STAFF at Leeds Bradford Airport are gearing up to welcome a record four million passengers over the next 12 months, as its masterplan for growth takes flight.

The Yeadon site kicked off its busy summer season this month, with more than 70 destinations in 23 countries, including Naples and Amsterdam, now on offer to holidaymakers and businesspeople alike.

Yorkshire’s biggest airport, with 2,350 employees, carried 3.6m passengers during the 2016/17 financial year, with 4m expected in 2017/18.

This is part of the airport’s expansion outlined in its development strategy for the next 13 years.

‘Route to 2030’, launched last month, outlines the plans to grow and develop to carry a projected 7.1m passengers by 2030.

LBA’s masterplan supports a new road link around the airport between the A658 and A65 with a spur to the airport. It also supports an airport Parkway station on the Harrogate to Leeds railway line.

Its vision for the future includes the creation of an economic hub, which will create jobs and include an airport village, air innovation park and air freight park. Further economic analysis is being carried out to establish demand for new industrial and office space to establish LBA as an employment hub as well as a transport hub.

The airport’s plans also include expansion of aircraft stands, boarding gates and new taxiways and further development of the terminal building.

Charles Johnson, LBA’s head of planning development, says the next 13 years are vital for the site, starting with 2017.

He said: “The airport is massively important to Bradford.

“It’s a big year for the airport, and next year as well, as we start putting our planning in place for future growth.”

The Route to 2030 is taking shape at LBA with two new retail units including Fat Face products on sale alongside Leeds Rhinos, Leeds United and Yorkshire County Cricket Club merchandise to open on May 25, more than 300 extra seats being built in the departure lounge and a revamp of the check-in area, including a large glass frontage due to be completed later this month.

Its summer season of flights has been boosted by the introduction of new destinations in the UK. These include five flights each week to Newquay in Cornwall.

Tony Hallwood, aviation development director at LBA, said its changes are to make it a more relaxing experience for its passengers.

He said: “The subtle changes that we have made, means it’s local and friendly and not large and imposing. It’s about making people calm.

“This is the busiest year in the airport’s history. We are on target to deliver, over the next 12 months, a ten per cent growth in our traffic.”

Emily Bramley, passenger services manager, leads the team who are the first port of call for passengers.

She said: “We have daily challenges, you never know what challenges you might face.

“On a quiet day, we could see 2,000 passengers, on a busy summer’s day, we could see 7,000 to 8,000 people.

“People’s holidays start once they drop off their bag here in check-in.”

Making sure those passengers get to their destination is partly the responsibility of Neil Snell, air traffic control manager, and his team.

He heads up a team of 30 people in the air traffic control tower and its radar room, monitoring all departures and arrivals.

Three people in the air traffic control room are regulated to work 90-minute shifts with a 45-minute break on rotation, with teams doing three different shift patterns, seven-and-a-half hours each, every day.

Mr Snell said: “This is the hub of the airport. I have been here since 1994, when we had 600,000 passengers, now its 3.6m.

“The weather keeps the job varied, we could deal with fog or snow. It’s a challenging job.”

During the T&A’s visit, an RAF Tornado, from its base in Marham, Norfolk, flew past the airport as part of its training.

Richard Duncan, head of airfield services, is a man with another challenging job. He oversees the airport’s 2,250-metre-long runway, made up of four-and-a-half-square-metre concrete bays.

His team’s responsibilities include monitoring the runway, making sure no birds are on, or near, it. He monitors bird activity using a vehicle with an in-built distress call to deter birds.

Safety inspections are carried out on the runway every two hours and Mr Duncan’s team is also responsible for snow-clearing operations.

He said: “We had to replace 16 bays of the runway last winter. We have one of the few concrete runways left in the country, most are now made of asphalt.

“We have 600,000 litres of storage capacity here for fuel for aircraft.”

The airport also features an on-site fire station, with four fire engines. Firefighters are given a three-minute response time to attend any aircraft fires.