View Full Version : History of Luton Airport

24th Jan 2008, 07:19
Could anyone provide details (web links) of the history of Luton Airport ?

I did have a search around the web to find only scant information.

There doesnt seem to be a detailed web site about the history of Luton.

From what I have been able to find out :-

The airfield opened before WW2 with Percival making planes.
Then at the outbreak of WW2 the RAF took over (not sure what it was used for then).
After the war Percival / Hunting took over and made planes like the jet provost etc.

From this point on its not clear if Hunting closed or moved out of Luton and then Luton Council then decided to make it a full airport ( as we know of today) in the 50's

This is what I was able to find out, searching various web sites, etc.

If I am wrong then please correct me.
Thansk in advance.

24th Jan 2008, 07:26
Luton was a grass airfield until 1958; as a schoolboy with a PPL we visited the Percival factory, saw Pembroke's and Jet provosts being made, walked round the mock up of the P107 (which later became the BAC1-11)
Civil but of RAF origin. I flew a Tiger moth there that day in the summer of '58!

24th Jan 2008, 15:00
A book was published in 1998 or thereabouts to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the opening of the airport. It may be available somewhere....
The decision to open an airport was taken by Luton Corporation, and it opened in 1938. It has always been owned by the municipality, although in the late 1990s it was effectively leased to the current operators for 30 years (with a break clause after 15).

Percival Aircraft were based there and built Proctors, Prentices, Provosts, etc in their factory, which was behind the current hangar line. The runway was laid in 1960, later extended. The first jet movement was a Comet, which landed on the grass:eek: in 1952!!

24th Jan 2008, 19:13
You are ten years out. The Story of Luton International Airport was published in 1988 to mark fifty years of licenced flying. The book can be found in Wigmore Library, which is in sight of the airport.

If you PM me with an email address I will send you some aerial shots taken over the years from the late 30's

25th Jan 2008, 20:45
One form the album S/L Tony Cooper.



25th Jan 2008, 21:02
...and one of my own - the Hunting Percival P.74, c1958.

The 'Scrappie' gas-axed the control column off for me while I waited and I strapped it to the cross bar of my bicycle.

I donated it to Newark Air Museum in the early 1970's



25th Jan 2008, 22:24
Obviously a helo, but anyone got any more gen on it ?Did my PPL at Luton in `60, so a bit of a soft spot for it..then, not now ....Syc.

25th Jan 2008, 22:43
Thanks everyone for the feed back.

Does anyone have any more pics ?

if need be anyone can PM me and I can contact back with email.

26th Jan 2008, 06:46

You no doubt had the pleasure of the Fred Pitchin B&B:}
Ahh those breakfasts lovingly cooked by Fag Ash Lil ;)

When Autair moved in 1960 there was a new hanger just built by Macalpines - which is the current Harrods hanger.
Autair had 1/3 fenced off at the non Runway end
No mains electricty but power from a rather magnificent RR diesel Generator.
This was when I learned how to bleed diesels after the run out of fuel:O

Of course we had the Napier Lanc with the wing section on top for de-icing.
It went into the hager sideways on little rail cars:)

26th Jan 2008, 07:16
Thread spread. What happened to the aeroclub? Remember many happy nights there along with bad mornings after, when DA moved the Vomet & 1-11s in. Remember some great wall paintings (I think). Also parties down Brandon (I think) Ave.

26th Jan 2008, 14:59

I fly to LTN quite often those days - it would be great to see some aeral photos from the past. I don't stay at the airport more than 40min normally
:-) but I will try to find the book.
As far as a/c are concern - I'm looking for Tiger Moth wartime pics...

26th Jan 2008, 15:30
1934. Edit (2013 changed to 1936/7)

http://img217.imageshack.us/img217/7231/aerialphoto1934ql0.jpg (http://imageshack.us)


http://img217.imageshack.us/img217/7474/aerialphotolate40snw0.jpg (http://imageshack.us)


http://img240.imageshack.us/img240/10/aerialphoto1960oh1.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

These photos have been on here before but are always worth a second look.

I have more if anyone is interested.

26th Jan 2008, 15:41
Really great!

On 1960 one I can even find runway with B taxiway - am I right?

26th Jan 2008, 15:55
Yep, the end of the trees is where the fire station is. The trees also mark the route of an old country lane that carries on from the crash gate on the south side of the runway. This country lane is now the existing approach road to the terminal. The apron shown is the second and third photos is now stands 10 and 11 which is outside Monarch.

28th Jul 2011, 02:04
Stumbled across your photos of Luton Airport whilst searching for info. on the Napier facility there. I worked for Napier's for two years from mid 1945 to mid 47.
I am particularly interested in your aerial photo taken in 1946 since I was employed by them at that time and perhaps you have more taken in the 1945-47 period.
If possible could you provide me with a print of the 1946 which I will gladly pay you for. Unfortuately I do not have any photographs which I could contribute but if it will help and armed with a clear photo I can identify many of the buildings and features shown including the Italian POW camp at the very top of the shot.
My thanks for taking the time and trouble to post these on the net. Regards, Anthony Marlow, 4 Corbett Ave., St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, L2N 5M4
E-mail. [email protected]

28th Jul 2011, 09:21
Course the real Luton Airport was at Barton-in-the-Clay, just north of the town and home of the Luton series of light aircraft. You can still see some of the old buildings there from the car park of the industrial estate which now occupies the land.
Anybody know the history of this airfield?

28th Jul 2011, 15:49
Diddy1234 regarding publications - there was an edition of Aviation News published in the summer 1988 to mark the 50th anniversary of the airport. I was production manager at the time and remember practically all of the content was taken up the article. It was written by David Gearing who was an ATCO at Luton at the time - sadly he is no longer with us. Unfortunately my copy has ''disappeared'' but you may be able to find one on ebay. If you want any more information please PM me.
Remember those flying club nights oh memories!
Cheers C3B

11th Sep 2011, 21:46
What I have found irritating is the fact that the Google Earth images (present and 1940's) are not quite aligned, so it's difficult to see how the new and the old join together.

So, with the aid of Photoshop, I aligned the images so you can see how LTNmans photos above relate to the present day:


14th Sep 2011, 20:27
I did a Flying Scholarship PPL there in August 1957. Excellent QFI called Ted Sessions, two Tiger Moths G-AORA and G-ANPI, both of which are still around. Excellent Fred Pinchin B&B and nice young ladies from the offices who came up to the airfield to eat their lunches. Gillian Hooper - where are you now?
There was a Canberra with a Napier rocket engine in the bomb bay (Scorpion?). One day it was taking off uphill and on very wet grass and had to fire the engine to get airborne, instead of a test firing planned for some rather higher level!

15th Sep 2011, 09:48
My father did his basic flying training for the Fleet Air Arm at Luton in 1940 on Miles Magisters. He once told me that his abiding memory of Luton was being machine gunned by the Luftwaffe as he went to lunch one day! My dad survived the experience only to be blown up in the Blitz in Portsmouth in late 1940. Ironically it saved his life as he was subsequently invalided out of the service. He was the only survivor of his flying course.

13th Jan 2012, 04:38
Hello everyone,
I decided to do a bit of trawling in order to try to locate some production line photographs of the old Hunting Percival factory at Luton in the period 1959-1964.
I was an apprentice Aircraft Fitter/Rigger there for that period, starting off on Piston Provosts, the odd bit of Prentice/Proctor/Prince work as well as interesting work on Bristol 188 components, experimental work on TSR 2 and the Hunting "Jet Flap" A/C.
With great nostalgia, I have been reading the earlier posts from other interestd parties and I thank you all for your photos amd happy memories.
How I ache with frustration at not having been able to afford a camera in those days on an apprentice pittance but it's all there, inside my head.....even the sounds and the smells.
I spent most of my time in and around the various departments of course but I was, in the main, involved with the Jet Provost Mk.3 and 4.
Then, just before the factory closed, I was working on production of BAC 1-11 wings...which I HATED !!
Out of interest, the rest of my aviation career, has been made up of my serving as a Licensed Engineer (A+C), working for the CAA as an Airworthiness Surveyor in England and Brisbane (Australia-for CASA) and 30 years as a Flight Engineer (CL44's, B.707's, A300's with Laker, TriStars and B.747's with Cathay Pacific Airways).
I also built and flew my own Fieseler Fi156 "Storch" flying replica which some of you may have seen flitting around the place.
Oh well, if any of you do happen to have other memories to share or, specifically, any photographs of "Huntings" in my period, I should be delighted to hear from you, thank you. With best regards, Fizzler.

13th Jan 2012, 21:01
Had many good times at Luton on the ground with Monarch, Air Bridge Carriers, Altair and Air Reps (UK) 1977-1988.
Other airline positions (UK & Australia) with BOAC, TAA, Qantas, American Airlines, Sunstate, Flightwest and Majestic.

Old F86 Aviator
6th Apr 2012, 21:11
I can remember visiting Percivals at the back end of the war and seeing a parachuted land mine hanging inside and from the roof of a hangar. At the time I recall there was a production line fittng Napier Sabre engines into, I believe Tempests. I can also recall flying in a Proctor with the Chief Test Pilot, sitting on many cushions so I could view over the combing! Anyone know the name of the CTP then? Is there any detailed info in the book produced in 1988 of this period.

7th Apr 2012, 08:21
Anyone know the name of the CTP then?I believe the CTP at Percival from 1940 to 1946 was Leonard Turnell Carruthers.

22nd Jul 2013, 00:13
The reference to the land mine hanging in the hangar at Percivals is a story my Dad used to tell. He was on the aircraft production line during the war and when that land mine fell they all spent the night in the shelter whilst they attempted to defuse it...

It turned out that the mine was a dud, compliments of the Norwegan or Dutch resistance (can't remember which) and they left a note in it sending 'greetings to their English friends'.

I came on here trying to find out more about Percivals during the war, hoping to find film or photos. Perhaps the Imperial War Museum might be the best place to look.



23rd Jul 2013, 08:12
Great softback book on the history of Percivals from the archive photograph series compiled by Norman Ellison published by Chalford publishing 1997 ISBN 0 7524 07740. Lots of production line photos of Proctor,Prentice,Provost. Dick Wheldon was one of the test pilots.

23rd Sep 2013, 15:34
Just read your bit on Percivals My father worked at Percivals during the war at Luton airport but I'm not sure what he was working on although I have some recollection that my mother mentioned something about under carriages for Hurricanes. Could this have been possible?

Any info you have would be gratefully received.

24th Sep 2013, 07:33
Hello Nev,
I have just checked the book and sorry no mention of Hurricane undercarriage assemblies being made at Luton . Hopefully another forum member will come up with better news.

24th Sep 2013, 09:18
I can remember cycling to Luton in the mid 1950s and seeing 2 Hoverfly's dumped alongside one of the hangars.I seem to recollect that Napier were there as well.

24th Sep 2013, 11:37
In about 1966, my mum and dad went there to give their pals a lift home. I was 6.

It was dark, and being 'plane mad' I slipped out onto the ramp, and from there onto the airfield.
I walked right out and sat down beside the runway, I waited there until bored, which was quite a while.
Clearly remember seeing lights in the distance, some of which became landing aircraft, but not all. The aircraft were very close when they landed, but I was very small.

Eventually, I returned myself to the terminal.

What a fuss they made, you'd have thought they'd be glad to have me back...:uhoh:

25th Sep 2013, 17:31
Re Post 13 LtnMan;-

Your first photo there is dated '1934'. In 1934, Percival's were still very much at Gravesend. I don't have my archives to hand, but from memory, Percival's moved-up to Luton in 1936/7. Great photos BTW..!


25th Sep 2013, 20:05
Thanks for that. I have a photo taken in 1937 that shows another hangar under construction that is not shown in my first photo so I would say then that this photo was taken in either 1936 or the first half of 1937.

26th Sep 2013, 01:10
Do you happen to know if any images have survived from inside the Percival works during the pre-war years..? It'd be very interesting to see the production of the wooden Gulls, Vegas etc....:)

27th Sep 2013, 05:07
http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c275/ksmithltn/eoz9_zpsud4vxchj.jpg (http://s29.photobucket.com/user/ksmithltn/media/eoz9_zpsud4vxchj.jpg.html)

The fabric and and spray shop at Luton

16th Feb 2015, 18:20
Mention was made of requesting photos of the production lines and I wonder if anyone has knowledge or memories of Chipmunk parts being produced by the Hunting Group in 1949-1951 for both the Hatfield and Chester factories.

I am especially seeking confirmation that fuselages were assembled at Luton
less engines and instruments and then issued to Hatfield for completion.

Many thanks