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Picture gallery shows Stansted Airport through the decades

As Stansted Airport looks to the future, its management team has been raiding the archives and tracing its growth with a series of pictures which tell its story from a Second World War base for the United States air force in 1942 to the country’s leading airport for flights to Europe today.

The fourth largest airport in the UK now serves almost 28 million passengers a year, flying to more than 190 destinations across 38 countries.

Its owner, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), is about to embark on a crucial phase of its £600m transformation programme – a new arrivals terminal.

It is being built as part of a five-year plan which includes the reconfiguration of the existing Lord Foster-designed terminal into a departures-only facility to unlock the airport’s spare runway capacity. It has planning permission for up to 43m passengers a year.

The successful bidder for the work was expected to be announced in December, with construction on the three-storey, 34,000 sq m (365,973 sq ft) arrivals terminal beginning early this year.

Designed by Pascall+Watson, it is due to open in 2020, with improvements to the existing terminal being completed in 2021.


1942 – The runway was built by the United States Air Force as part of Stansted Mountfitchet Airfield.

1944 – On D-Day, bombers from Stansted led more than 600 aircraft over the beaches of occupied France.

1966 – The newly created British Airports Authority took control.

1970 – The new terminal was extended to handle increasing numbers of passengers.

1978 – The Government White Paper 'Airport Policy' proposed major expansion of Stansted.

1980 – The British Airports Authority submitted planning application to Uttlesford District Council to develop Stansted Airport.

1985 – Following a public enquiry lasting 258 days, the Government gives permission for development to about 15m passengers a year. An early motion by 75 MPs led to a compromise of phased development to eight and then 15m passengers with a cap on the number of take-offs and landings by passenger aircraft.

1986 – Work starts on the new airport.

1991 – The Queen opened the £400m new terminal, aprons and taxiways at Stansted, which increased the airport's capacity from two to eight million passengers a year.

1999 – Parliament raises the Passenger Air Transport Movement cap to 185,000 a year and permission was given for phase 2 of Stansted to go ahead.

2000 – Work on Phase 2 commences and public consultation begins on expansion to about 25m passengers a year.

2002 – Planning permission granted by Uttlesford District Council to expand to 25m passengers a year. The Government's South East and East of England Regional Air Services study includes Stansted in the future of aviation in the south-east over the next 30 years.

2007 – Stansted's busiest ever summer sees 2.5m passengers travel through the airport in August. Construction work begins on £40m project to extend main terminal building.

2008 – In June the airport marks 25th anniversary of space shuttle landing. In December, the new arrivals extension is complete and fully open to passengers.

2010 – London Stansted receives permission to handle Code F aircraft, including Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8.

2011 – 20th anniversary of the terminal opening.

2013 – Manchester Airports Group (MAG) purchases London Stansted Airport for £1.5 billion.

2018 – Direct Emirates flights to Dubai begin and MAG wins planning permission to raise its passenger limit from 35m to 43m as traffic tops 27.8m in a year.

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