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World war nearly proved terminal for aerodrome; Conflict delayed take-off of what would eventually become Brum Airport The redundant terminal building at Birmingham Airport, which operated between 1939 and 1984, is to be given grade ll-listed building status. But the airport story began over a decade earlier - and is studded by twists and turns, as historian STEVE RICHARDS discovered.

Byline: Steve Richards

iN EARLY 1928 Birmingham City Council established a committee to investigate the possibility of establishing a municipal aerodrome. Following consultation with the Air Ministry and aviation notable Sir Alan Cobham, a proposal by the City Engineer was offered in 1930 "to build an aerodrome at Longmore Road, Shirley, at a cost of PS70,000".

The intention behind the project was to divert continental air traffic from London to Birmingham, thereby boosting present and future trade in the region.

Land owners in the Longmore Road area could not agree a price with the council and so the latter sought compulsory purchase orders. In the meantime, the city engineer, disturbed by the rapid increase in housing developments in Shirley, shifted his attention to Elmdon.

For a time, things went off the boil, but in 1934 the Elmdon || Historian Steve Airport project was revived and compulsory purchase orders were secured for a 500-acre site.

Birmingham's own airport opened in May 1939. It had a contemporary art-deco terminal building, proudly bearing the city's coat of arms and was flanked either side by cantilever canopies to protect passengers from the rain.

Richards Although some scheduled flights started immediately and the RAF moved a training unit in, the formal opening took place on a very wet July 8. The Duchess of Kent did the honours and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was present, as was the now legendary Spitfire test pilot Alex Henshaw.

However, the Second World War was but weeks away and civilian flying from Elmdon would not get into its stride for a number of years.

During the war, "14 Elementary Flying Training School" trained hundreds of pilots for the RAF and some for the Royal Navy.

Tiger Moth training aircraft, taking off and landing from the airfield, were a constant sight during the war years.

From 1941, final assembly of all Austin built aircraft was done at Marston Green, where a new factory had been constructed the previous year.

Test flights of completed aircraft from this factory were conducted from Elmdon aerodrome. Aircraft were towed from the factory, across the LMS railway line to the airfield.

Soon after midday on November 9, 1940, a single German bomber attacked the King's Norton/Cotteridge area and then proceeded to Elmdon airport. Here it dropped three or four bombs, causing minor damage to five aircraft and then attacked two nearby barrage balloons with machine-gun fire, damaging one.

The very nature of the flying conducted from here during the war years meant there were many accidents of varying seriousness.

Four will serve as examples: ? On November 21, 1942, a Vickers Wellington crashed into two Tiger Moths when landing at Elmdon. One of the Tiger Moths was written off.

? On January 10, 1943, a newly-built Short Stirling was on a test flight from Elmdon, with the elevators still locked externally. It climbed steeply, stalled and crashed just outside the aerodrome boundary. Neither of the crew were hurt.

? On December 10, 1943, a Tiger Moth hit a civilian on the perimeter track while taking off from Elmdon. The civilian was killed and the two airmen were injured.

? Three days after VE Day in May, 1945, two Tiger Moths from a visiting unit collided at Elmdon. All four airmen were killed.

With the war over, civilian flying got underway once more.

With the advent of package tours in the 1960s, various extensions were built to the west side of the original terminal.

This was a stop-gap measure until the new airport complex to the east of the main runway was opened in 1984.

Today passenger figures are increasing month on month, partly due to the extension to the main runway permitting larger aircraft to fly longer distances non-stop.

? Steve Richards is the author of 'The Luftwaffe Over Brum, costing PS19.95. Order from or from WH Smith.


? Historian Steve Richards

? From left, the Duchess of Kent at the opening of the airport, on July 8, 1939; a Stirling Bomber which came to grief on a test flight from Birmingham in January 1943; and a de Havilland Rapide -one of the first passenger carrying aircraft to use Birmingham - outside the art deco terminal in May 1999 to mark the airport's 60th anniversary

? British Midland Airways Viscounts on the western apron in the 1970s
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 16, 2018
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