Ben-Gurion airport

  • Issue: July 1986
  • Designer: M. Pereg
  • Stamp size: 30.8 x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 16
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Photolithography

Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel's main gateway for incoming and outgoing flights was built by the British Authorities during their mandate in Palestine as part of a comprehensive scheme of airport construction to cater for the military needs of the Royal Air Force. It was begun in 1935 and by April 1937 four concrete runways of about 800 x 100m had been completed (today - 2400m). However, before this, the first international service had been inaugurated between Cairo and Lydda, as the airport was then called, with De Havilland Dragon Rapides. Later this was extended to Nicosia, Beirut and Baghdad. Aft& the resurfacing of the runways, heavier aircraft used the airport.

KLM initiated a link between Amsterdam and Battavia (now Indonesia) via Lydda, the Polish "LOT" flew regularly between Warsaw and Lydda, as did "GSA" from Prague via Rome. A significant extension of the route network was effected by British Imperial Airways flying large "Hannibal" and "Atalanta" planes between London and Bombay.

In 1937 the first hangar was built; it was specially designed to house the big birds of Imperial Airways and is still in use today by El Al for its Boeing Jetliners.

Paris, Brussels and Zurich were some of the cities linked to Lydda but World War II curtailed the civil aviation activity and brought on a massive military build-up at the airport. In December 1938 the first RAE unit had arrived to perform mainly reconnaissance and patrolling missions. All civil activities stopped in July 1940 until after the war when they gradually returned to normal, and in 1946 the first direct service to New York was inaugurated by TWA.

Because of the Arab-Israel conflict the roads to and from the airport had been disconnected by early 1948 and in April the Jewish staff were forced to leave the airport for security reasons. On July 10th, the entire area of Lydda - now called Lod - and Ramle, including the airport, was recaptured from Arab control by the Israel Defence Forces. In November, commercial flights started again with a GSA DC-3 from Prague via Rome.

On November 15th, EL AL Israel Airline was established and its first flight took off on July 31st, 1949 to Paris via Rome by a DC-4 Skymaster Aircraft. In 1950 "ARKIA" initiated domestic flights using De-Havilland Rapides to Eilat, Rosh-Pina and Haifa.

In 1953 "Bedek Aviation" (formerly known as "the Government Aircraft Overhaul Base") was formed and located in the airport area. Today it is called "Israel Aircraft Industries."

An El Al Lockheed Constellation which left Lydda in October 1955 for Nairobi and Johannesburg opened the first direct air service between Israel and East and South Africa.

In April 1960 the first regular jet services were introduced by B.E.A. from London to Athens. El Al joined the "Jet-Set" in January 1961 by flying Boeing 707s to New York.

By the mid-sixties, 14 airlines were operating regularly at Lod though domestic operations had been transferred to Tel Aviv's Sde Dov Airfield.

Following the Six Day War in June 1967, the airport registered a steep increase in traffic. After almost 20 years, Lod was connected to East Europe by way of Romania, and in 1969 domestic operations resumed through the newly inaugurated domestic terminal.

The Yom Kippur War caused a decline in commercial traffic; after the war POWs were exchanged through Lod. In December 1973, Israel's first Prime-Minister, Mr. David Ben-Gurion, died and a Government decree changed the airport's name to "Ben-Gurion International".

Since then, many additional airlines and routes have been added and the airport is now handling three million passengers annually. In 1977/8 the responsibility to operate, administer and develop the airport was transferred from the Civil Aviation Administration to the Israel Airports Authority. During the past eight years the airport has become a highly modern facility, highlighted by the construction of a new control-tower in 1985.

Fifty years after it first opened its doors to aviation, Ben Gurion Airport ranks today among the top Middle Eastern airports, handling some 3 million passengers annually, 40,000 aircraft movements and 140,000 tons of cargo and mail.

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50th anniversary of Ben-Gurion airport