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Flight enthusiast looks back on LBIA's growth
It has been a high-flyer since 1931 and shows little sign of slowing down.
And even as it celebrates an 80th birthday, Leeds Bradford International Airport (LBIA) proved it is still capable of lighting up the sky.
A pair of Belgian F16s tore through the air on no less than five occasions in a spectacular flypast to help commemorate the Yeadon site’s landmark birthday.
The planes were able to show off thanks to Ken Cothliff who has penned a book charting LBIA’s history from the humble Yeadon Aerodome in October 1931, to the expanding multi-destination site which is widely regarded as one of the fastest growing airports in the country.
Mr Cothliff’s book, Yeadon Above The Rest, has been launched alongside an photographic exhibition charting LBIA’s rise through the decades.
For Mr Cothliff, 67, the former owner of Yeadon shop Air Supply and organiser of the Elvington Airshow, near York, producing the book during the past five years has been a labour of love.
He chose the name for the book in recognition of LBIA being the highest commercial airport in the country, standing at 681ft above sea level.
“I have tried not only to tell the history of the airport through the aircraft and various organisations, but include the stories of those people involved in the daily life, sometimes with humorous effect,” he said.
“I hope the readers will enjoy the many previously unpublished photographs, many from private collections, and enthusiasts.
“Since moving to Yorkshire in 1989, I’ve been part of the community here in Yeadon and for many years had my shop and got to work alongside a lot of people from the airport. They’ve always been a good bunch of people over the years.
“The only book I’ve ever seen about the history of the airport wasn’t overly accurate and so I wanted to do a good quality book. It’s about the stories of the people and not just the planes which have made it most interesting.
“It’s been good fun researching and that was probably more of a labour of love than writing it.”
The people Mr Cothliff has spoken to during his research include Pamela Langford, now in her 90s, who used to work at the airport when it first opened in 1931 and has raided the archives to find a host of old photos.
Now LBIA employs more than 2,000 people and caters for millions of passengers every year.
Club flying and training flights aboard Cirrus and Gypsy Moth aircraft were the main activities at first, but scheduled air services and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force were quick to follow.
The war years saw a break in civilian flights, but thousands of aircraft, including Lancaster bombers and Anson aircraft, were built at the neighbouring Avro factory.
Civil flights began again after the war and, over the following decades, the airport expanded.
Originally in public ownership, split between West Yorkshire's local authorities, the airport was sold in 2007 to Bridgpoint Capital for almost £150m.
Now there are flights to about 70 destinations in 24 different countries.
Tony Hallwood, LBIA’s commercial and aviation development director, was on hand to officially open the exhibition, which will be in the food court on the first floor until the end of the year, and thanked Mr Cothliff for his book, which had backing from LBIA.
He said Mr Cothliff’s book detailed the great past belonging to the airport and believes it will have a fine future too.
“It’s important to realise what a fantastic plus this airport is for this great region of ours,” Mr Hallwood said.
“But it’s not just about the last 80 years, but also to set the standard for the next decade and make sure LBIA is truly one of the airport greats by 2020.
“We are very proud and we believe both Leeds and Bradford should be very, very proud of what has been achieved here and the potential of moving forward.”
However, for many people the highlight of the day was the flypast, which was described by some as sounding like “the sky was being ripped in half”.
Mr Cothliff thanked the F16 pilots and said they had been happy to fly thanks to the old 609 Squadron based at the airport in World War Two.
Alongside the exhibition, LBIA is showcasing a historic mahogany and brass Rolls-Royce propeller from a Blackburn Kangaroo aircraft which flew the first scheduled flight from Leeds to London in 1919. The propeller has been loaned by Multiflight.
To order, Yeadon Above the Rest, call Croft Publications on 01423 322558 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call Ken Cothliff on 0113 250 9524 or e-mail email@example.com.