History & RAF Chapel
Over the past 40 years, this famous Airport has steadily changed from being a busy RAF base into a commercial regional airport. The historic ties are remembered annually at the RAF Chapel which is open to the public.
Below is a summary of the history since it opened in 1917 as a communications base is as follows:-
Existing north-east south-west runway opened.
Battle of Britain air station with Spitfires and Hurricanes.
Front line RAF Station with squadrons of jet fighters.
Following closure of Croydon Airport, started as a civil airport with HM Immigration and Customs Port of Entry, with light aircraft training and some commercial passenger and cargo flights.
Acquired by Bromley Council from the RAF for £480,000 in total (£3,342,000 at today’s prices) with a commitment to remain open as an airport. Light aircraft, flying training, commercial passenger and cargo flights increased.
Operated by the Council as a civil airport with up to 200,000 light aircraft flights per annum. Commercial, scheduled and/or charter passenger flights permitted.
The Council introduced Airports UK, an airport management company, in a bid to increase revenues, but under a legal clause in their agreement, the Council banned them from permitting scheduled passenger flights altogether. Charter flights were still permitted and members of the public still had the freedom to buy tickets to fly on them.
With financial pressure to invest more and more ratepayers’ money to meet repairs and operating costs, the Council reversed its decision on scheduled flights in 1991 and actively supported new passenger services. The first regular flights on which the public could buy tickets were to Carlisle and Le Touquet, with services to Manchester, Paris and many other cities planned.
Unfortunately the measures to increase regular public transport flights did not resolve the financial difficulties of the Airport quickly.
The Council was then prevented by Government policy from spending more ratepayers’ money on repairs, equipment and running costs, so it sold the Airport business ‘as a going concern’ to London Biggin Hill Airport Limited (BHAL). The Airfield was leased for 125 years, on condition that all future costs and repairs would be borne by BHAL, with rent and a share of the profits going to the Council each year.
Visit the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar website