Home Classic Airliners Diversions Descend on Birmingham Elmdon

Diversions Descend on Birmingham Elmdon

by Matt Falcus

Ray Dowding has provided this nostalgic look back at Birmingham Airport (then named Elmdon) in 1971 when diversions from airports in London due to fog provided a mouthwatering mix of airliners to the Midlands airport.

In January 1971 thick fog closed all the airports in the South East resulting in perhaps the largest number of diverted aircraft ever to land at Elmdon Airport. At the time, the apron at the new terminal could only accommodate a maximum of six aircraft with additional ones being parked around the old 1930s terminal. Diverted aircraft were unloaded and towed to and parked on the short cross runway normally used by Aer Lingus Dakotas, British European Airways Pioneers, the occasional Viscount and Bristol Super Freighters.

My fondest moment was watching the arrival of a KLM Constellation, bringing football players for a game at Villa Park, struggling to maintain a steady approach over Elmdon works.

Every square metre of apron, taxiway and this small runway were used to store aircraft. It appeared the whole BEA Vanguard fleet was present. Aircraft ranged from the Dakota to the Viscount, the Vanguard to the Trident, the VC10 to the Super VC10 and the B737 to the B727. Also noted was a lone Eagle Airways BAC 1-11. Has anyone got a complete aircraft listing they could send in via email?

The liveries are also interesting in that there are three versions of BEA scheme, two of Britannia Airways, an old Iberia and the final livery for BOAC. Is this the only time that a Ghana Airways aircraft has landed at Elmdon?

The photographs aren’t up to today’s standards but well worth a look. They were taken on Agfa and Kodachrome. See how many aircraft you can identify on the cross runway bathed in early morning fog.


Text and Images © Ray Dowding


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Anthony Baker June 4, 2017 - 6:44 pm

I remember being at Elmdon that day aged fifteen. I will look out my photos and spotting book. I recall that arrivals were hand written in an A4 size notebook in an enquiries hatch just inside the terminal building.

Where to Spot at Birmingham Airport - Airport Spotting Blog May 21, 2019 - 3:21 pm

[…] Diversions Descend on Elmdon – Historic Birmingham Airport Gallery – https://www.airportspotting.com/diversions-descend-birmingham-elmdon/ […]

C deakin January 18, 2020 - 7:46 am

Just seen this was there and can remember. Chris Deakin


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