The land on which Southampton Airport now stands was being used for aviation purposes from about 1909 or 1910 when Edwin Rowland Moon used it to test-fly his Moonbeam planes. During World War One, when it was taken over by the United States military, the site was greatly extended and more and larger hangars were constructed. It was then known as Eastleigh Aerodrome.
In the 1920s the complex were taken over by shipping companies for use as a trans-migrant centre and renamed Atlantic Park. Only a small part of the site was now used for aviation. In 1929 Southampton Corporation purchased the site to create Southampton Municipal Airport, a facility that had a dual civil / miltary role. Vickers (Supermarine) and Cunliffe Owen occupied buildings and tested military aircraft, including the Spitfire, on the site, while civilian flights to the Channel Islands – operated by Jersey Airlines - were inaugurated in 1933. In 1935 an agreement between Southampton Corporation and the Air Ministry led to the establishment of a joint RAF / Fleet Air Arm reconditioning base known as RAF Eastleigh.
In July 1939, just before the beginning of World War Two, the Fleet Air Arm base at Eastleigh was renamed HMS Raven and came under the control of the Admiralty. Also on the site, the Cunliffe Owen factory began manufacturing a range of military aircraft including the Seafire, a naval version of the Spitfire. The airport was bombed ten times by the Luftwaffe, with considerable damage to the factories and buildings in a raid of June 1942.
After the war civilian air services resumed and the aerodrome was renamed Southampton Airport. However, there was a danger that the airport would close altogether because its grass runways were not suitable for the types of civil aircraft then operating and the construction of concrete runways was thought unfeasible. Thanks largely to the perseverance of ex-mayor Reginald James Stranger, the airport was purchased in 1961 by companies owned by J. N. Summers and a concrete runway was constructed in 1966.

see also

Further reading:
‘Centenary of Flight’, by Rachel Reeves, in Fosmag Magazine, No. 67, Autumn 2010, p13-15. (HS/lt)
Southampton (Eastleigh) Airport Official Handbook, 1983-84. (HS/pi)


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