27th June 1966

The Queen officially opens Glasgow Airport

Glasgow Airport, not to be confused with Glasgow Prestwick Airport, is Scotland’s second-busiest airport, after Edinburgh. It has a single 2.66km long asphalt runway.

Abbotsinch, the site on which the airport was built, has been used as a base for aircraft since 1932. By the following year, the City of Glasgow Auxiliary Air Force was stationed there and, during the Second World War, it was taken over by the Royal Navy.

Multiple airports

The nearby Renfrew Airport was also a military base at that time, but it became surplus to requirements in peacetime and was converted to civilian use for domestic flights. However, when Renfrew proved too small to cope with rising passenger demand, the decision was made to decommission it and transfer commercial air traffic to the Abbotsinch site that was to become Glasgow Airport.

The new airport would initially only handle domestic flights, as Renfrew had done, and flights to Europe, with all other international flights going via Prestwick. However, over time, Glasgow Airport itself started to share the international traffic.

The new Glasgow Airport on the Abbotsinch site cost £4.8m, according to a report in the Birmingham Daily Post of 2 May 1966 – the day after it welcomed its first flight.

Glasgow Airport starts operating

“There were no technical hitches to mar the first day of operation,” wrote the Aberdeen Press and Journal on 3 May 1966, with an airport spokesperson saying that the large crowds that had gathered to see what was going on posed no problems for staff, even though the staff were working in entirely new surroundings.

The paper continued, “Abbotsinch became commercially operational at 8.31am when a BEA Herald, with 41 passengers from Aberdeen and Edinburgh on board, arrived nine minutes early to snatch the distinction of making the first landing from a BEA Vanguard which was three minutes late on a flight from Manchester.” However, even that wasn’t the first aircraft to put down on the landing strip, which had been “a privately chartered Viscount carrying 64 architects, designers and engineers who were concerned in the airport project.”

Although it was commercially active, the airport would have to wait until 27 June for its official opening by Queen Elizabeth II.

Glasgow Airport’s official opening

“Glasgow’s 15 Members of Parliament have not been invited to the Royal opening,” reported the Birmingham Daily Post on 13 June, a fortnight before the opening. “Nor have the four MPs for Renfrew constituencies.” One MP was invited by the county clerk, but his invitation was later cancelled.

On the day itself, the Belfast Telegraph told readers that “the Queen and Prince Philip had flown from London in an Andover aircraft of the Queen’s Flight, which arrived at Abbotsinch ten minutes late after being delayed by headwinds. Earlier, rain clouds had obscured the hills around the airport, and for half an hour before the Queen arrived, the band of the first battalion the Cameronians carried on a musical programme in the rain and drizzle.”



Other events that occured in June

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