The history of this Airport is fascinating and on this page we will try to give information on some of the events and facts that makes Barton Aerodrome/City Airport such an interesting historical site.
The concept of creating a civic Airport for Manchester can be traced to a time after the end of World War One, however the green light for an airport was not given until after a dinner at the Midland Hotel, in Manchester, on the 27th January 1928 that was attended by Sir Sefton Brancker (who at that time was the Director of Civil Aviation) together with local Councillors and business men.
From the above meeting an Airport Committee was formed and eventually agreed to use the site at Barton Moss which was owned by the Manchester Corporation Cleansing Department. This enabled a straightforward transfer of the land to the Airport Committee towards the end of 1928.
For the next year considerable efforts were made to improve the land so that it was capable of withstanding aircraft landing and taxying on it – up to 300 tons of clinker per week was used for this as well as dust and ash. During this time the hangar was constructed (see the Buildings page of this website for more information on this) and the site was ready for inspection by the year end.
The first aircraft to “officially” land at Barton, on the 4th Janaury 1930, was an Avro Avian piloted by Captain A N Kingwall. This belonged to Northern Airlines, who had been retained to manage the airport. It is believed that a number of aircraft did land here during 1929, whilst the airport was being completed.
The Airport was officially opened on Wednesday 29th January 1930 by the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Normal Barkey. Also present was the Airport Committee Chairman, Alderman Davey, plus a number of dignitaries from surrounding towns. After the opening there was an airport tour followed by a short flying display.
In May that year Imperial Airways started a Croydon-Birmingham-Manchester-Liverpool service, the first service had the Prime Minister, Ramsey McDonald, on board and he had lunch at Barton before heading off for Scotland.
On 23rd January 1934 a visit to the Airport was made the Dutch Airline KLM to determine if it was a possible site for their operations. Sadly for Manchester, the comments from the pilot, Captain Ivan Smirnoff, were not favourable with the soft-ground, obstacles and bad visibility from fog or smog leading to KLM selecting Liverpool for their service. Based on these findings the Manchester Corporation decided to proceed with a new airport at Ringway to the south of the city, this decision being taken in September 1934.
However, the loss of the KLM service allowed Hillman Airways to commence a route, on 17th June 1935, from Hull to Belfast through Manchester and Liverpool. Barton also continued to attract large crowds for the annual Empire Air Day show and displays by the Alan Cobham team.
In 1937 Airwork Ltd took on the training of pilots for the No.17 Elementary & Reserve Flying School at Barton using De Havilland Gipsy Moths. Susequently, in 1938 Airwork took over the management of the Airport.
In 1939 the Aerodrome was commandeered by the War Office. During the war many aircraft were transported to Barton for repair and subsequent return to service. In addition many brand new aircraft were assembled at the Airfield and first flown, these included over 700 Percival Proctors, and some Fairey Barracudas. After the war Fairey broke up a number of Swordfish aircraft here.
In 1946 Barton Aerodrome was returned the Manchester Corporation and the Lancashire Aero Club, that had operated from Woodford prior to the war, was reformed here. Between 1951 and 1953 the Manchester University Air Squadron was based at Barton, before moving to Woodvale. In 1961 the Lancashire Aero Club took over the control of the Aerodrome.
In 2003, Manchester Ship Canal Developments was formed as a joint venture between the Council and the Peel Holdings Group (which was the majority shareholder) and they purchased the land, hangars and other buildings from the Manchester City Council. The Management of the Aerodrome was moved to Barton Aerodrome Operations, a company run by the Lancashire Aero Club.
During 2007 the Aero Club left Barton and the Aerodrome operations were taken over by City Airport Manchester Ltd, a subsidiary of Peel Holdings.
Today the Airport is a major centre for recreational aviation, with a number of flying schools offering training courses for various fixed wing, flex-wing, helicopter and gyrocopter aircraft. Many privately owned aircraft are based at Barton and these are flown by individuals or small groups of enthusiasts.
One of the important aims of the Friends of Barton Aerodrome is to preserve and promote the heritage of the Airport. We hope that you have found the above, brief history, informative. We are always interested to hear more about the history of the Airport and we welcome contributions for our records. If you have any information or photographs that you think would be of interest to us, please contact us at the following e-mail address: