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Flight club: Great airport names that never took off

By Samuel Draper
January 06 2020, 15.21

What do Winston Churchill and Ozzy Osbourne have in common? They have both been proposed as airports named after people in the UK.

Newly-released files from 1996 showed the then-PM John Major said he would look into an idea to rename Heathrow after the World War Two leader.

A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport said: “As Britain’s front door to the world, we’re proud to have been considered as a potential site to honour Sir Winston Churchill.

“Heathrow Terminal 2 is already named in honour of Her Majesty the Queen and as the country’s hub airport expands over the next decade, we will look at further opportunities to appropriately recognise the huge contribution Sir Winston and others have made to Britain’s global reputation.”

In 2012, proposals were put forward to change Birmingham Airport to Ozzy Osbourne International Airport in honour of the Black Sabbath frontman.

Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport became the first airport in the UK to be named after an individual when it was renamed in 2001.

Doncaster’s Robin Hood and Belfast’s George Best Airports are also named after famous local troublemakers.

THE 1996 PLAN

There were no eponymous airports in 1996 when businessman Harvey Spack wrote to the then-PM John Major about changing Heathrow’s ‘silly name’.

Mr Spack, who died in 2012, cited famous foreign airports like Charles De Gaulle in Paris and JFK in New York as reasons for Britain to have its own airport renamed after the World War Two PM.

Whilst Mr Major said he would look into Mr Spack’s proposals, it’s not entirely clear why the plans never moved ahead.

Boris Johnson, who published a biography called ‘The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History’ in 2014, may wish to approve such a proposal now.

However any such move would be complicated by the existence of Churchill Airport in Manitoba, Canada, which serves Churchill, a town hailed the ‘Polar Bear Capital of the World’.

HEATHROW’S NAME 

Heathrow’s ‘silly name’ comes from the name of a wayside hamlet which was lost in the creation and growth of the airport.

The settlement was first recorded in 1410 as ‘La Hetherewe’, which means a row of houses on a heath.

Heathrow was a small community which divided farmland and Hounslow Heath until 1819 when the heath also became farmland. 

OTHER PROPOSED AIRPORT NAME CHANGES

Businesses sometimes rebrand as part of a wider evolution.

In 2012, music manager Jim Simpson, who discovered Black Sabbath, publicised ideas for Ozzy Osbourne International Airport in Birmingham.

That airport has also been rebranded as ‘Shakespeare’s Airport’ as part of marketing for Chinese and American consumers.

A 2015 poll suggested renaming Bristol Airport after the street artist Banksy.

Other curious airport names across the world include Batman Airport in Turkey, Deadhorse Airport in Alaska and Western Australia’s Useless Loop.

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