Our History

Airport Opened

29th January 1930

The first aircraft landing ground in Manchester was at Alexandra Park and was used for military purposes during World War One.  It was not purchased by the corporation after the war because the need for a civil airfield was not urgent and as the land was privately owned the price would probably have been too high.


1928: Early in 1928 a subcommittee was appointed to investigate the possibilities of an airport for Manchester.  The sub-committee subsequently reported ‘that in the interests of the trade and commerce of the city, the Corporation should reserve or acquire a site in or near Manchester for the purpose of an aerodrome’.  


5 November 1928: Permission to establish and maintain an airfield was received and an Aerodrome Committee was appointed.  Work on the preparation of the airfield began under the direction of Councillor William Davy chairman of the aerodrome committee, Alderman Carter Deputy Chairman of the Committee and Mr John Leeming of Northern Air Lines.  It was agreed that the council would allocate £200 to the aerodrome’s general administration expenses.


21st November 1928: Major Mealing of the air ministry attended a meeting of the subcommittee and spoke about the steps that would need to be undertaken to obtain a licence from them.  


1929: Meanwhile it was decided to open a temporary airfield at Wythenshawe (Fallowfield) and when this was opened Manchester became the first municipality to have authority to provide and control an airfield (first airport in the UK to receive an Air Ministry licence).  Wythenshawe remained in use for part of 1930 as a relief training ground for Northern Air Lines.


5 March 1929: The Ministry of Health agreed to loan the Manchester Corporation the sum of £14,800 for works of levelling the site, constructing entrance roads etc.  


October 1929: It was originally intended that the Chat Moss aerodrome would be opened during this month but delays to the workshops and hangars meant that the date of opening needed to be extended.


19 October 1929: Sir Sefton Brancker Director of Civil Aviation visited and inspected the ground.


16 January 1930: An insurance policy was taken out by the Manchester Corporation which protected against fire and explosion risks in the sum of £13,150.


29 January 1930: The aerodrome was officially opened; having been operational since the beginning of the month.


1930: The aerodrome consisted of 124 acres of land and the corporation also acquired Fox Hill Farm owned by Mr J Scott; the farmhouse being altered create offices and an Aeronautical Inspection Directorate.  The specifically prepared grass landing area was 1,590ft north to south; 1566ft north east to south west; 2,214 ft east to west and 1,566ft north west to south east.  Unfortunately the ground consisted of peat soil and soft spots occurred in the south east corner after heavy rain.  Also provided at Barton was a 200 x 100ft hangar [with two furnaces for heating], a small power station, workshops, a control tower containing meteorological offices, wireless control room and offices and another building that housed the customs, pilots room and the booking hall.  A sculptor was employed to work on a carved coat of arms on the front of the new hanger building which faced Liverpool Road.


1930: When it first opened, the airport was controlled by the city of Manchester but was under the management of Northern Air Lines (Manchester) a company formed by John Leeming (man who formed the Lancashire Aero Club) and F J V Holmes of Berkshire Aviation Tours Limited who aimed to bring the benefits of air travel to Manchester businesses.  


1930: The first plane to touch down at the airport was piloted by Captain A N Kingwill, at the controls of an AVRO Avian belonging to Northern Air Lines. 


January 1930: the local journal reported that it was the only airport in the country constructed on the American principle with runways or tracks [cinders laid for runways which were raised above unprepared ground] on which the aircraft could take off.

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