London Southend Airport (IATA: SEN, ICAO: EGMC) is an international airport in the district of Rochford within Essex, England, approximately 42 miles (68 km) from the centre of London.
During the 1960s, Southend was London's third-busiest airport. It remained London's third-busiest airport in terms of passengers handled until the end of the 1970s, when the role of "London's third airport" passed to Stansted. Following its purchase by Stobart Group in 2008, a development programme provided a new terminal and control tower, extended runway, and connection to central London via the regular rail service running between Liverpool Street Station & Southend Airport Station on the Shenfield-Southend line, continuing on to Southend Victoria.
EasyJet began operating services by opening a base at Southend in April 2012 and Irish carrier Aer Lingus Regional began regular flights to Dublin in May, resulting in a rapid increase in airport passenger numbers to 617,027 during 2012; 721,661 passengers used the airport in 12 months following the start of these services, with 969,912 in 2013, and 1,102,358 in 2014, though 2015 saw a decline in passenger numbers to 900,648 and 2016 continued the decline with 874,000 passengers. The airport operator hopes to increase passenger numbers to two million per year by 2020.
The airport is located between Rochford and Southend town centres, 1.5 NM (2.8 km; 1.7 mi) north of Southend, in the county of Essex, 36 miles (58 km) east of central London. It has a single 1,856 metres (6,089 ft) long asphalt runway on a south-west/north-east axis and is capable of handling aircraft of up to Boeing 757 size. The airport is not capable of handling wide-body aircraft.
The current terminal was completed in February 2012. The terminal has since been extended by 90 metres, almost tripling the facility in size. The former terminal now provides facilities for the handling of executive aircraft, with business lounge and conference rooms, plus flight briefing facilities for pilots and a security checkpoint.
A four-star Holiday Inn hotel adjacent to the airport entrance opened on 1 October 2012; owned by the Stobart Group it has the only rooftop restaurant in Essex.
London Southend has been voted the best airport in Britain for three consecutive years by consumer group Which? in August 2013, August 2014, and again in September 2015.
Southend Airport handles mainly scheduled passenger, charter and business flights, cargo flights, pilot training (in both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters) and recreational flying. The airport is run by London Southend Airport Co Ltd, which employs over 150 people directly. Due to expansion, there were over 500 more people working at the airport in summer 2012 compared with summer 2011.
Southend Airport has a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Ordinary Licence that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee (London Southend Airport Company Limited).
Southend Airport has an excellent weather record and is used by airlines as a diversion alternative when adverse weather or incidents close other London airports.
Aircraft ground handling is provided by the airport-owned Southend Handling, who can also assist companies, groups or individuals in chartering aircraft to or from the airport.
Companies located within the airport boundary employ over 800 workers, providing services such as engineering and maintenance work on airliners, including respraying, refurbishment, upgrades to avionics, manufacture of aircraft seats and the installation of new or hush-kitted engines.
Heavy maintenance hangars for aircraft up to Boeing 757 and Airbus A321 size are available. ATC Lasham was the major engineering company at the airport until entering administration in October 2015, the main hangar dating back to Aviation Traders Engineering Limited (ATEL) – founded by the late Sir Freddie Laker – later on used by Heavylift Engineering. Airport based aviation engineering and maintenance companies include Aero Partners, Aircare Ltd (a subsidiary of Avionicare), Air Livery (aircraft re-finishing), Avionicare, Inflite Engineering (previously World Aviation Support and BAF Engineering), IPECO (formerly Benson-Lund), Isenburg Engineering, JOTA Aviation and JRB Aviation.
The airfield was established by the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. It was the largest flying ground in Essex, with the greatest number of units. In May 1915 the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) took over until 4 June 1916, when it became RFC Rochford. It was designated as night fighter station and many sorties were flown against Zeppelin airship raiders, including LZ38 on 31 May 1915. In 1920, the station closed and reverted to farmland for a while.
The airport was officially opened as a municipal airport on 18 September 1935 by the Under-Secretary of State for Air, Sir Philip Sassoon, who arrived in his de Havilland Leopard Moth.
In 1939, the Air Ministry requisitioned the airfield and it was known as RAF Rochford during World War II as a satellite airfield. During World War II, it became a base for fighter squadrons comprising Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes as well as Bristol Blenheims. Many of the 50 pillboxes that were designed to protect the airport from paratroop landings still survive, as does the underground defence control room, which is near to Southend Flying Club. A further 20 or so pillboxes also remain in the surrounding countryside. Canewdon, 2 miles (3 km) north-east of the airport, was the location of one of the World War II Chain Home radar stations. The 360-foot (110 m) high transmitter tower at Canewdon was relocated to the Marconi works at Great Baddow in the 1950s.
In 1993, after the airport had been making losses for many years, Southend Borough Council sold the airport to Regional Airports Ltd (RAL), operator of Biggin Hill Airport. London Southend Airport Co Ltd was formed to operate the airport which was re-branded as "London Southend Airport" with the term "Municipal" dropping from the title. The previous losses were turned into small profits for majority of tenure by RAL.
The largest aircraft ever to land at the Airport was in November 1998 when a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar of Irish airline Aer Turas arrived for scrapping at the airport.
In 2001, a debate centred on the possible relocation of Grade 1 listed St Laurence and All Saints Church further away from the side of the main runway. The proposal was dropped after the planning application was rejected by Southend Council in 2003, and a compromise scheme was implemented resulting in the installation of new barriers across Eastwoodbury Lane and requiring slightly shorter licensed runway lengths once safety areas had been added. These changes allowed passenger flights to be restarted, however the runway length still largely curtailed the potential range and payloads for passenger flights, and scheduled airline utilisation was low until the March 2012 runway extension opened.
Flightline was an airline formed in 1989 headquartered at Southend, where they also had a maintenance/engineering base for their own and third party aircraft. They mainly operated British Aerospace 146 aircraft on ad-hoc charters, and an Avro RJ100 regional jet with which they operated a regular service between Southend and Cologne from 7 June 2006 to 1 December 2008 on behalf of Ford Motor Company as a corporate shuttle. Flightline went into administration on 3 December 2008.
In January 2008, Regional Airports Ltd put the airport up for sale.
Flybe operated a once weekly summer-only service to Jersey using Dash 8 aircraft, ending in 2011.
The airport was bought on 2 December 2008 by the Stobart Group for £21 million, becoming part of the Stobart Air division of the Stobart Group, which also operates Carlisle Airport.
Following council consultation with the local population, a planning application extending the usable runway length by 300 m (984 ft) to 1,799 m (5,902 ft), and providing upgraded navigational and lighting aids, was submitted to Southend Borough Council 13 October 2009. Planning permission was granted by Southend Borough Council 20 January 2010. Initially subject to an Article 14 Direction, after due consideration by the Government this was withdrawn 19 March 2010, meaning it would not be subject to a Public Inquiry. A Section 106 agreement was entered into between the airport and local councils.
On 1 June 2010, Stobart Group took a £100 million loan from M & G Investments, partly in order to fund the airport construction. In July 2010, an application for a judicial review of the planning application was filed, which was dismissed on 2 February 2011. On 23 September 2010, the airport received the Airport Achievement Award 2010/11 from the European Regions Airline Association.
A replacement air traffic control tower became operational on 21 March 2011. The return of year round daily passenger services came in March 2011, when Aer Arann commenced services to Galway and Waterford in Ireland.
EasyJet announced a ten-year agreement with Stobart Group in June 2011, and in April 2012 commenced around 70 flights per week from Southend, using three Airbus A319 aircraft based at the airport, flying to eight European destinations.
A new on-site rail station opened 18 July 2011, (the official opening by Minister for Transport Theresa Villiers MP was on 21 September 2011), and a new road opened 1 September 2011, replacing Eastwoodbury Lane that lay in the path required for the runway extension.
A new terminal was built by Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd during 2011 and opened 28 February 2012 (the official opening was by The Right Honourable Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Transport on 5 March 2012). The original terminal has been redeveloped for use by private jets, with Stobart Air having invested half a million pounds turning it into an executive business lounge.
The extended runway opened 8 March 2012, with Category I ILS on both ends of the runway.
In spring 2014 Stobart Air, at the time an airline 45% (now 100%) owned by the same company as Southend Airport, announced that it had agreed a 5-year franchise agreement with Flybe which would see two Flybe branded aircraft based at Southend operating six routes from summer 2014. On 18 January 2015, two routes were terminated with the Flybe/Stobart franchise operation reduced to one aircraft.
On 7 April 2014, the extension to the passenger terminal was formally opened by Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport.
On 25 November 2015, it was announced that the Government would provide modest funding for a new route from Southend Airport to Carlisle Airport. No formal announcement has been made as to when such a route will start.
The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights at London Southend Airport:
Since 2011, the airport has its own railway station near the terminal building, Southend Airport railway station on the Shenfield to Southend Line, which is served by Abellio Greater Anglia connecting the airport to Liverpool Street station in London up to 8 times per hour and Southend Victoria railway station in the other direction respectively. The journey to London takes approx. 53 minutes.
The airport can be reached within 30 minutes from Junction 29 at M25 via the A127. The airport is served by buses operated by Arriva Southend from the airport entrance to Southend (7, 8 and 9), Rochford (7 and 8), Ashingdon (7), Hawkwell (8), Hockley (7 and 8), Eastwood (9) and Rayleigh (7, 8 and 9). First Essex operates route X30 from the terminal to Chelmsford and Stansted Airport. On 11 February 1944, Boeing B-17 42-31694 of the USAAF (511th BS) crash-landed and burned out at Southend, after receiving battle damage on a raid on Frankfurt.
On 11 May 1944, B17G 42-107147 of the USAAF (360BS) made an emergency wheels-up landing with heavy flak damage after a mission to Saarbrücken.
On 12 July 1957, a Lockheed Constellation of TWA made an emergency landing whilst routeing from Frankfurt to Heathrow, with one engine on fire.
On 28 July 1959, an East Anglian Flying Services Vickers 614 Viking 1 (registration: G-AHPH) was written off in a landing accident. On approach the aircraft's right-hand main gear indicator showed that the gear was unsafe. An emergency landing was made on the grass parallel to the runway. The right gear collapsed and the aircraft swung to the right, damaging it beyond repair. None of the 39 occupants were injured.
On 9 October 1960, a Handley Page Hermes of Falcon Airways (registration: G-ALDC) overran the runway on landing, ending up across the Shenfield to Southend railway line. The aircraft was written off but all 76 people on board survived.
On 3 May 1967, a Vickers Viscount of Channel Airways (registration: G-AVJZ) was written off when a propeller was feathered on take-off. Two people on the ground were killed.
On 4 May 1968, a Vickers Viscount of Channel Airways (registration: G-APPU) overran the runway having landed at too high a speed. The aircraft was written off.
On 3 June 1971, a Douglas DC-3 of Moormanair (registration: PH-MOA) returned for an emergency landing with one engine partially failed, shortly after departure to the Netherlands carrying supporters of Ajax Football Club. It overran on landing, colliding with an earth bank at the end of the runway and slightly injuring 2 of the 32 passengers on board.
On 4 October 1974 at 20:01 local time, the flight engineer of a DAT Douglas DC-6 (registered OO-VGB) decided to retract the nose gear during take-off even though the aircraft had not yet lifted off, which happened due to a communication error with the pilots. The airplane slid along the runway, during which it was damaged beyond repair. 99 passengers had been on board the flight to Antwerp, one of whom was severely injured (another four received minor injuries from evacuating the aircraft). The six crew members remained uninjured.
On 9 March 1986, a Vickers Viscount (registration: G-BLNB) made a wheels up landing, the landing gear warning horn not having functioned correctly. There were no injuries to the 3 occupants; after repair the aircraft was returned to service.
On 12 September 1988, a Beechcraft 200 (registration: G-WSJE) carrying newspapers crash landed at night into Mac's Garage on the Eastwood Road. The pilot, 33-year-old Hugh Forrester Brown from nearby Canewdon, was thought to have attempted to crash land on the road after take-off, but was unable to and crashed into the uninhabited garage.
On 11 January 1988, a Vickers Viscount of British Air Ferries (registration: G-APIM) was damaged beyond economic repair when it was in a ground collision with a Fairflight Short 330 (registration: G-BHWT). The BAF Viscount was subsequently repaired and donated to Brooklands Museum for preservation.
On 6 March 1997, a Piper PA-34 Seneca (registration: G-NJML) flying a charter taking aircraft spare parts to Ostend, crashed 3.5 miles to the north-east of the airport whilst attempting to return following the failure of the Gyroscope in the aircraft's Attitude indicator. One of the two occupants was killed, the other seriously injured.
A British United Air Ferries Carvair is seen transporting Auric Goldfinger and his car in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger from Southend Airport to Geneva. In the scene, filmed in 1963, Sean Connery as Bond drives his Aston Martin DB5 into Southend Airport (having tracked Goldfinger's Rolls Royce to the airport), and takes it to Switzerland in pursuit of Goldfinger via the Carvair service.
The airport also appears in the 2001 film Mike Bassett: England Manager. It is shown when the team emerge to joyous crowds upon their arrival from the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.