The world has seen many changes since Glasgow Airport opened for commercial business in 1966, not least at the airport itself. But some things never change, and Glasgow’s determination to succeed as a leading Scottish business and leisure airport has been, and remains, a constant driver behind the up-and-coming hub’s success.

NATS has been an integral part of Glasgow Airport’s history – our air traffic controllers have maintained a constant presence at the airfield from the start – and we are proud of the role we have played in supporting the development of Scotland’s second biggest airport, from its early beginnings as a military airfield and wartime base, through the airport’s inaugural commercial flight in May 1966 and privatization in the 1970s, to this Golden Anniversary year in which annual passenger numbers have risen to exceed a record 9 million.

Over the years there have been many highlights including most recently this month’s visit by HRH the Princess Royal. During her visit and site tour, Princess Anne met current and former employees, some of whom worked at the airport when it first opened in 1966, and our controllers stage-managed an impressive low-level fly-past by two Royal Air Force Hawk jets.

This summer the business was crowned Airport Council International’s Best Airport in Europe and Scottish Transport’s Airport of the Year and, with NATS’ ongoing support, Glasgow continues to boost its position as an effective, efficient domestic and international gateway to and from 21st century Scotland.

Perhaps ironically, the long-term resilience of today’s Glasgow Airport was strengthened by a failed terrorist incident in June 2007 when two would-be suicide attackers attempted to drive into the terminal building with makeshift bomb equipment. In the wake of the attack, the speed at which the Glasgow team succeeded in getting operations back up and running bore testament to the hard work and determination shown by all members of staff, and the airport was fully-operational within 24 hours.

Not only that, but the lessons learned during the incident led to world-wide changes in vehicular airport access and, at Glasgow itself, fed into the creation of a comprehensive master plan that would guide airport development into the following decades.

Glasgow is an airport of contrast – its airlines serve destinations large and small, from major hubs across five continents to specialist tourism-driven airports in Europe as well as some of the smallest, most remote airfields in the UK. These contrasts present very specific challenges for the airport team, not least for our air traffic controllers:  at Glasgow Airport it’s situation normal when a controller’s shift includes landing Loganair Twin Otters from the Isle of Barra’s coastal sand-strip airfield shortly followed by a Boeing 777 that’s in daily service for Emirates to and from Dubai.

In April 2014, the airport played host to the world’s largest commercial passenger aircraft, when Emirates landed one of its Airbus A380s at Glasgow to mark the first ten years of the airline’s flights from the airport, which was also visited several times by Concorde.

No surprise, then, that contrast featured large in Glasgow’s 50th anniversary celebrations, in the form of one of the world’s smallest commercial aircraft. The team invited back to the tarmac the Cherokee 6 that in May 1966 was the first aircraft to touch down at the airport – 50 years on the classic plane, now in use as a skydiving aircraft in North Lincolnshire, returned to Glasgow Airport to a fitting bagpipe fanfare.

Here’s to the next 50 years!


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Michael Thomas


Loved the article, especially the part that touched on the attack on 2007. I have had the priviledge of having an amazing career for the last 25 years. Much of the success i have had has been down to the growth the airport has seen over the last 30 years especially. My Glasgow airport taxi businesshas seen at first hand the benefits that this amazing airport has done for the people of Glasgow. Touching on the terror attack, i can remember the people that day and how much they came to together. The bravery the people of Glasgow showed that day will never be forgotten. Congratulations on your continued work with the airport, and as you mentioned here’s to 50 more.


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