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London's (and Britain's) First International Airport!

This past weekend featured an open day at Croydon Airport, which included tours so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to have a look around this historic site. It was relatively quiet there for an open day, probably because advance registration was required for specific time slots and there were only limited places available for each time slot.

The tour was quite extensive and included locations outside of the old terminal building as well as several rooms inside including the control tower and radio room. Croydon Airport was Britain's first international airport and was busiest during the interwar period. It was the base of operations for Imperial Airways (whose winged globe you can see pictured above), who operated intercontinental routes across Europe, Asia, and Australia. You can see some of their routes outlined in the diagram in the photo below on the right. The journey from London to Brisbane took a total of 12 1/2 days then and included several stops each day for refuelling, maintenance and taking on supplies of food and essentials. If you have the feeling that that diagram reminds you of a tube map, you are correct as Imperial Airways commissioned Henry Beck, known for working his magic with the tube lines, to create it.

Croydon Airport is also known as the birthplace of Air Traffic Control as the first control tower was located here and the system of licensing air traffic controllers also started here. The exhibits and guided tour really conveyed the feeling of how air travel was in the 1920s and 30s, with passengers having to be weighed in order to ensure that the total weight was not excessive. The display with the early wicker seating ( photo below right) that was on board the passenger planes was also eye-opening, as was the fact that the windows on the planes could be opened. Many record-breaking flights undertaken by pioneers of aviation took off from Croydon Airport and there are photos and descriptions of their achievements. Look for announcements or visit their website for notice of the next open day. Open days are free of charge but they do request that you make a donation of £6. It is well worth it, though! A great day out for the family!

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