways operated a thrice-weekly scheduled service to London's Croydon Airport via Castle Bromwich Aerodrome, Birmingham, subsidised by the councils of Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. This service was timed to fly north from Croydon in the evening and to return south next morning, in order to provide connections to and from European airports from Croydon.
First large aircraft to land, an Imperial Airways Argosy
The first large aircraft lands at City Airport (Manchester Barton), an Imperial Airways Argosy From 16th June through until 20th September 1930, Imperial Airways were flying 3 times a week using Argosy and Handley Page W.8 and W.10 airliners from Croyden and Birmingham to Manchester (Barton) Airport.
Control Tower building completed
The control tower and associated wireless station were completed, the first at a municipal airport outside London, and able to communicate with aircraft in flight and give pilots bearings from the airfield. The tower remains operational to this day and is now a Grade II listed building.
Captain Ivan Smirnoff, KLM, assesses the Airport's suitability
Captain Ivan Smirnoff flew a Fokker F.XII three-engine airliner via Hull to the airport to assess its suitability. He commented; ‘The airfield is very small. Extensions would be very costly. From a meteorological standpoint (fog), this is the worst airfield in Europe known to me. Surrounding obstructions (chimneys, pylons etc) make approaches dangerous. Do not spend any more money on Barton, but find a more open ground. It is unfortunate that our [KLM’s] proposal for a joint airport for Manchester and Liverpool has been turned down’ It became clear that at this time, the airport was not ideally suited and KLM chose Liverpool’s new airfield as terminal for the service from Amsterdam via Hull. The rejection of Manchester (Barton) Airport and selection of Liverpool led directly to the city seeking an alternative site and on 25 July 1934, following a report by aeronautical consultants, a site at Ringway was approved, although only by one vote.
Barton-Belfast-Glasgow service established
Croydon-based Railway Air Services commenced a Croydon-Barton-Belfast-Glasgow route.
Services to Liverpool, Blackpool and Isle of Man introduced
Linking services to Liverpool, Blackpool and the Isle of Man were introduced. Other smaller airlines, including Isle of Man Air Services operated services from Barton.
Scheduled services moved to Ringway Airport
All schedules were transferred to the newly completed larger Ringway Airport
Wartime Scheduled Service from Eire to the UK established
The sole wartime scheduled air service from Eire to the UK used Barton from 1940 to 1942, operated from Dublin by Aer Lingus and West Coast Air Services. The former often used their Douglas DC-3, the heaviest airliner type to serve Barton on a timetabled route.
Lancashire Aero Club established a home at the airfield
Lancashire Aero Club moved from Woodford Aerodrome to Barton.
No.2 Reserve Flying School
1 October 1948 to 31 March 1953: No.2 Reserve Flying School, also flying Tiger Moths and Chipmunks, was based at Barton and gave primary flight training to volunteers, who would later serve in the Royal Air Force. The unit used the same facilities as MUAS. On 31 March 1953 the unit closed.
Manchester University Air Squadran
Manchester University Air Squadron (MUAS) was based in one of the wartime-built western hangars. In 1953 the unit moved to RAF Woodvale near Southport, Lancashire. MUAS had flown Tiger Moth and Chipmunk trainers.
Ownership of airfield land transferred to Manchester Ship Canal Developments
Manchester Ship Canal Developments, (of which Peel Holdings Group is the majority shareholder), bought the land, hangars and other buildings from Manchester City Council.
Management of Aerodrome transferred
Management of the Aerodrome is transferred to Barton Aerodrome Operations Ltd, a subsidiary of Light Planes (Lancs) Ltd, the company run by Lancashire Aero Club.
Refurbishment of Control Tower
The Control Tower building undergoes a major programme of rebuilding and refurbishment.
Management of Aerodrome Transferred
Management of the aerodrome transferred to City Airport Manchester Ltd, a subsidiary of Peel Holdings. Lancashire Aero Club decide to leave the aerodrome.
Refurbishment of 'Pemberton' Hangar
The original Hangar, a Grade II listed building is given a full refurbishment.
New Helicopter facility created
A Former University of Manchester building is converted into a new Helicopter facility, branded as City Heliport.
The 'Clubhouse' building is given a full refurbishment
The building is given a complete makeover, with a refurbishment and is relaunched as 'The Airfield Lodge Bar & Restaurant' with new management and improved opening hours.
City Heliport Opens
City Heliport opens on the South Western boundary of the airfield in a hangar formerly used at the University of Mancheter's 'Goldstein Laboratory'. The heliport is designed to house based helicopters and to service the needs of commercial helicopter operators visiting the airport.
'Clubhouse' Cafe relaunched
The Airport's 'Clubhouse' Management is brought in-house and relaunched as 'Runway26 Cafe & Bar'
'Manchester Airshow' relaunched
After a break of 21 years, the 'Manchester Airshow' is relaunched, in a smaller scale to its previous heyday. An attendance of 12,000 visit the event.
Vulcan Last Flight
The Vulcan Bomber makes a historic Fly-Over on its final farewell tour of the UK
Annual Firework Event Launched
The Airport introduces an annual Firework event, attracting 2,500 visitors