Liverpool John Lennon Airport
|Operator||Liverpool Airport Ltd.|
|Serves||Liverpool City Region, North West England, North Wales|
|Location||Speke, Liverpool, England|
|Opened||1 July 1933|
|Focus city for|
|Elevation AMSL||81 ft / 25 m|
Liverpool John Lennon Airport (IATA: LPL, ICAO: EGGP) is an international airport in Liverpool, England, on the estuary of the River Mersey 6.5 nautical miles (12.0 km; 7.5 mi) south-east of Liverpool city centre. Scheduled domestic, European, North African and Middle Eastern services are operated from the airport. The airport comprises a single passenger terminal, three general use hangars, a FedEx Express courier service centre as well as a single runway measuring 7,500 ft (2,286 m) in length, with the control tower south of the runway.
Originally called Speke Airport, it was operated by the Royal Air Force as RAF Speke in World War II. Between 1997 and 2007, the facility was one of Europe's fastest-growing commercial airports, as annual passenger numbers increased from 689,468 to 5.47 million. It was renamed after Liverpudlian musician John Lennon of the Beatles in 2001. Although passenger numbers had decreased to 3.98 million in 2013, the airport handled 5.05 million passengers in 2019, making it the 13th-busiest airport in the UK.
Built in part of the grounds of Speke Hall, Liverpool (Speke) Airport, as the airport was originally known, started scheduled flights in 1930 with a service by Imperial Airways via Barton Aerodrome near Eccles, Salford and Castle Bromwich Aerodrome, Birmingham to Croydon Airport near London. The airport was officially opened on 1 July 1933. By the late 1930s, air traffic from Liverpool was beginning to take off with increasing demand for Irish Sea crossings, and a distinctive passenger terminal, control tower and two large aircraft hangars were built.
Second World War
At the beginning of 1937 Liverpool City Council leased between 70 and 110 acres of their Speke Estate on a 999-year lease to the Air Ministry. The price included at all times the use of Speke Airport next to the shadow factory site. The LMS Railway provided a siding. Erection of the building was planned to take 30 weeks and when complete it would provide employment for more than 5,000 people. It was to be managed by Rootes Securities on behalf of the Air Ministry. Work started Monday 15 February 1937.
During the Second World War, Speke was requisitioned by the Royal Air Force and known as RAF Speke. Rootes built in a "shadow factory" by the airport Bristol Blenheims and 1,070 Handley Page Halifax bombers. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation assembled many types of planes at the airport, including Hudsons and Mustang fighters, that had been shipped from the United States in parts to Liverpool Docks. The airport was also home to the Merchant Ship Fighter Unit.
On 8 October 1940 (one day before John Lennon's birth), Speke was witness to what is thought to be the fastest air-to-air combat "kill" in the Battle of Britain and possibly of all time. Flight Lieutenant Denys Gillam took off in his Hawker Hurricane from Speke to be confronted by a Junkers 88 passing across him. He shot the Junkers down while his undercarriage was still retracting, and, along with Alois Vašátko and Josef Stehlík, all of 312 Squadron, was credited with the kill. The moment has been caught in a painting by Robert Taylor called Fastest Victory.
Normal civil airline operations resumed after VE-day and passengers increased from 50,000 in 1945 to 75,000 in 1948, remaining ahead of Manchester Airport. Ownership by the Ministry of Aviation proved to be a drag on the airport's progress thereafter and Manchester gained the lead from 1949, resulting in Liverpool's loss of the only ground-controlled radar approach unit available to North West airports, further hampering operation.
During the post-war years, Speke Airport hosted an annual air display in aid of the Soldiers, Sailors, and Air Force Association, a charity for veterans. The displays were immensely popular and attracted a huge crowd. On one such occasion on 21 May 1956, tragedy struck with the death of Léon Alfred Nicolas "Léo" Valentin, billed as the Birdman, when his balsa wood wings struck the opening of the aircraft from which he was exiting and he was hurtled into an uncontrollable spin. He attempted to deploy his emergency parachute, but it became entangled and 'Roman candled', leaving Leo to fall to his death. The local newspaper headlined the story with "The world has been robbed of a daring personality." Ironically, a few years earlier Valentin had been attributed with discovering the free-fall stable position still used by sports parachutists today for safe deployment.
The city took over control of the airport on 1 January 1961 and prepared development plans. In 1966, a new 7,500 ft (2,286 m) runway was opened by Prince Philip on a new site to the southeast of the existing airfield. It enabled the airport to be open for business around the clock and is in use to this day. Control of the airport transferred to Merseyside County Council from Liverpool Corporation in the mid-1970s and then, ten years later, to the five Merseyside councils following the abolition of Merseyside County Council. In 1982, Pope John Paul II visited and met crowds at the old Liverpool airport.
Old Terminal (1989)
A modern passenger terminal adjacent to the new runway opened in 1937 followed by the closure of the original 1930s building.
The original terminal building dating from the late 1930s, famously seen on early television footage with its terraces packed with Beatles fans, was left derelict until converted into a hotel, opening in 2001, preserving its Grade II listed Art Deco style. It was part of the Marriott chain of hotels, but is currently the Crowne Plaza Liverpool John Lennon Airport Hotel after a renovation in August 2008. The former apron of the terminal is also listed and retained in its original condition, although it is no longer connected to the airport or subject to airside access control. It is the home of several aircraft, including BAe Jetstream 41 prototype G-JMAC and Bristol Britannia G-ANCF, preserved by the Speke Aerodrome Heritage Group. The two art-deco-style hangars that flank the terminal and apron have also been converted for new uses: one is now a David Lloyd leisure centre, the other the headquarters of the Shop Direct Group, called Skyways House.
New Terminal and renaming (2000)
In 2000, work on a £42.5 million passenger terminal began, tripling its size and passenger capacity, completed in 2002 and opened by Queen Elizabeth II. There have since been further extensions to the airport terminal and airside. The airport's strategy is to cater largely for 'low cost' operators, and consequently the layout of the terminal and gates requires passengers to walk unprotected from the weather to and from passenger aircraft.
In 2001, 21 years after his death, the airport was renamed in honour of the Beatles' John Lennon, becoming the first airport in the UK to be named after an individual. A 7 ft (2.1 m) tall bronze statue stands overlooking the check-in hall. On the roof is painted the airport's motto, a line from Lennon's song "Imagine": "Above us, only sky."
In 2005 the Yellow Submarine, a large-scale work of art, was installed on a traffic island at the entrance to the airport. A permanent exhibition of The Beatles in India's photographs made in 1968 at the Ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, (founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique), by Paul Saltzman can be seen above the retail units in the departure lounge.
2005 also saw the construction of a brand-new apron, exclusively for EasyJet, to the east of the terminal with six stands and a pier with six boarding gates.
In September 2006 reconstruction started on the main runway and taxiways. This was the first time the runway had been reconstructed (as opposed to resurfaced) since it was opened in 1966. This work was completed in 2007. In addition to runway and shoulder work was the upgrade of the 40-year-old airfield group lighting with a new system, intended to upgrade the runway to ILS Category III standards.
In May 2007, the Liverpool airport gained transatlantic air service. Flyglobespan commenced a seasonal, once-weekly flight to Hamilton. Later that month, the carrier launched a route to New York City. Flights operated daily, although they stopped in Knock, Ireland, three times a week. Yoko Ono, the widow of John Lennon, attended the inauguration ceremony. During the summer, several problems beset the New York service, including technical troubles, lengthy delays and low passenger numbers. Flyglobespan eventually replaced the Boeing 757 it was using to run the flights with a smaller Boeing 737 due to the poor patronage. The company stated in July that it would suspend the route during the winter, and the last flight of the season operated in October. However, in March 2008 the airline announced that the Hamilton and New York flights would not resume.
In 2007 construction of a multi-level car park and a budget Hampton by Hilton Liverpool/John Lennon Airport started. The hotel opened in October 2009. In June 2010 Vancouver Airport Services announced that it reached an agreement with The Peel Group to acquire 65% share in its airports, including Liverpool. Airside improvements include additional retail units and a more advanced security area aiming at reducing waiting times, completed in autumn 2010.
April 2014 saw Peel repurchase the 65% stake it had sold in the airport giving it 100% ownership once more. In March 2016, Peel sold a 20% stake in the airport to Liverpool City Council for a reported £12m. This valued the airport at £60m. From 2019 to early 2020, the airport completed some renovation works which made it even easier to get around and also more aesthetically pleasing. This included changing the gate numbers from Gates 30–43 to Gates 11–17, in order to make the gates larger and more spacious, which also involved removing two by merging gates together. In addition, the departure hall, security hall and the entire experience throughout the airport has been altered massively by new decorations and images promoting the surrounding region.
Future developments include the potential estimated £100 million investments in the airport infrastructure - this includes a runway extension (enabling transatlantic/long-haul flights) as well as a new cargo area south of the runway, new taxiway, terminal expansion (including new food/drink outlets, larger security areas as well as 3 new piers/concourses), hotel/parking expansion as well as the plans for a new A-road to enhance motorway connections to the facilities. In addition to this, the airport also wants to build a nature reserve on the coastal perimeter of the Oglet Shore. Plans also include schemes to improve public transport connections to the airport, including new bus and rail services to South Parkway.
The single terminal at Liverpool John Lennon Airport has a capacity of 7 million passengers a year and consists of an arrivals and departures hall, both connected within short walking distance of each other. There are no jetbridges or travelators at Liverpool, requiring passengers to walk to/from the departure/arrival halls and gates.
There are a number of retail and food outlets located within the airport such as Boots, Burger King, Frankie & Benny's, Starbucks, WHSmith and a number of bars and cafe's. There is also a World Duty Free retail section for departing passengers.
Captain Harold James Andrews was appointed as the first Airport Manager in July 1932, and he was effectively the first full-time professional co-ordinator for the whole project. Jack Chadwick took over many of the management functions post-war until 1961. That year there was a traffic increase of 42%, attributed to the first airport marketing campaign initiated by the new Airport Director, Wing Commander H.W.G.Andrews.
In the late 1960s, Brian Trunkfield MBE was a much-respected Assistant Director, and Keith Porter took over as Airport Director in the days when The Beatles were regular passengers. Chris Preece, a former executive of British Aerospace, was Airport Director during much of the British Aerospace years of ownership, replaced by Rod Rufus and then Rod Hill, who brought in Direct Holidays, part of the MyTravel Group on a commercial deal which was to prove the market for easyJet. Neil Pakey took over as managing director in 2002, taking the airport through its major passenger growth years.
On selling the airport to Vancouver Airport Services in 2010, the former Operations Director for Vancouver Airport, Craig Richmond, took over, and on 1 March 2013, Matthew Thomas, also from Vancouver Airport Services (by then renamed Vantage Airport Group), was appointed to the role. Andrew Cornish held the CEO position from September 2014 until the end of June 2017. John Irving became the new CEO with effect from 12 March 2018.
Airlines and destinations
The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights to and from Liverpool:
Passengers and aircraft movements
|Number of passengers||% Change
|Number of movements||% Change|
|5||Isle of Man||255,659||11.4%|
|7||Palma de Mallorca||225,682||3.6%|
|14||Paris–Charles de Gaulle||87,697||16.0%|
Liverpool John Lennon Airport is within Merseytravel Area C, for local public transport tickets. Plusbus tickets are also available. The Arriva North West 80A & 86A route to/from Liverpool city centre is the main form of transport to Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool One bus station. There is also an express service Arriva North West 500 that connects the airport with the city centre every 30 minutes 
Liverpool South Parkway at 2.9 miles from the airport is the closest intercity railway station, where there are regular services to Liverpool Lime Street, Chester Railway Station, Cleethorpes, Manchester Oxford Road, Birmingham New Street, Nottingham Station, Norwich and Southport.
Arriva North West bus services 80A and 86A regularly stop at Liverpool South Parkway, 81A and 89 regularly stop at Hunts Cross and 500 regularly stop at Elliot Street only 2 mins walk near to Liverpool Lime Street.
Bus and coach
Regular bus services link the airport with surrounding urban areas. Most buses that run to the airport are 80A, 82A, 86A, 500 from Liverpool One Bus Station, 81A from Bootle New Strand, 82A from Runcorn and 89 from St Helens operated by Arriva North West or Stagecoach Merseyside & South Lancashire, they connect local urban areas to the airport. Merseytravel also runs a service from the airport (3A) which terminates at Huyton Industrial Estate, the service is operated by Arriva North West
The original terminal building dating from the late 1930s, famously seen on 1960s television footage with its terraces packed with Beatles fans, was part of the Marriott chain of hotels. It became the Crowne Plaza Liverpool John Lennon Airport Hotel after a renovation in August 2008.
The Hampton by Hilton Liverpool/John Lennon Airport is one of four Hilton Worldwide hotels in Liverpool. It is situated directly opposite the main terminal building, and is the second largest hotel serving the complex after the Crowne Plaza. The hotel was constructed as part of a £37 million development by Peel Holdings at John Lennon Airport (which also included a multi-storey car park),
Accidents and incidents
- On 20 July 1965 Vickers Viscount G-AMOL of Cambrian Airways crashed on approach from Isle of Man Airport, killing both crew members.
- On 10 May 2001 Spanair Flight 3203 (McDonnell Douglas MD-83 EC-FXI) was substantially damaged when the starboard undercarriage collapsed on landing. All 51 people on board evacuated via the escape slides. It was repaired and returned to service 5 months later.
- On 11 December 2019, a Bombardier Global 6000 private jet became lodged in the grass whilst attempting to vacate the runway. This caused the airport to close for 18 hours, and flights were either cancelled or diverted to Manchester Airport.
- The Yellow Submarine sculpture, previously displayed in Liverpool's Albert Dock, is now outside the airport entrance.
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