Blackpool made an early investment into powered flight. As early as 1909 they held an Air Pageant at Squires Gate following a suggestion by Lord Northwick, whose newspaper, the Daily Mail, put up money for a prize for the highest altitude attained. Blackpool Corporation themselves put up a Grand Prize of £2000.
The Grand Prize was won by Henry Farman who had flown 24 circuits of the fledgling airfield, covering over 47 miles, only giving up when the strain of controlling the aircraft in Blackpool's winds became too much physically.
The event would have been Britain's first flying pageant but for Doncaster Corporation at the last minute hastily publicising and staging an event 3 days before Blackpool's event opened on 10 October 2009.
Two years later, however, following another similar event in 1910, the land at Squires Gate was leased and a racecourse was established with the first meeting drawing crowds of 20,000. This early success was not sustained and by 1915 the site was in use as a convalescent home for soldiers from the First World War, the home continuing until 1924.
From the end of the war A.V. Roe operated pleasure flights from the beach immediately in front of the Pleasure Beach, which was itself literally on the beach at that time.
I suspect that the postcard is a fabrication, almost all of the postcards showing the Illuminations were taken in daylight and then darkened and painted with shadows from people and objects and the fact that most of the light bulbs would be the size of footballs giving the game away.
But whilst no aircraft could be lit as is suggested here, there is no doubt that they were a regular sight at Blackpool as many of the Edwardian postcards of Blackpool were obviously taken from aeroplanes flying a good deal lower than any plane would be allowed today!
The Corporation decided to ban flights from the beach after a short while, although the spectacles had also included, for a time, a flying boat called Progress (Blackpool's town motto) which landed on the sea and taxiied onto the beach to load and unload passengers to and from the Isle of Man.
Flying reverted to Squires Gate for a few years until the Corporation, eager to establish a municipal airport, were persuaded to buy land east of Stanley Park for the purpose. This land needed levelling and the Ministy of Labour "trained" unemployed men for two years on the site to develop the airport.
It included a clubhourse with restaurant and bars and an observation tower which still exist and can be seen in the background to this 1983 view of Blackpool Zoo, which was developed on the site in the 1970s.
Despite the success of Disney's Dumbo, elephants do not make good flyers and one here is being attended to by a mate after crashing and rolling on landing...
The site was fairly successful, but could not expand and by the 1930s, aeroplanes were much faster and bigger and required longer runways than could be provided.
Another company re-opened Squires Gate as an airport and won contracts with larger airlines and also to do mail runs to the Isle of Man.
The Corporation eventually sought to take over the site and transfer operations from Stanley Park, the expansion at Squires Gate causing the route to St Annes and Lytham to be suddenly halted at the Halfway House pub but the Second World War saw the site used for military purposes. A huge factory was established to build Wellington Bombers. Parts of it survive as trading and industrial estates. In the 1970s on first moving to Blackpool I worked at Warriners Cash & Carry, housed in one of the units created by the division of the factory space.
After the war there were plans for a ridiculously large airport, including a lagoon for the landing of seaplanes near Southport with road and rail tunnels under the River Ribble providing fast connections to the main Squires Gate site. None of this came to fruition as the Government kept control of airports through the Ministry of Civil Aviation following the departure of the RAF at the end of the war.
The factory turned to making Hawker Hunter jets in 1953 causing yet more Blackpool-Lytham roads to terminate and requiring the building of the current non-coastal route - Queensway - to take traffic around the new long runway required for jet aircraft.
Despite the success of the Isle of Man traffic, international and domestic flights at Blackpool continued to be outshadowed by the successs of the pleasure flight industry.
In the late 1970s and early 80s the airport was quiet enough to allow large Air Displays to be held there. I took the photo of the Flying Fortress making a low pass there during an event in 1978.
Air displays are still a feature of Blackpool's calendar, but although many aircraft use the airport as a base for the event, the displays take place over the sea. These inevitably are against the sun (if it makes an appearance) and are free to spectators as there is no way of charging people to watch over several miles of beach and Promenade. Present displays are flying displays only though, with spectators unable to walk around static displays of historic aircaft apart from very limited displays on the Promende.
Blackpool retains some of the older hangars and buildings and in the 1980s Air Atlantique were still flying DC3 Dakotas, to my mind one of the most beautiful of aircraft on a par with the Spitfire. Two of them were used in 1981 to make a TV series called Airline. Starring Roy Marsden, the series was so successful that a second series was made.
Today the airport has been expanded again. For a while Ryanair operated a twice-daily service to London Stansted which was well used, and although many bemoaned the withdrawal of the service, the improvements to the West Coast rail services made the journey to London much faster anyway.
Whether the airport's fortunes will wax or wane in the future remains to be seen. Which can be said of almost any business!