Anyone interested in the history of civil aviation was provided with a real treat on BBC 4 recently. The three part series The Secret Life of the Airport documents the rise of mass air travel, starting with a look at the advent of commercial air travel which was taken up enthusiastically by the relatively well off, through to the dropping of prices and the rise of mass air tourism, with 44 public airports now in use in Britain.
The series, which includes some wonderful rare archive footage, looks at how the system of airports developed in Britain, and how they have transformed people’s attitudes towards travel and made long distance travel more widely available.
The first part in the series is Preparing for Take Off which starts with the opening of Britain’s first airport terminal designed for the paying passenger at Croydon in 1920. The footage of the early days at Croydon shows a very sedate scene with well-dressed people being weighed, and there are also interesting interviews with people who worked there at that time. The first commercial flights were from Croydon to Paris, and flying saved people a lot of valuable time.
Preparing for Take Off is followed by Joining the Jet Set which looks at the early years of jet travel, and those who had the resources to use it. The last episode in the series is The Final Approach, which takes us from the relatively relaxed airports of the 1960’s to the high security procedures that we have in place today.
When this series is shown again, be sure to catch it, either on your telly, or on the BBC iPlayer. Otherwise, you can always take a look over at YouTube.