Southampton Airport history

In 2010, Southampton Airport celebrated 100 years of flight in South Hampshire. From our first flight back in 1910 to today, take a look at the major milestones in Southampton Airport's history.

1910

1910

1914+

1920

1930

1936

1939

1940

1940s

1950

1960

1960s

1970

1970s

1980

1980s

1990

1990

1993

1994

1995

2000

2003

2005

2006

2008

2009

2010

2010

2012

2020

History

1910

1910

The very first aircraft to take off from the Southampton Airport site belonged to local man, Edwin Rowland Moon. Edwin made and tested the Moonbeam II aircraft on the North Stoneham Farm Meadows - a single seat monoplane. No one is entirely sure where the first aircraft, Moonbeam I, departed from or landed.

1914+

1914+

In 1914, Public flying display by Gustav Hamel on his Morain Saulnier Monoplane. Ten thousand people witnessed his aerobatics loops and tail-dives.

Stoneham Farm was requisitioned by the War office as an Aircraft Acceptance Park in 1917 but before completion, the base was given to the US Navy to develop an assembly area.

In 1918, The Air Ministry gave approval to set up a civil air transport system to serve both international and domestic routes with direct flights to Plymouth, London, a French port, Bristol and Bournemouth via the Isle of Wight.

Southampton Corporation purchased Atlantic Park in 1932 and renamed it Southampton Municipal Airport.

The Hampshire Aeroplane Club moved operations to the Southampton Airport site from Hamble in 1933. One famous member was RJ Mitchell (pictured above), the aircraft designer responsible for the Spitfire. 

1936

1936

The Spitfire prototype took off 5 March. Spitfire aircraft were designed and built locally in Woolston and assembled and tested at Southampton Airport. The first flight records are on display at Southampton Airport.

1939

1939

RAF Southampton was recommissioned as HMS Raven and subsequently spent most of the war in a ground and air training role for the Royal Navy. In an attempt to disrupt the assembly of aircraft, sporadic raids were made on the airport. However, German propaganda did not quite get it right when reporting HMS Raven had been sunk!

1940s

1940s

In 1945, regular air services to the Channel Islands resumed marking the return of the wartime aerodrome to a municipal airport.

By the early 1950’s, Southampton was one of the busiest airports outside of London.  In 1951, Silver City began car 'ferry' operations to Cherbourg using The Bristol Freighter aircraft (pictured)

1960s

1960s

Mr J N Somer, at the time the owner of an airfield in Hertfordshire, secured the future of Southampton Airport when he purchased it from Southampton Corporation. A number of improvements were made, including the construction of a 1723-metre concrete runway. In the first year of operation with the new runway, 273,247 passengers passed through the airport - four times more than the previous year.

1970s

1970s

An economic slump led to a reduction in passenger numbers. Nevertheless, a new air traffic control tower was built and surveillance radar installed. 

1980s

1980s

In 1984, Airports UK Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of BAA, was appointed to manage the operational activities of Southampton Airport and set about improving the facilities and attracting new services.

A consortium headed by Peter de Savary bought the airport site from Mr Somers in 1988 and applied for planning permission for the complete redevelopment of the airport.

1990

1990

BAA purchased the site, announcing its intention to invest £27 million in the complete redevelopment of the airport.

1993

1993

Detailed planning permission was granted and construction of the new terminal began.  A new air traffic control tower is built.

1994

1994

The airport was renamed Southampton International Airport and the new passenger terminal was opened by HRH Prince Andrew, The Duke of York. The work took 56 weeks to complete.

1995

1995

The old terminal building was demolished.

2003

2003

Southampton Airport celebrated the historic milestone of one million passengers in a year.

2005

2005

The redeveloped departure lounge opened following a ₤5 million investment and Southampton launched its draft masterplan.

2006

2006

Ferrovial acquires BAA PLC.

2008

2008

Southampton Airport was named the European winner of the ACI Airport People Award 2008, for developing a strong customer service culture across the entire airport community.

The airport nearly doubled their check-in and baggage facilities with an investment of over £3 million.

2009

2009

Southampton Airport was named as the European winner of the ACI Airport People Award for the second year running.

2010

2010

Dave Lees was appointed as Managing Director of Southampton Airport.

2012

2012

The Olympic Flame visited Southampton Airport as part of the torch relay for the 2012 London Olympics (image courtesy of the Southern Daily Echo).