Belfast International Airport History

Welcome to Belfast International Airport. Let's step back in time with some airport history facts, figures and famous people!

Fun facts about Belfast Airport:

  • When it was built, Belfast International Airport was originally called Aldergrove
  • The site dates back to 1917 as an airport
  • Belfast is the second largest airport in Ireland
  • Over 5 million passengers travel through every year
  • Famous passengers include the Beatles in 1964

So how did it all begin? 1917 - 1946

historic plane at Belfast in the early 1920s


Aldergrove was selected to be the Royal Flying Corps training establishment during the First World War.


After World War I, Aldergrove remained open for Royal Air Force aircraft and for the fledgeling civil traffic to and from Northern Ireland.


Royal visitors, King George V and Queen Mary visited Northern Ireland. It was quite the affair, with aircraft landing at Belfast (then called Aldergrove) with cameramen and reporters and returned to London with newsreel films and photographs of the event.


This year saw Northern Ireland's own Special Reserve unit No 502 (Ulster) Squadron RAF formed at Aldergrove.


Northern Ireland's first regular civil air service started in 1933 with a Glasgow to Aldergrove route operated by Midland and Scottish Air Ferries.


By 1934, Aldergrove was Northern Ireland's civil airport and this year saw the first London service begin to Nutts Corner. The flight flew from Croydon, via Birmingham and Manchester to Belfast and was operated by Railway Air Services.


During the Second World War, Aldergrove remained an airbase. After the war civil flights were moved back to Aldergrove due to less variable weather conditions than at Nutts Corner.

Aldergrove to Belfast International. The 1960s - 1980s

The beatles at Belfast Airport in the 60s


Operations by the 1960s were transferred to Aldergrove and the first passenger flight to land was a BEA Viscount from Manchester. In October this year HRH Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother reopened Aldergrove as a civil airport and introduced the terminal building.


On their tour of the UK, the Beatles came through Belfast

International and caused quite a stir!


The first regular jet service began in 1966 with a British United BAC 1-11 to Gatwick. By 1969 annual passengers at the airport had reached 1 million.


The Minister of Development announced an expansion plan for the airport to cope with the increased passenger numbers. It cost £3 million.


The airport became officially known as Belfast International in the early 1980s, having been referred to as Aldergrove up until now.

The beginning of the Millennium and beyond. The 1990s onwards

UAE Dubai Expo plane landing at Belfast Intl.


Famous passengers, President Bill Clinton and first lady, Hillary Clinton via an official Air Force One.


The Concorde visited on its farewell tour.


Belfast International Airport is the principal gateway to the north of Ireland and sees over 5 million passengers through the terminal each year.