The evolution of Glasgow Airport

Glasgow Airport opened in 1966 with its early passengers and curious visitors remembering well the arrival of the gleaming, white terminal building and the two ponds outside the main entrance.

The Glasgow Airport terminal was designed by  Sir Basil Spence and featured two ponds outside the main entrance. PIC: Contributed.
The Glasgow Airport terminal was designed by Sir Basil Spence and featured two ponds outside the main entrance. PIC: Contributed.

The ponds, on Caledonia Way, were used as a form of wishing well with travellers emptying their pockets of change before and after their holidays.

The original airport building was designed by Sir Basil Spence with the building attracting not just travellers but local people keen to soak up some modernity.

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The first passengers to arrive at Abbotsinch Airport in May 1966 after landing on a flight from London. PIC: TSPL.

It became a popular place to go for a coffee and offered a window to the new world of air travel.

The airport near Paisley met the demands of a new generation of holidaymaker and business traveller.

Nearby, Renfrew Airport opened in 1954 to catch the trend for air travel but the airport was unable to meet with rising passenger numbers and closed after just 12 years in service.

Plane-spotters listening to air traffic control on the spectators' gallery at Abbotsinch Airport. PIC: TSPL.

Glasgow Airport was originally known as Abbotsinch with planes first taking off there in 1932. It was later changed to HMS Sanderling with the arrival of Royal Auxiliary Airforce 602 during World War Two.

The new airport was officially opened in May 1966 by the Queen, who was 10 minutes late for the ceremony given weather hampered her flight.

The new airport was an instant success, with more than one million passengers recorded by December that year.

Glasgow Corporation - the city council’s predecessor - was initially unwilling to run the airport, fearing it would be a financial burden on ratepayers.

A British Eagle BAC 1-11 on the opening day - 2 May 1966. The airline was the first to operate jet aircraft between the airport and Heathrow.

However, it unexpectedly made a profit of nearly £18,000 in 1967 rather than a projected £100,000 loss.

In 1973, the runway at Glasgow was extended to allow larger jets to land with the airport sold two years later to BAA. A large extension quickly followed with capacity increased to 3.5m passengers a year

Expansion continued during the late 1980s with a £55 million expansion, increasing the terminal size by 70% to allow 6 million passengers to take a flight from the airport. Now 9m use the airport every year on more than 120 routes.

The darkest day in the airport’s history came on June 30 2007, when two terrorists tried to drive a Jeep stacked with gas cylinders into the terminal building that was packed with people jetting off at the start of the school holidays.

Local people tried to stop the men but a concrete pillar was all that prevented the potential firebomb from getting inside on one of the busiest days of the year. The layout at the airport was significantly altered following the incident, the first terrorist incidence of its kind to target Scotland.