The airport's location south-east of the city, plus the only operational runway being north-west – south-east (15/33), means that depending on wind direction, aircraft land or take-off directly over Birmingham. The relatively short north-east – south-west runway (06/24) is not operational, and has been incorporated into the taxiway for aircraft departing the end of runway 33, or gaining access to runway 15.
World War II: The airport was requisitioned by the Air Ministry and was used by the RAF and the Royal Navy as RAF Elmdon, an Elementary Flying School and a base for the Fleet Air Arm. During this time, the original grass strip was replaced by two hard runways: 06/24 at 2,469 feet (753 m) and 15/33 at 4,170 feet (1,271 m).Avro Lancaster and Stirling bombers manufactured at the Austin Aero Company's shadow factory at Cofton Hackett could not take off from the short runways at Longbridge. Instead they were transported by road, minus the wings that would be attached at Elmdon. They were test flown from the aerodrome, and once declared airworthy they were flown to their operational units.
8 July 1946: The aerodrome returned to civilian use, though still under government control.
During the post-war years, public events, such as air fairs and air races were held on the site. In 1961 an additional terminal building to handle international traffic was opened, called The International Building. In 1967 the main runway was extended to 7,400 feet (1.4 miles) to allow jet operations, including introducing VC-10 services to New York.
In 1993, the Government limited public sector borrowing. This meant that the airport could only expand by using private sector finance. 51% of the local council shares were sold to restructure the airport into a private sector company, enabling a £260 million restructuring programme to begin in 1997.
20 October 2003: Concorde made her final visit to Birmingham Airport on as part of her farewell tour.
June 2006: A new turnoff from the main runway was completed and saw an improvement in traffic rates on southerly operations, where the only available option for landing traffic had been to travel to the end of the runway to exit.
July 2007: Birmingham was voted the best airport in Europe in the 5 million to 10 million passengers per year category.
November 2007: The airport published a master plan for its development up to 2030, called "Towards 2030: Planning a Sustainable Future for Air Transport in the Midlands". This sets out details of changes to the terminals, airfield layout and off-site infrastructure. As with all large scale plans, the proposals are controversial, with opposition from environmentalists and local residents. In particular the requirement for a second parallel runway based on projected demand was disputed by opponents. Plans for a 2nd runway on the other side of the M42 and a new terminal building and business park have been published, and they could help to create around 250,000 jobs. It has been estimated that if these plans went ahead, the airport could handle around 70,000,000 passengers annually, and around 500,000 aircraft movements.
January 2008: The shorter runway (06/24) was decommissioned. It had been used less often due to its short length, noise impact, and its inconvenient position crossing the main runway making it uneconomic to continue operation. The closure also allowed for apron expansion on both sides of the main runway. However it remains open as a taxiway and a helicopter airstrip.
June 2008: Work began on building the new three-storey International Pier. It was officially opened on 9 September 2009. As part of the airport's 70th anniversary, the airport welcomed the Airbus A380 as the first user of the pier. The special service was the first commercial A380 flight in the UK to take place outside London Heathrow Airport.
The new pier is a three-storey construction, 240 metres long and 24 metres wide. Departing passengers will be accommodated on the top level, with arriving passengers on the middle level and office accommodation for airline and handling agents on the ground floor.
The new facility provides air-bridged aircraft parking for seven wide-bodied aircraft and enough space to serve 13 smaller aircraft at any given time and is capable of accommodating 'next generation' environmentally-efficient wide-bodied aircraft such as the Airbus A380, the Boeing 777 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner which all serve the airport on a daily basis. The new pier also hosts a new lounge for business class Emirates passengers.
March 2009: The runway extension plans were approved.
September 2010: An announcement was made that following the merging of Terminals 1 & 2 in 2011, the airport would drop the International from its official name to become Birmingham Airport. A Midlands-based marketing agency was recruited to "create a new corporate identity that reflects Birmingham Airport's current position in the market place, as well as its future potential". Figures from Birmingham Airport show that 8 million people live within a one hour's drive of the airport, but less than 40% of them use it. It is hoped that the rebrand will make the airport "more visible to the market".
November 2010: The new name started to be used. The new logo, interlocking circles in shades of blue, and slogan, "Hello World", were designed to reflect the airport's new positioning as a global travel hub.
January 2011: The spectators gallery, 'Aviation Experience', above Terminal 1 closed.
January 2011: The airport merged its two terminals into a single Terminal Building. This involved building two new floors added to the airport's terminals. The 3rd floor was built in the Millennium Link and the two terminals to accommodate the new Centralised Security Search area. A new Lower Ground Floor accommodates the new Arrivals and Meet & Greet area. There are plans to further extend both terminals, adding another Departures and Arrivals.
23 February 2011: It was reported that Birmingham Airport had announced the HS2 extension could be a solution to runway capacity problems in London, citing that will be quicker to get to London from Birmingham than from London Stansted once completed and claimed that the airport had capacity for nine million more passengers.
July 2011: Building a new control tower for the airport began, to replace the old tower which has stood at the airport since it was opened in 1939.
March 2012: The construction of the new air traffic control tower was completed.
23 April 2012: An Olympic ceremony was held at the airport. The Olympic rings were unveiled on the tower and could be seen from the A45 road and the main terminal building. This was to commemorate the build-up to the London 2012 Olympic games. These rings were removed once the Olympic Games officially closed, just before 2012 Summer Paralympics began.
Summer 2012: The new air traffic control tower's equipment was installed. Testing and training began.
Autumn 2012: Construction of the runway extension began, whose original target was in time for the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics). The extension to the southern end of the runway originally required the A45 Coventry Road to be diverted into a tunnel under the extended section, but to cut immediate costs, it was diverted south of the runway instead.
Summer 2013: The new air traffic control tower became fully operational.
August 2013: The old carriageway of the A45 road was closed and the new carriageway was opened.
May 2014: 400-metre runway extension was officially opened.
Birmingham Airport features a single two-storey passenger terminal building. The ground level features 112 check-in counters (numbered 1-82 and 100-130) in two separate areas labelled as Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 as well as the arrivals facilities and several shops and service counters. The larger first floor consists of the security check-points and a large airside area equipped with several more shops that is connected to 48 departure gates in two pier areas - gates 1-20 in the southern pier and 40-54 and 55-68 in the larger northern pier. The southern pier features 9 stands equipped with jet-bridges as well as three walk-boarding stands while the northern pier features 11 stands with jet-bridges of which some are able to handle wide-body aircraft.
Plans for the extension of the airport runway, and the construction of the new air traffic control tower, were submitted to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council in January 2008, and approved in March 2009. The construction of the runway extension, and the new air traffic control tower, began in March 2011. The extension to the southern end of the runway originally required the A45 Coventry Road to be diverted into a tunnel under the extended section, but to cut immediate costs, it was diverted to the south of the runway instead. In August 2013, the old carriageway of the A45 road was closed, and the new carriageway was opened.
Originally, the target for completion was in time for the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics. However, work began in late 2012, and the runway was completed in early May 2014. The runway extension began to be used by aircraft in May 2014, and was officially opened on 22 July 2014, when China Southern Airlines operated its first charter flight between Birmingham and Beijing. This was the first aircraft that needed to make use of the new runway length.
The extension caused controversy as more than 2,000 local residents complained about the increased noise levels due to the new flight path around the airport that was required after the runway was extended.
19 January 1973 (1973-01-19): A Vickers VC8 passenger jet G-AZLR inbound from Leeds Bradford Airport suffered a severe port undercarriage failure upon landing.
4 January 2002 (2002-01-04): A Bombardier-CL604 business jet crashed on take-off from runway 15 at Birmingham. The aircraft with registration N90AG was on lease by AGCO corporation and was carrying two company executives, two pilots and an observer. After arriving from Palm Beach International Airport the previous evening, the aircraft was parked overnight at Birmingham where ice formed on the wings due to the cold weather conditions. The following morning the pilots did not request de-icing of the aircraft before their flight to Bangor Airport in Maine. The ice on the wings caused one wing to dip on take off, the aircraft inverted, crashed into grass beside the runway and caught fire. There were no survivors. Sleeping pills taken by both pilots the night before the crash are thought to have been a factor in reducing the pilots' judgment.
23 February 2006 (2006-02-23): Mahan AirAirbus A310 operating a flight from Tehran, Iran, was involved in a serious incident while on approach to Birmingham International Airport. The aircraft descended to the published minimum descent altitude of 740 ft despite still being 11 nm from the runway threshold. At a point 6 nm from the runway the aircraft had descended to an altitude of 660 ft, which was 164 ft above ground level. Having noticed the descent profile, Birmingham Air traffic control issued an immediate climb instruction to the aircraft, however, the crew had already commenced a missed approach, having received a GPWS alert. The aircraft was radar vectored for a second approach during which the flight crew again initiated an early descent. On this occasion, the radar controller instructed the crew to maintain their altitude and the crew successfully completed the approach to a safe landing. The accident investigation determined that the primary cause was use of the incorrect DME for the approach, combined with a substantial breakdown in Crew Resource Management. Three safety recommendations were made.
15 June 2006 (2006-06-15): A TNT Airways cargo 737-300 made an emergency landing at Birmingham with damaged landing gear. The aircraft, registration OO-TND, had been flying from Liege in Belgium to Stansted. Due to poor visibility at Stansted the flight diverted to East Midlands Airport. As the weather at East Midlands was also poor, the aircraft performed a full autopilot approach. During this approach the autopilot momentarily disengaged causing it to deviate from the course. The aircraft hit the grass to the side of the runway, which caused the right main gear to detach. The crew initiated a go-around, declared an emergency and diverted to Birmingham. After it landed on Birmingham's main runway, the airport was closed for a number of hours. The pilots were unharmed. However, the company ascribed the incident to human error and both pilots were dismissed. The official report into the accident highlighted a number of factors contributing to the accident – poor weather forecast information; a message passed from Air Traffic Control to the aircraft at an "inappropriate" time; the pilot accidentally disconnecting the autopilot when attempting to respond to the message; the pilot losing "situational awareness" and failing to abort the landing. Follow this link for a more detailed report and Official reports from the AAIB.
19 November 2010 (2010-11-19): A Cessna Citation aircraft, registration G-VUEM, crashed at Birmingham Airport during final approach in thick fog. Reports from West Midlands Police were that there were two casualties, one critical. The aircraft was bringing a human liver from Belfast airport, for a transplant operation which was subsequently completed successfully. The airport reopened at around mid-day the following day.
6 June 2007 (2007-06-06): The Tonight with Trevor McDonald programme exposed serious security flaws at Birmingham Airport over six months. Fifteen members of staff working for the security contractor "ICTS UK Ltd" were suspended and subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct. Members of security were filmed asleep on duty, reading magazines whilst operating x-ray scanners, leaving aircraft unguarded, and ignoring bags sent for extra security checks, as well as being understaffed. The security lapse was deemed so serious, that Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the US Congress Homeland Security Committee, commented on it in the United States Congress and advised that all flights to and from Birmingham Airport should cease. ICTS dismissed the members of staff shown in the programme for their actions, but still claimed that the footage had been "contrived to exaggerate and sensationalise" the issues.
8 June 2009 (2009-06-08): The West Midlands Police helicopter (G-WMAO) was destroyed by arsonists, and subsequently written off. A year later, a new Eurocopter EC135 similar to G-WMAO was handed over to West Midlands Police at the Farnborough Airshow. Thousands of pounds have now been spent upgrading security surrounding the new police helicopter.
17 July 2014 (2014-07-17): A member of the public got onto the airfield through a restricted area of the terminal by crawling through the opening of a baggage carousel and getting onto the airport's tarmac apron, and then got aboard a LufthansaEmbraer 195 plane.
Birmingham Airport is accessible from the north and south via Junction Six of the M42 motorway. From Birmingham city centre, the A45 runs directly to the airport. There is a drop-off area available outside the terminal; charges apply when parking for more than ten minutes.
The only cycle route available heads south over the A45 travelling towards Solihull. Birmingham Airport have however published "recommended routes" for cyclists. Free short term cycle parking is available close to the terminal. For longer stays, bicycles must be stored in Left Luggage for a charge.