LEEDS and Bradford Municipal Aerodrome opened on October 17, 1931 - and is still fondly known as ‘Yeadon Airport’.

When it first opened the airport served for general aviation and training purposes. Since then, it has kept going through a World War, fires, a new terminal, a new runway and most recently, a pandemic.

This weekend Leeds Bradford Airport celebrates its 90th anniversary with an exhibition looking back on its history.

By 1935, following a 140,000 square metre expansion, LBA started operating with North Eastern Airways for the airport’s first scheduled commercial services, flying to Newcastle, Doncaster, and Aberdeen.

With the beginnings of the Second World War, plans for a new passenger terminal were downscaled in 1939, as the airport was repurposed to support the national war effort.

During the war, an Avro factory was built just to the north of LBA between 1941 and 1942, with the finished facility becoming the largest single span factory building in Europe of its time, at 500,000 sq ft. Sitting on top of the structure, a camouflage roof protected the site from attack throughout the war - from the air the site looked like a field with imitation bushes, trees and animals. The development of a second runway, extra hangars, and taxiways further supported the airport’s role in the war effort.

Over 5,500 military aircraft were built at the Avro factory during the Second World War at Leeds Bradford Airport, including 4,500 Avro Ansons, 300 ‘Yorks’, and nearly 700 Lancaster bombers.

In 2014 former ‘Avro Girl’ Olive Crowther told the T&A about working there during the war. She left the Bradford mill where she’d worked since the age of 14 to go to the aerodrome after receiving a letter from the Government. Olive’s role involved following a diagram to connect the wires on navigator panels in cockpits. Working 12-hour shifts, she enjoyed the camaraderie with other young women working there. “I remember this song” said Olive. “We are the Avro Girls helping to win the war, helping out the boys who are fighting for King and country. We work 12 hours a day, Sundays as well. We will never fail you boys. Here’s to the Avro Girls, three cheers for the Avro Girls.”

Gerald Myers grew up near the Avro site in Yeadon. His fascination with it inspired his book, Mother Worked At Avro, in which he recalled buses transporting Avro’s workforce, 60 per cent of which were women, working round the clock, seven days a week.

“They trained as they went along. You learned A before you went on to B and B before you went on to C. It was all critically worked out,” Gerald told the T&A in 2014. “The whole thing was planned. You went to the stores for what you required and that is what you got. You got that and nothing else.”

Avro left a lasting legacy, and keen to commemorate the achievements of a largely conscripted workforce, Gerald pressed for a plaque, unveiled at LBA in 2002.

In the post-war era the airport remained under jurisdiction of the military until 1947, when civilian use and commercial flights were able to resume. In 1953 Yeadon Aviation Ltd was established to manage airport operations and a new terminal and runway opened, increasing travel and tourism for Yorkshire.

Many famous faces have travelled through Leeds Bradford Airport over the years, including, Princess Diana, the Beatles, Louis Armstrong and Nelson Mandela.

As airport traffic increased post-war, the airport grew to accommodate its passengers, with an additional runway extension and the construction of a tunnel for the A658 road connecting Bradford to Harrogate.

In the 1960s passengers checked in at St George’s Hall in Bradford. The Victorian concert hall was used as an airport lounge in the early days of package holidays - passengers would check in and relax pre-flight, before taking a coach to the airport.

In 1985, the airport was re-named to Leeds Bradford Airport. The Eighties also saw the start of transatlantic services, with Boeing 757’s and Lockheed L-1011 TriStars making journeys to Canada. Most notably, supersonic jet Concorde operated from Leeds Bradford Airport from 1986 until 2000.

The airport has seen many changes since 1931 and now serves a wide variety of international transport links, with approximately four million passengers passing through it yearly. Currently, LBA flies to more than 70 worldwide destinations, partnering with airlines such as Jet2, Ryanair, British Airways, Aer Lingus, KLM and Eastern.

As part of its 90th birthday celebration, LBA will host an exhibition event on Saturday looking back at the history of the site. Artefacts of the airport will be on display, including some never before shown photographs of the Avro factory.

There will also be an opportunity to see historic aircraft in flight and meet members of the Air Yorkshire Aviation Society.

The exhibition will take place at Hields Aviation, Bradford Airport, Yeadon, between 10am and 5pm.