Last Thursday dispirited by continuous job hunting, I took a day off and headed out with my camera. The day before Ginny had been for a meeting near Stansted so it was here I decide to head. I love planes and for a change, it gave me something else to photograph. The airfield opened in 1943 and was used during the Second World War as RAF Stansted Mountfitchet by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces as a bomber airfield and as a major maintenance depot. Although the official name was Stansted Mountfitchet, the base was known as simply Stansted in both written and spoken form.
After the withdrawal of the Americans on 12 August 1945, Stansted was taken over by the Air Ministry and used by No. 263 Maintenance Unit, RAF for storage purposes. In addition, between March 1946 and August 1947, Stansted was used for housing German prisoners of war.The Ministry of Civil Aviation finally took control of Stansted in 1949 and the airport was then used as a base by several UK charter airlines. The US military returned in 1954 to extend the runway for a possible transfer to NATO. The transfer to NATO was never realised, however, and the airport continued in civil use, ending up under BAA control in 1966.
During the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s the Fire Service Training School (FSTS) was based on the eastern side of the airfield under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, now the Civil Aviation Authority. The school was responsible for the training of all aviation fire crews for British airfields as well as those of many overseas countries.Beginning in 1966, after Stansted was placed under BAA control, the airport was used by holiday charter operators wishing to escape the higher costs associated with operating from Heathrow and Gatwick. From the outset, however, BAA and the British government planned to develop Stansted into London’s third airport, to relieve Heathrow and Gatwick of excess congestion in the future. The airport’s first terminal building opened in 1969 and was expanded the next year to handle the growing number of passengers.
In 1984, the government approved a plan to develop Stansted in two phases, involving both airfield and terminal improvements that would increase the airport’s capacity to 15 million passengers per year. Construction of the current terminal building began in 1988 and was completed in March 1991, and was designed by the internationally acclaimed Lord Foster. At the time it was the most modern airport complex in the world and cost £100 million. Long-haul scheduled services commenced in the early 1990s when American Airlines operated a transatlantic service between Stansted and Chicago, however the route was unprofitable and was withdrawn in 1993. Continental Airlines also operated services in the late 1990s from Newark, but this service was stopped shortly after the 11 September 2001 attacks.
Long-haul services to the USA returned in late 2005, however finally, in July 2008 American Airlines withdrew from the airport, spelling the end of Stansted transatlantic passenger operations.In November 2006 Uttlesford District Council rejected a BAA planning application to increase the permitted number of aircraft movements and to remove the limit on passenger numbers. BAA immediately appealed against the decision and a public inquiry opened lasting from May until October 2007. In 2008 57 people were arrested after Plane Stupid, the environmental activist group, broke through the barriers and created a ‘stockade’ on a taxiway which resulted in 52 flights being cancelled.
In recent times too, a protest group has developed Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) is a pressure group established in 2002. It was originally a working group of the North West Essex and East Herts Preservation Association, in response to the Government’s consultation on expanding UK airports and, particularly, expansion plans for Stansted Airport defined in 2001. It has around 7,500 members and registered online supporters and its campaign director is Carol Barbone. The group’s objective is to “restrict the development of Stansted Airport within tight limits that are truly sustainable and, in this way, to protect the quality of life of its supporters over wide areas of Essex, Hertfordshire and Suffolk, to preserve local heritage and to protect the natural environment.”
In 2014 Stansted’s reputation was again grabbing the headlines a typical review of the airport from a man called James said :
” What was once a simple and pleasant airport has now been totally ruined by the new management. I travelled through Stansted mid-August 2014 and expected it to be busy, but it was worse than I had expected. Firstly, I queued for some time to drive into the airport at 5am (parking was straightforward once I got to the car park). Then inside the terminal things got worse. Departures/Security had moved to the far end of the terminal and looked like a temporary, dull area. Hundreds of people crammed into three disorganised queues. Once through that nightmare, onwards into the maze-like and even cramped shop. I was in no relaxed mood to shop by this stage. Then into the terminal lounge, which resembled a refugee camp. The two-way flight with Ryanair was pleasant though! When I returned a couple of days later, it took ages to transit from the gate to the terminal where I was met with more chaos. 15 ePassport gates were situated “for our speedy convenience” but not all were functioning and only one member of staff was able to assist those (and there were many) who had problems. When I got through this, I literally ran out of the airport to my car and accelerated away as fast as I could! I provided Stansted with my experience/feedback but I’ve heard nothing back from them. My sympathy goes to Norman Foster who never planned for his design to be treated in such a shocking, chaotic, cramped and stressful mess. Good bye Stansted, as I’ll never use you again ! ”
Another from a woman called Susan said almost the same :
” Well, I chose a cheap flight and I can honestly say I will never fly via Stanstead aorport ever again for any reason! It was filled with rude staff, who treated everyone like sheep and a problem. It was overcrowded disorganised and not at all customer friendly. For no reason on earth would I ever need to pass through this airport and I would rather pay the difference and fly via anywhere else.”