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Newcastle International Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Newcastle International Airport in the North East of England has celebrated its 75th anniversary - was there.


A Dragon Rapide passes Newcastle's modern Air Traffic Control Tower. All images Key - Richard Maslen

On July 26 Newcastle International Airport in the North East of England celebrated the 75th anniversary of its opening with a royal visit, the arrival of some special aircraft and the chance for local dignitaries to enjoy a flight over the region aboard a de Havilland Dragon Rapide. Some 75 years earlier this same type of aircraft had been used on the initial scheduled services from the then Woolsington Airfield.

On the first day of the airport's existence in 1935, a Dragon Rapide landed on North East soil at midday carrying the then Air Minister, Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, who performed an opening ceremony. To replicate this event, an original vintage Dragon Rapide aircraft landed at 12:00 before taking invited guests into the skies on pleasure flights throughout the afternoon. “The heritage of this airport, and the role it has played in the development of the North East region through the decades, is very important to all of us here,” said Dave Laws, CEO of the airport.

His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester (left) is greeted by Dave Laws. was given full airside access for the day and was able to follow His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, the Queen’s Cousin, on his tour around the airport and record some of the highlights for enthusiasts. British Airways, a long-time partner of the airport, brought one of its Boeing 747-436s, G-CIVI (c/n 25814), in special oneworld livery to Newcastle, piloted by local resident Captain Stephen Wright. Joining him in the cockpit was fellow Geordie Russell Murdie, whose parents were in a special visitors’ enclosure on the southside of the airport to watch their son bring the aircraft into his home town. “It was a very proud moment for me,” he told

Boeing 747-436 G-CIVI takes off from Newcastle.
Onboard the aircraft, which touched down shortly after 11:10, was the guest of honour for the day, HRH the Duke of Gloucester. After disembarking from the B747-400 and following the relevant introductions to airport Chief Executive Officer Dave Laws, the Duke was taken to the fire station to watch a training exercise. He then made a quick visit to the airport’s Air Traffic Control Tower before unveiling a special anniversary plaque in the departure terminal.

As well as bringing in its Jumbo Jet, British Airways also displayed a hot air balloon on the southside perimeter close to the special visitors’ enclosure. Michelle Murray, General Manager for BA’s UK regions, said: “Everyone at British Airways congratulates Newcastle Airport on reaching its 75th anniversary. Our Newcastle services are an important part of our domestic regional operation. The route not only carries thousands of business and leisure customers between Newcastle and London every year, it also provides vital international connections, through Heathrow Terminal 5, to hundreds of European and world-wide destinations, links that are absolutely vital to the economy of the North East of England in what is now a truly global market.”

To further celebrate the airport’s anniversary and to boost trade on its Heathrow-Newcastle route, British Airways is offering travellers the chance to fly for just £1 (plus taxes and charges). The return fare (£75 in total when you include the charges) is bookable for a week from July 26 but travel must take place between November 1 and November 30 this year.

Emirates' Boeing 777-31HER A6-EBA.
The British Airways B747-400 may have grabbed the media and general public’s interest, but it was the arrival of Boeing 777-31HER A6-EBA (c/n 32706),just minutes later that was to actually set new customer records for the airport. The aircraft had replaced a smaller Airbus A330-200 on Emirates Airline’s daily rotation from Dubai. Although not the first arrival of the type at Newcastle (an Emirates B777-300ER diverted from Glasgow at the height of the volcanic ash airspace closures), it was the first time it had been used on a scheduled service into the North East. As airport officials acknowledged, at 242ft (74m) it was the longest aircraft to fly from Newcastle; the jet carrying 419 passengers on the outbound service – the largest passenger load to ever depart on a scheduled flight from Newcastle. “We have been very impressed with the levels of passengers for this service and we hope it won’t be too long before we introduce it permanently on services from the North East,” said Laurie Berryman, Emirates Airline’s Area Manager UK North.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines' Boeing 737-8K2 PH-BXA.
British Airways and Emirates were not alone in bringing ‘special’ aircraft to the airport. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines utilised Boeing 737-8K2 PH-BXA (c/n 29131) on its morning rotation, an aircraft painted in the operator’s original 1930s colour scheme. KLM has been connecting the people of Newcastle to worldwide destinations via its Amsterdam/Schiphol base since 1984. “We are extremely proud to have made such a strong contribution to the airport's success,” said Henri Hourcade, General Manager Air France-KLM, UK and Ireland.

DH89A Dragon Rapide G-AGSH is owned by Techair London Ltd.
The Dragon Rapide used to replicate the airport’s opening is actually owned by Philip Meeson, the boss of low-fare operator Jet2. The budget carrier has added stickers of the airport’s anniversary logo on the rear of one of its Boeing 757-200s, G-LSAE (c/n 24135), which arrived during the afternoon of July 26. “Jet2 first established a base at the airport in 2005 and over the past five years we have had built up very strong relations with the whole team, enabling us to fly to 24 fantastic destinations and giving customers in the North East the full benefit of our friendly low fares,” he said.

“This year is very special for Newcastle International as we reflect on our incredible history and take a positive look forward to an exciting future,” said Dave Laws. “We are delighted that His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester took the time to join us, and the support we have received from our valued airline partners by them operating aircraft rarely seen at Newcastle is just incredible. We hope the people of the North East enjoyed the occasion. It’s their airport after all.”

Filed Under Commercial Aviation Features, Commercial Aviation Features.


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Aidan said on the 30-Jul-2010 at 20:10

I was on the 747 into Newcastle. It was a great flight and the crew made it really special. Well done to all at NCL for a great day.

Andrew Appleby said on the 31-Jul-2010 at 19:05

I was also on this flight from NCL to LHR and it was a flight to remember!. At the end of the flight, while we were waiting for a bus at Terminal 5 (LHR) i was invited to the cockpit to take some photos, which was really nice of BA. A good day, and one which i'll remember for a long time !

Peter Bewers said on the 31-Aug-2010 at 18:35

The sight of the DeHaviland Rapide is very nostalgic as these little Wood and Canvas wonders were the mainstay of the very early Years of Aviation for the Channel Islands and Jersey where they used to take of from the Beach at St Aubins Bay the site of our Air Dispay, held in September each Year.

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