In pictures: the history of London’s Heathrow Airport

First opened officially as ‘London Airport’ in 1946 and renamed ‘Heathrow’ in 1966, today more than 78 million passengers travel through Heathrow Airport annually. On 25 May 2018, MPs backed controversial plans for a third runway at the world-famous airport

Keith Granville, managing director of BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation), holding a model of the Boeing 747 jet, with the new aircraft hangars under construction in the background, at Heathrow Airport, 17 March 1969. (Photo by Jim Gray/Keystone/Getty Images)

An airfield was established on the site we now know as Heathrow Airport as far back as 1929, in the village of Heath Row in Harmondsworth, but it was not until the Second World War that expansion got under way. Following the end of the war, the airport was handed over from military to civil control on 1 January 1946. The first commercial flight to take off from Heathrow that same day was a converted Lancaster bomber named Starlight that flew to Buenos Aires.

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Here we explore the history of Heathrow Airport in photos…

Waterlogged runways at Heathrow (then known as London Airport) on 28 May 1946, one week before the airport became Britain's main aerial gateway to the United States. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Waterlogged runways at Heathrow (then known as ‘London Airport’) on 28 May 1946, one week before the airport became Britain’s main aerial gateway to the United States. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Workmen attempt to trench away water from around the marquees for passengers at the new London Airport, 30 May 1946. The marquees were a temporary arrangement as the airport prepared to accommodate flights from the United States. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Workmen attempt to trench away water from around the marquees for passengers at the new London Airport, 30 May 1946. The marquees were a temporary arrangement as the airport prepared to accommodate flights from the United States. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British South American Airways hostess Mary Guthrie about to board a converted Lancaster bomber named Starlight at London Airport, before a test-flight to Buenos Aires, 1 January 1946. The flight was the first from the newly-inaugurated airport. (Photo by Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British South American Airways hostess Mary Guthrie about to board a converted Lancaster bomber named Starlight at London Airport, before a test-flight to Buenos Aires, 1 January 1946. The flight was the first from the newly-inaugurated airport. (Photo by Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A motor-tricycle 'scooter' being used for quick communication between airport buildings and planes at London Airport (Heathrow), 1 July 1947. One of the planes on the tarmac is a Pan-Am Clipper Line Yankee. (Photo by Harry Shepherd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
A motor-tricycle ‘scooter’ being used for quick communication between airport buildings and planes at London Airport (Heathrow), 1 July 1947. One of the planes on the tarmac is a Pan-Am Clipper Line Yankee. (Photo by Harry Shepherd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
The air traffic control room at Heathrow, March 1955. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
The air traffic control room at Heathrow, March 1955. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
The arrivals and departures board at London Airport, later Heathrow, 30th August 1960. (Photo by Edward Wing/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The arrivals and departures board at London Airport, later Heathrow, 30 August 1960. (Photo by Edward Wing/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The new gift shop at London Airport, selling items by Chanel, Wedgwood and Pringle of Scotland, 8 November 1961. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The new gift shop at London Airport, selling items by Chanel, Wedgwood and Pringle of Scotland, 8 November 1961. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The Autogrill restaurant at the new Forte's Airport Hotel near Heathrow Airport, 10 March 1964. (Photo by J. Wilds/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The Autogrill restaurant at the new Forte’s Airport Hotel near Heathrow, 10 March 1964. (Photo by J. Wilds/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The Beatles arrive at London Airport upon their return from America, February 1964. They wave at the many fans who have come to the airport to greet them. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Beatles arrive at London Airport upon their return from America, February 1964. They wave at the many fans who have come to the airport to greet them. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner (1926-2017) with a group of bunny girls at Heathrow, 25 June 1966. Hefner had flown in for the opening of the London Playboy Club in Mayfair. (Photo by Ted West/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner (1926–2017) with a group of bunny girls at Heathrow, 25 June 1966. Hefner had flown in for the opening of the London Playboy Club in Mayfair. (Photo by Ted West/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The view as seen by airline pilots when approaching Heathrow – from an altitude of 12,500 feet – in 1968, made by Fairey Surveys Limited. From this height the runways appear to be a five-point star. (Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images)
The view as seen by airline pilots when approaching Heathrow – from an altitude of 12,500 feet – in 1968, made by Fairey Surveys Limited. From this height the runways appear to be a five-point star. (Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images)
The take-off at Heathrow Airport of the first commercial Concorde flight, 21 January 1976. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
The take-off at Heathrow Airport of the first commercial Concorde flight,
21 January 1976. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
Passengers waiting at Heathrow Airport, 31 July 1978. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
Passengers waiting at Heathrow Airport, 31 July 1978. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
Passengers wait near the departures board at Heathrow Airport, 4 January 1979. (Photo by John Minihan/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Passengers wait near the departures board at Heathrow Airport, 4 January 1979. (Photo by John Minihan/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Holiday-makers waiting in the departure lounge at Terminal Three of London's Heathrow airport during delays caused by industrial action taken by Canadian air traffic controllers, 11 August 1981. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Holiday-makers waiting in the departure lounge at Terminal Three of London’s Heathrow airport during delays caused by industrial action taken by Canadian air traffic controllers, 11 August 1981. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Members of the British pop group Duran Duran pose on an airplane ramp before departing for Australia from Heathrow Airport, 26 July 1983. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)
Members of the British pop group Duran Duran pose on an airplane ramp before departing for Australia from Heathrow Airport, 26 July 1983. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)
A line of British Airways-crested plane tails and an empty BOAC airline shuttle bus at Heathrow Airport, 5 June 1990. (Photo by Peter Jordan/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
A line of British Airways-crested plane tails and an empty BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) airline shuttle bus at Heathrow Airport, 5 June 1990. (Photo by Peter Jordan/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
The Queen Mother’s corgis disembarking a plane at Heathrow Airport after returning from the summer visit to Balmoral, 29 October 1993. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
The Queen Mother’s corgis disembarking a plane at Heathrow Airport after returning from the summer visit to Balmoral, 29 October 1993. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
A father supports his son on his shoulders as a four-engined airliner passes directly overhead, about to land at London's Heathrow airport, 17 August 1997. Prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, British airport authorities and police tolerated plane spotters near runway fences. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)
A father supports his son on his shoulders as a four-engined airliner passes directly overhead, about to land at Heathrow Airport, 17 August 1997. Prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, British airport authorities and police tolerated plane-spotters near runway fences. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)
An aerial view of Heathrow Airport showing the service area with Boeing 747 and Concorde aircraft, 2006. (Photo by English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
An aerial view of Heathrow Airport showing the service area with Boeing 747 and Concorde aircraft, 2006. (Photo by English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
An aeroplane flying over rooftops near Heathrow Airport, April 2008. (Photo by BuildPix/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)
An aeroplane flying over rooftops near Heathrow Airport, April 2008. (Photo by BuildPix/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)

Emma Mason is the Digital Editor of HistoryExtra.com

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This article was first published by History Extra in June 2018