Essential Architecture-  London

Stansted Airport


Norman Foster


Stansted, Surrey, south of London




High-Tech Modern


steel column modules


Stansted Airport (IATA: STN, ICAO: EGSS) is a large passenger airport with a single runway and hub for a number of major European low-cost airlines. Stansted is the fourth busiest airport in the UK after London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Manchester International Airport. It is located in the Uttlesford District of the English county of Essex about 30 miles (48 km) north-east of London. The airport is owned and operated by BAA. It is the third-busiest airport in the London area after Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport.

Stansted Airport has a CAA Public Use Aerodrome Licence (Number P529) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction.

In 2005 it handled almost 22 million passengers. Several budget airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet maintain bases at Stansted. FedEx is a dominant operator of trans-Atlantic freighter services.

In December 2003 the Government published a White Paper, setting UK policy for air transport for the next 30 years. The Government gave its backing for massive expansion of air travel. Specifically, it supported maximum usage of Stansted's present runway and the construction of a second runway by 2011/2012. This would allow Stansted to handle more passengers than Heathrow does today. At maximum capacity, the expanded airport could process 80 million passengers per annum and a significant proportion of the UK's freight traffic. The proposals are strongly opposed by campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion.

The airport is named after the small village Stansted Mountfitchet. The nearest larger town to the airport is Bishop's Stortford.

Stansted was constructed by the United States Army in 1942 as a bomber base. By 1944, over 600 aircraft were stationed there. The base played a major role in the Battle of Normandy.

After the war, the base was not needed; it was transferred to the Air Ministry in 1947. The US military returned in 1954 to extend the runway for a possible transfer to NATO but this was never realised and the airport ended up under BAA control in 1966.

During the 60s, 70s and early 80s the Fire Service Training School (FSTS) was based on the Eastern side of the Airfield under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, succeeded by the Civil Aviation Authority. The School was reponsible for the training of all Aviation Fire Crews for UK Airfields. They also trained personnel for many overseas countries. After the decision, the School was transferred to Teeside where it still continues training Firemen.

Initially, the airport was used by holiday charter operators wishing to escape the higher costs associated with operating from Heathrow and Gatwick. From the outset, however, BAA and the British government planned to develop Stansted into London's third airport, to relieve Heathrow and Gatwick of excess congestion in the future. The airport's first terminal building opened in 1969 and was expanded the next year to handle the growing number of passengers.

In 1984, the government approved a plan to develop Stansted in two phases, involving both airfield and terminal improvements that would increase the airport's capacity to 15 million passengers per year. Construction of the current terminal building began in 1986 and was completed in 1991, and was designed by the internationally acclaimed Sir Norman Foster.

American Airlines operated a transatlantic service between Stansted and Chicago in the early 1990s, but this was unprofitable and was withdrawn. Continental Airlines later operated a service between Stansted and Newark, New Jersey using a Boeing 757-200. However, this service was withdrawn for commercial reasons after September 11, 2001. In late 2005, Eos Airlines and MAXjet Airways commenced an all business class service from Stansted to New York-JFK, with EOS using a Boeing 757-200 and MAXjet using a 767-200. In April 2006, MAXjet expanded their service with flights to Washington DC's Dulles airport. Pakistan International Airlines started services to Stansted in August 2006 and is currently operating 2 flights a week to Islamabad & Karachi.

Tentative plans have been published for the addition of up to three more runways. If the Uttlesford district council approves the current plan, Stansted is to get a second parallel runway which should allow the airport to increase its capacity from 12 million in 2000 to 74 million air passengers in 2030.

In 2004, the number of passengers using Stansted rose 11.7% to 20.9 million and in 2005 it rose by 5.3% to 21.9 million. [1]

Stop Stansted Expansion
Stop Stansted Expansion is a campaign group opposed to the expansion of Stansted Airport. Their objective is: "To contain the development of Stansted Airport within tight limits that are truly sustainable and, in this way, to protect the quality of life of residents over wide areas of Essex, Hertfordshire and Suffolk, to preserve our heritage and to protect the natural environment."

Ground transportation
Stansted has a railway station below the terminal building, with rail services to London every 15/30 minutes and services to Cambridge and the Midlands every hour. The Stansted Express train runs to and from Liverpool Street station in London every 15 minutes and the journey time is 45 minutes. At the time of writing (updated May 2006) the fare is 25 GBP or 37 EUR (approx) return.

Scheduled express bus or coach services run to and from Stratford, Victoria Coach Station, Liverpool Street Station and Golders Green (all in London), costing half as much as the train but taking rather longer. The bus/coach station is adjacent to the terminal building. National Express runs scheduled but infrequent direct coach services to the airport from Oxford as service JL757, taking about three hours, and hourly services to and from Cambridge.

Stansted is connected to northeast London and Cambridge by the M11 motorway and to Colchester and Harwich by the A120 dual-carriageway. The access from the motorway has recently been improved with a new grade-separated junction. The long term car park is situated about a mile from the terminal and passengers need to allow at least twenty minutes to park and use a courtesy bus shuttle service prior to check-in. There are short term car parks next to the terminal building.


The lawn in front of Stansted Airport used to attract large numbers of people waiting for their flight during the summer. It has now been dug up and covered over with tarmacStansted International Airport has one terminal. There are three boarding piers, one connected to the main terminal by a pedestrian bridge and the other two by a people mover system. The terminal facilities include a bureau de change, left luggage service, several shops and restaurants as well as internet access. Car hire and taxis can also be arranged from within the terminal building. The terminal building was designed by Foster Associates and features a "floating" roof, supported by a space frame of inverted-pyramid roof trusses. The base of each truss structure is a "utility pillar", which provides indirect uplighting illumination and is the location for air-conditioning and water, telecommunications, and electrical outlets. The layout of the airport is designed to provide an unobstructed flow for passengers to arrive at the short-stay car park, move through the check-in hall and on to the departure gates all on the same level. However, the airport has never catered for spectators or those wishing to watch friends depart. The terminal building has often been compared to the design of new Tesco stores, credible in practical terms but not design originality.

The size of Stansted means that an aircraft can be isolated from the terminal and the usual parking stands. Stansted also has purpose-built facilities for dealing with hijacked planes. As such the airport is the designated destination for at-risk flights approaching London. On several occasions hijacked planes and planes carrying bomb threats have been diverted to land at Stansted, sometimes from other European countries. These incidents have all ended with no loss of life. The airport frequently practices handling major security alerts in conjunction with Essex Police.