After supporting Britain’s aviation industry for over 100 years, Bristol’s Filton Airport in South Gloucestershire, UK, is now closed to all but the emergency services’ helicopters. The airport’s land is due to be redeveloped for housing.
Due to its manufacturing history Filton had one of the largest runways in the UK, measuring 8,094ft (2,746m) x 300ft (91m). It was the British manufacturing site for the Anglo-French supersonic Concorde airliner during the 1960s and 70s.
Today, wings for Airbus’ A380s continue to be manufactured at the factory site but the finished items are now moved to the company’s final assembly plant in Toulouse by surface transport rather than the Beluga freight aircraft that were previously used.
Two noteable events took place in the airport’s final week. On December 18, three days before the airfield closed, Airbus sent one of its A380 development aircraft to Filton to give some of its employees an opportunity to fly in the aircraft. By coincidence, on the same day, a World War Two-era Spitfire made its first flight from the airfield after a 36-year restoration programme.
Filton closed because its owner, BAE Systems, determined that its operation was economically unviable. Though the local air ambulance and police helicopters will continue to use the airfield for the time being, the site has been sold to property developer Bridgehouse Capital Limited and looks set to have 2,500 homes built upon it.
Though the final flights took place from Filton on December 21, the airfield site officially closes on December 31. It is barely a year since the southwest of England lost another civil-operated airfield as Plymouth City Airport, Devon, closed on December 23, 2011.
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