Doncaster Sheffield Airport: From take off to freefall - the timeline of decline

Exactly 17 years ago, the very first commercial flight took off from Doncaster Sheffield Airport, then controversially known as Robin Hood.
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As the bright blue Thomson aircraft soared into the skies above Finningley in April 2005, it was heralded as a bright new future, not only for Doncaster but for much of northern England with the then town being linked up to holiday hotspots around the globe.

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Now, less than two decades later that dream looks like it come come crashing down in spectacular style as a strategic review into the airport’s future takes place.

The first flight takes off from Doncaster Airport in April 2005.The first flight takes off from Doncaster Airport in April 2005.
The first flight takes off from Doncaster Airport in April 2005.
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Bosses have said that flights could end – and the land instead used for commercial development.

Here’s a look back at the airport’s history.

For more than 100 years, Finningley and flying have been synonymous.

It was in 1915, in the midst of World War One, that an airfield was first established on the site.

Used as a base by the Royal Flying Corps to intercept German Zeppelins targeting the industrial cities of the North, it became an important base for RAF operations.

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In the Second World War the airfield was used primarily for training purposes, with only a handful of combat missions taking off from Finningley.

But it came into its own during the Cold War, being used for nuclear-armed Vulcan bombers.

It was also the setting for the popular annual RAF Finningley Air Show, which attracted thousands of aviation lovers from across the country each autumn.

But in 1995, defence cuts signalled the end of the base – and local campaigners successfully fought off plans to turn it into a prison.

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Instead, a drive was launched to create an international airport, utilising the 2,891 metre long runway, one of the longest runways in the north of England.

Peel Holdings PLC – who also owned Liverpool John Lennon, Durham Tees Valley and Sheffield airports - bought the site in 1999 and six years later, the dream became a reality when the first commercial flight left in April 2005,

Following the ending of scheduled services from Sheffield City Airport, its name of Robin Hood Airport created a stir, with 11,000 people signing a petition against it.

The airport's first commercial flight flew to Palma de Mallorca in Majorca, departing at 0915 on 28 April 2005 and the airport was projected to serve at least a million passengers during 2006.

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The actual figure for its first year was 899,000, making the airport the 23rd largest in the UK.

Long haul flights to North America began in summer 2007 and in December 2009, EasyJet announced it would operate flights from Doncaster to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Faro, Palma de Mallorca and Prague. But the firm later withdrew in 2011.

By December 2016, the airport was rebranded as Doncaster Sheffield Airport and by 2019, Flybe announced it would be closing its base at Doncaster.

In August 2020, Wizz Air announced it would be opening its second UK base at the airport, basing one aircraft and opening 7 new routes to add to its existing network of ten routes.

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But earlier this year, Wizz announced it was pulling out of Doncaster in a bitter row with airport chiefs.

The airport’s MD stood down, along with other high profile bosses and then, out of the blue, bosses announced the airport’s future was up for review.

What happens next remains to be seen.

But what is clear is that Doncaster's dream could soon be grounded for good.