Scotland’s busiest airport that just ‘disappeared’

The new terminal at Renfrew Airport was opened in 1954 but was not big enough to cope with rapidly growing passenger numbers. PIC: Contributed.
The new terminal at Renfrew Airport was opened in 1954 but was not big enough to cope with rapidly growing passenger numbers. PIC: Contributed.
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It was hailed as one of the most modern airports in the world with paparazzi crowding its runways to snap royalty, footballers and celebrities as they landed in Scotland.

But Renfrew Airport, once the country’s busiest airport which handled up to 400 passengers and hour, was simply unable to cope with the rapid growth in air travel and closed down in 1966.

Passengers checking in at the new Renfrew Airport terminal in 1954. PIC:TSPL.

Passengers checking in at the new Renfrew Airport terminal in 1954. PIC:TSPL.

Airlines switched business to Glasgow Airport a mile and a half to the west and Renfrew was gradually built over.

The M8 motorway was constructed along the line of the main runway and a Tesco now stands on the site of the former terminal building.

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Flying began in the Moorpark area of Renfrew around 1910, with the flat fields a perfect environment to practice take off and landings.

Boxer Sonny Liston tries the bagpipes at Renfrew Airport in 1963. PIC: TSPL.

Boxer Sonny Liston tries the bagpipes at Renfrew Airport in 1963. PIC: TSPL.

Moorpark Aerodrome was formed in 1914 by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), the forerunner to the RAF, with the Ministry of Munitions creating an airfield here following WWI to test aircraft manufactured in Glasgow by companies such as Weir of Cathcart.

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The first passenger flight took off from Renfrew on April 27, 1933 to Campbeltown following an experimental newspaper delivery service that began earlier that month.

Flights to Islay and Skye followed - the latter landing on the beach at Glenbrittle - with services to London (Romford) and Belfast also scheduled.

An aerial view of Renfrew Airport. The M8 now follows the line of the main runway. PIC: Contributed.

An aerial view of Renfrew Airport. The M8 now follows the line of the main runway. PIC: Contributed.

The Scottish Air Ambulance was also forged at the airport following a rescue flight from Renfrew to Islay to bring a fisherman, who was suffering from peritonitis, to hospital on the mainland in May 1933.

By 1950, Renfrew was the busiest airport in Scotland and the third busiest in the UK. Prestwick was fifth.

It was becoming clear that the growth of air travel was squeezing Renfrew with the airports physical location making it hard to expand.

A new terminal building was constructed at Renfrew in 1954 at a cost of £200,000 to increase its capacity with the airport to handle around 250,000 passengers during that year.

Celtic FC team boarding their plane at Renfrew airport on their way to Budapest for their game against MTK in April 1964. PIC: TSPL.

Celtic FC team boarding their plane at Renfrew airport on their way to Budapest for their game against MTK in April 1964. PIC: TSPL.

The mini-expansion was not enough to save Renfrew and the building lasted little more than a decade given the popularity of air travel and the growth in package holidays.

The dining room at Renfrew Airport. PIC: TSPL.

The dining room at Renfrew Airport. PIC: TSPL.

Renfrew Airport hanger and BEA Viking. PIC : TSPL.

Renfrew Airport hanger and BEA Viking. PIC : TSPL.

Home Secretary Sir Alec Douglas Home arrives at Renfrew Airport in 1962 to attend the Woodside by-election count. PIC TSPL.

Home Secretary Sir Alec Douglas Home arrives at Renfrew Airport in 1962 to attend the Woodside by-election count. PIC TSPL.

Musicians with the Scottish National Orchestra head to an Orkney flight at Renfrew Airport in 1960. PIC: TSPL.

Musicians with the Scottish National Orchestra head to an Orkney flight at Renfrew Airport in 1960. PIC: TSPL.