Prestwick Airport History

Prestwick Airport current figures:

  • Has operated an airfield for more than 100 years
  • Employs over 320 staff
  • Current terminal capacity of 2.5 million passengers

So how did it all begin?

The first time aircraft were recorded on the site of Prestwick airport was in 1913. However, there were no developments on the site until 1934, when it was used by a few light aircraft.

In 1935 the land was acquired by David McIntyre with the intention of being used as an airfield for training pilots. Developments included a control tower, hangarage and lecture rooms. This marked the beginning of Scottish Aviation Ltd.

World War II marked a new era for Prestwick airport; training was halted and the site was used as a base for US aircraft deliveries. Scottish Aviation Ltd began production of aircraft at Prestwick – a role which was upheld until 1998.

Prestwick Airport History
In 1941 the original factory was added to when the Palace of Engineering, originally sited in Glasgow, was moved to the Prestwick airport site. This building still stands on the airport grounds today.

After WWII the 17th century Orangefield House, which the airport had been built next to, was put into use as a terminal building. Orangefield house was demolished in 1966 to make way for a new taxiway. All was not lost, however; the wooden floors of the house can now be found in the Aviator function suite of the new passenger terminal. In 1958 plans were underway to develop the airport.

By 1962 the new control tower had been erected, and in 1964 the new passenger terminal was opened.

Possibly the airport’s most famous moment came with the visit of Elvis Presley in 1960.

In the 1990s, the airport was bought by a Canadian entrepreneur, Matthew Hudson. He proceeded to build a railway station at the existing Ayrshire Coast Line and this made Prestwick the first Scottish airport to run its very own railway station!

At the beginning of the 2000s, the airport was bought by Infratil and they did a lot of rebranding of the airport, especially the terminal building.

Since 2007, Prestwick airport has been featured in BBC’s Top Gear for some of their stunts!

In 2012, the current owner, Infratil decided to sell it and the Scottish government ended up buying it and the airport has once again come into public ownership.

In 2015, Prestwick airport was shortlisted as a potential UK Spaceport, this was a part of the British commercial spaceport competition.

In 2019, the Scottish government put the airport for sale again and just in February 2021, they announced that a seller has been selected!