Gatwick Airport


Duration:3 years


Country: Crawley, UK

What did this project achieve?

Build and develop an airport to serve the south east of England

Gatwick Airport is the second busiest airport in the UK. It’s used by 56 airlines flying to 230 destinations in 70 countries.

The airport opened as an aerodrome in the late 1920s with commercial flights beginning in 1933. Since then, Gatwick has grown into a major international hub. It now has two terminals (North Terminal and South Terminal) and a main runway, which is 3,316m long and 45m wide.

Gatwick is considered the first truly integrated airport. Its original circular terminal building - known as the Beehive – opened in 1936.

The modern Gatwick became operational in 1958.

The site had been closed for eight years of construction work following its official designation as London’s second airport.

The redesigned and rebuilt site had a new terminal (now South Terminal) and a new railway station.

The North Terminal was added in the 1980s along with a new control tower – the tallest in the UK at the time.

In 2014, Gatwick handled a record-breaking 906 aircraft movements in one day, with an aircraft taking off or landing every 63 seconds. It was the first time a single-runway commercial airport had seen so much traffic in a day.

Difference the project has made

Gatwick is a major economic driver for the UK. It’s credited with contributing £1.6bn to the nation’s finances every year.

The airport is an important local employer – 30,000 people work on site across 252 companies. Gatwick employs 3,000 people directly, and 12,000 people indirectly.

As well as acting as London’s second airport, Gatwick connects the south east with destinations around the world.

How the work was done

Gatwick’s Beehive building - one of the airport’s earliest structures - is acknowledged as a groundbreaking example of design and civil engineering.

Opened in 1936, the circular building was the brainchild of airport owner Morris Jackaman and brought all the functions of an airport under a single roof. It contained a control tower and weather station, as well as a restaurant and offices.

The interior consisted of concentric rings of rooms and offices with corridors between them. The idea was to keep arriving and departing passengers separate.

Engineers built the Beehive on a concrete frame reinforced with steel. Inside walls were made of bricks. It’s seen as a good example of the 1930s trend to use concrete to give buildings a ‘modern’ look.

Often described as revolutionary, the structure is seen as the UK’s first integrated airport building.

The Beehive was given Grade 2* listed status in 1996.


[They’re] the latest demonstration of Gatwick’s importance as a vital piece of UK infrastructure

Stewart Wingate

Gatwick CEO, on results showing the 60th consecutive month of profit growth at the airport, March 2018

Fascinating facts

Gatwick’s most popular destination in 2017 was Barcelona - 1.5m people travelled to the Spanish city. Dublin came second, with Malaga third.

Its top long-haul destinations are San Francisco, Cape Town, Hong Kong and Fort Lauderdale.

The busiest airline based at Gatwick is Easyjet – it carried 18.4m passengers in 2017.

The airport was the first in the world to have a direct mainline train link with a dedicated railway station.

People who made it happen

  • Original client: Morris Jackaman, who created the airport and commissioned the Beehive
  • The Beehive was designed by architects Hoar, Marlow and Lovett
  • Engineers Alfred McAlpine ran the 1958 redevelopment of the airport

More about this project

Explore more civil engineering projects

I want to become a civil engineer.

See how your studies lead to a civil engineering career

The job you end up with in civil engineering is likely to link back to what you studied at school, college or university. Here you can see your options at any age.

Studying at school

Up to 16 years

School / college

15-18 years

College / university

18 years +

Change career

Any age