London Stansted’s runway celebrates 80th anniversary

Business / Sun 30th Jul 2023 at 08:53am

LONDON Stansted is celebrating the 80th anniversary of its runway, which started life as an American military base during World War Two.

George Washington Field, as it was known then, officially opened in 1943 and played a significant role in the war effort.

The airfield became the 9th largest U.S. Air Force base in East Anglia, home to four B-26 Marauder squadrons from the 344th Bomb Group, known as the ‘Silver Streaks’.

Despite not being fully operational until the summer of 1943, the runway had its first unexpected visitor on Feb 26, 1943, when a battle-damaged RAF Short Sterling bomber made an emergency landing after returning from an air raid.

On D-Day, the ‘Silver Streaks’ led 600 aircraft over the beaches of France earning them the Distinguished Unit Citation.

A total of 140 missions were flown from the airfield by the bomb group before it relocated to France at the end of 1944.

After the war, the site was handed back to the Civil Aviation Authority and became a civilian airport.

Fast forward to today, it is now home to many leading airlines, including Ryanair, Jet2.com and Emirates and flies to over 200 destinations in Europe and the Middle East.

It is also London’s third busiest airport serving more than 26 million passengers a year.

To continue its American connections, Stansted and its runway has welcomed Air Force One and US Presidents on seven occasions since 2008 for visits to the UK.

The runway, which was extended in the 1950s to its currently length of 3,048 metres, recently underwent a full refurbishment.

Over the course of the five-month project, engineers laid 50,000 tonnes of asphalt and replaced 700 runway lights with energy efficient LEDs.

Gareth Powell, London Stansted’s Managing Director, said:

“Stansted is very proud of its past and the critical role the airfield played during World War Two as a U.S. Air Force base.

“It’s amazing to now look back and acknowledge those early efforts have ultimately culminated in the Stansted Airport we see today.”

“Back then, US Engineers would have been unaware that thanks to their skill and expertise, Stansted would 80 years later be one of the busiest airports in the country serving over 26 million passengers a year through one of the world’s most iconic terminal buildings.”

As part of the anniversary celebrations, the airport is holding a competition on social media with the chance to win £800 worth of travel vouchers.

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