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Turnhouse (Edinburgh)

Also known as: Edinburgh Airport / Edinburgh International Airport / RAF Turnhouse / RFC Turnhouse / Turnhouse Aerodrome
County: City of Edinburgh
Current Status: Aviation
Date: Opened 1915
Current Use: Active
Used By: RAF / RAF (Czech) / RAF (French) / RAF (Norwegian) / RAF (Polish) / RFC / FAA / Civil / Civil (foreign)

Now far better known as Edinburgh Airport, Turnhouse began as a grass landing ground in 1915 before becoming a more expansive airfield a year later for the Royal Flying Corps. For much of the First World War, Turnhouse was a major airfield for the defence of Edinburgh and was home to a number of Home Defence, Reserve and Training Squadrons. This included two Canadian Reserve squadrons that formed in 1917. However, neither of these stayed long and soon moved out.

The airfield became RAF Turnhouse after the RAF formed in 1918. Turnhouse also became a Fleet Aeroplane Depot from this year, providing a location for ship-borne aircraft to land, be repaired and train from. The end of the First World War brought a rundown and the airfield entered a period of uncertainty, becoming embroiled in a quite publicised dispute between the authorities and landowner, former Prime Minister Lord Rosebery. 

In October 1925 No 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron was formed at Turnhouse as a day bomber unit of the Auxillary Air Force. This unit remained at the airfield until 1939. During the 1930s, major expansion work took place at Turnhouse due to its location close to Edinburgh and key industries that needed protecting. In 1939/40 three concrete runways were built and at the start of the Second World War the airfield became a Sector station.

Turnhouse saw heavy use during the Second World War and No 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron acquired Supermarine Spitfires in September 1939. This squadron claimed the first Luftwaffe bomber to be shot down over the British mainland on 16 October of that year. The unit moved to Prestwick in December but returned for a few months in 1941 and much later in the war.

A number of Spitfire units formed at Turnhouse in 1940 and 1941, with most leaving after a few months for other airfields around Britain. One of the longer residents was No 4 Aircraft Delivery Flight, which delivered new or repaired aircraft to operational squadrons between January 1942 and July 1943. No 17 Group Comms Flight also arrived in January 1942 and remained at Turnhouse until the autumn of 1945. Anti-aircraft co-operation squadrons were present as well for some time.

Fleet Air Arm units also visited during the Second World War, usually on short detachments while their aircraft carriers were in the Forth. American aircraft were frequent visitors during the last few years of the war, often on rest and recreation flights to Edinburgh.

No 603 Squadron continued to operate Supermarine Spitfires from Turnhouse after the war, although there was a gap of almost a year in which the squadron had disbanded. Reforming in 1946, the squadron then re-equipped with de Havilland Vampires in the spring of 1951. From the early 1950s to the mid 1960s, United States Air Force (USAF) transport aircraft were relatively frequent visitors to Turnhouse, due to the nearby US base at Kirknewton.

Even before Turnhouse became Edinburgh Airport, flights linking Edinburgh to London began in 1947 operated by British European Airways (BEA). After briefly closing in 1961 to strengthen the main runway, the British Airports Authority (BAA) took control in 1971 and built a brand new runway to the north-west of the site. The airport added to their existing portfolio of London airports at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. This helped an issue with crosswinds at the airfield and a new terminal was constructed at the same time. The new runway and terminal were completed in 1977 and Edinburgh Airport was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Air Force continued to have a presence at Turnhouse until 1996 when the RAF base closed and was shortly afterwards incorporated into the civil airport.

International services operated to Amsterdam and Dublin in the 1980s and other international services soon followed. The 1954 terminal building was demolished in 1994 but the airport underwent significant improvements during the early 2000s with the terminal being majorly renovated. Other work carried out included extensions to taxiways, as well as a brand new, 57 metre high, £10 million control tower that was completed in 2005. As of 2016, Edinburgh Airport is the busiest airport in Scotland, recently overtaking Glasgow, and passenger numbers look set to continue to increase. Unfortunately, little remains of the RAF section of the airfield since its closure and subsequent major demolition.


The following organisations are either based at, use and/or have at least potentially significant connections with the airfield (as at 01/09/2011) :

  • 5th Gear Ltd
  • Accessorize
  • American Express
  • Best of the Best Supercars
  • Boots
  • Butlers Chauffeur Drive Ltd
  • Caffe Nero
  • Costa Coffee
  • Dixons Travel
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Edinburgh Airport
  • EAT.
  • Edinburgh Airport Travelodge
  • Empark UK Ltd
  • Europcar Edinburgh Airport
  • Extrordinair Limited
  • Flying Scot
  • Fringe Bar & Eating Place
  • Global Infrastructure Partners
  • Green Motion Car and Van Rental
  • Hertz
  • Hilton Edinburgh Airport
  • Holiday Inn Edinburgh Airport
  • ICE - International Currency Exchange
  • Inside & Out
  • Jo Malone
  • Liquorice Tree
  • M&S Simply Food
  • MAC
  • Plane Parking Edinburgh Airport
  • Quality Hotel Edinburgh Airport
  • Rolling Luggage
  • Servisair
  • Signature Flight Support
  • Spectrum Interactive Limited
  • Starbucks
  • Sunglasses
  • Superdrug
  • Swissport UK
  • Tabard IT Ltd
  • The Airport Gallery
  • The Collection @ Edinburgh
  • The Gathering Deli Cafe & Takeaway
  • The Gathering Restaurant & Lounge
  • The Sir Walter Scott
  • The Turnhouse
  • The West Cornwall Pasty Company
  • Thermidors Seafood & Champagne Bar
  • Thomas Cook Extras
  • Thrifty Car and Van Rental
  • TNT Edinburgh (Air Hub/Depot)
  • VisitScotland Edinburgh Airport iCentre
  • Wetherspoon Express
  • Wetherspoons
  • WFS Worldwide Flight Services
  • WHSmith
  • WHSmith Books
  • WHSmith Cafe
  • World Duty Free
  • YO! Sushi

Notable Past Associated Organisations:

  • Aviance UK
  • BAA Limited
  • BAA plc
  • British Airports Authority

Main unit(s) present:

  • No 3 Sqn

  • No 4 Aircraft Delivery Flight

  • No 6 GS

  • No 7 AACU

  • No 12 AEF

  • No 13 Gp AAC Flight

  • No 17 Gp Comms Flight

  • No 18 Gp Comms Flight

  • No 26 RS

  • No 26 TS

  • No 44 Sqn
  • No 59 OTU

  • No 63 Sqn

  • No 64 Sqn

  • No 65 Sqn

  • No 66 Gp Comms Flight

  • No 66 (Scottish) Group

  • No 66 (Scottish Reserve) Group

  • No 71 (Signals) Wing Calibration Flight

  • No 72 (Signals) Wing Calibration Flight
  • No 73 TS

  • No 77 Sqn

  • No 81 Sqn

  • No 83 Sqn

  • No 84 (Canadian) RS

  • No 88 Gp Communication Sqn
  • No 89 (Canadian) RS

  • No 104 Sqn

  • No 122 Sqn

  • No 123 Sqn

  • No 129 (RAF) Wing

  • No 130 Wing

  • No 132 (Norwegian) (Fighter) Wing

  • No 141 Sqn

  • No 151 Sqn
  • No 164 Sqn

  • No 165 Sqn

  • No 197 Sqn

  • No 207 Sqn

  • No 232 Sqn

  • No 241 Sqn

  • No 242 Sqn

  • No 243 Sqn

  • No 245 Sqn

  • No 253 Sqn

  • No 263 Sqn

  • No 268 Sqn

  • No 289 Sqn

  • No 290 Sqn

  • No 303 Sqn

  • No 309 Sqn

  • No 312 Sqn

  • No 329 Sqn

  • No 340 Sqn

  • No 341 Sqn

  • No 598 Sqn

  • No 603 Sqn

  • No 607 Sqn

  • No 661 GS

  • No 666 Sqn

  • No 801 Sqn

  • No 807 Sqn

  • No 808 Sqn

  • No 848 Sqn

  • No 882 Sqn

  • No 884 Sqn

  • No 886 Sqn

  • No 895 Sqn

  • No 1353 AAC Flight 
  • No 1968 Reserve AOP Flight
  • No 2753 Sqn RAF Regiment
  • No 2770 Sqn RAF Regiment
  • No 3508 (AAC) Servicing Unit
  • Aer Lingus
  • Air Anglia
  • Air Ecosse
  • Air France
  • Air UK
  • Alitalia
  • Austrian Airlines
  • BA Connect
  • BEA 
  • BH Air
  • BKS Air Transport
  • Blue1
  • BMI Regional
  • bmibaby 
  • British Airways
  • British Eagle
  • British Island Airways
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Brymon Airways 
  • C.D. Barnard Air Tours Ltd
  • Caledonian Sector HQ
  • Capital Airlines 
  • Centralwings 
  • Channel Airways
  • CityJet
  • Continental Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Duo Airways 
  • East Lowlands UAS 
  • easyJet 
  • Edinburgh Air Centre
  • Edinburgh Flying Club
  • Edinburgh Flying Services  
  • Edinburgh UAS 
  • Ferranti Flying Group
  • Finnair 
  • Fighter Flight, Shetlands
  • First Choice Airways
  • Firth of Forth Group 
  • Flybe
  • Flyglobespan
  • Germanwings
  • Iberia
  • KLM Cityhopper
  • KLMuk
  • Lothian Air Hire
  • Lufthansa
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Midlothian Sector HQ
  • Monarch Airlines
  • Niki
  • Northern Communication Sqn
  • Northwest Airlines
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle 
  • Orbest Orizonia Airlines
  • Ryanair
  • Scandinavian Airlines 
  • Scottish Sector 
  • S.C.R.584 Training Unit
  • Spanair 
  • Thomas Cook Airlines
  • Thomson Airways
  • TNT Airways 
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Turnhouse Air Centre 
  • Turnhouse Flying Club
  • United Airlines 
  • Virgin Atlantic Airways 
  • Vueling 
  • Wideroe 
001SC_458792 edited.jpg

Scanned image of RAF World War Two vertical air photograph of Turnhouse. Visible is the main hangar with camouflaged roof, the main technical area, part of the tarmac runway, one dispersal area and the accommodation to the north of the road, September 1943. © Historic Environment Scotland (RAF World War II Collection). Licensor

002SC_899079 edited.jpg

Scanned image of RAF World War Two vertical aerial photograph of the south-east part of Turnhouse showing several of the perimeter hangars, a pillbox and the bomb store, September 1943. © Historic Environment Scotland (RAF World War II Collection). Licensor

003SC_899081 edited.jpg

Scanned image of RAF World War Two vertical aerial photograph of the south-east part of Turnhouse Airfield showing several of the perimeter hangars, a pillbox and the bomb store. © Historic Environment Scotland (RAF World War II Collection). Licensor

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WAAF flight mechanics pull the chocks away from a Miles Martinet TT Mark I target tug of No 289 Squadron RAF, on a hard standing at Turnhouse during the Second World War.

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Aerial view of Edinburgh Airport, 1956. © Historic Environment Scotland (RMJM Collection). Licensor

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View of buffet inside the terminal building at Edinburgh Airport, 1956. © Historic Environment Scotland (RMJM Collection). Licensor


A Hawker Siddeley HS 121 Trident at Edinburgh Airport, 25 February 1978.

008SC_681938 edited.jpg

Aerial view of Edinburgh Airport, 1989. © Historic Environment Scotland. Licensor

009SC_681939 edited.jpg

Aerial view of Edinburgh Airport, 1989. © Historic Environment Scotland. Licensor

010SC_681936 edited.jpg

The control tower in May 1996. © Historic Environment Scotland. Licensor

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Aerial view of the airport centred on the air traffic control tower, taken from the south-southeast in August 2008. © Historic Environment Scotland. Licensor


View of the east side of the airfield, 20 November 2008.


A hangar at Edinburgh Airport, 23 October 2011.


A replica Supermarine Spitfire in front of the control tower at Edinburgh Airport, 12 March 2013.

015DP_211148 edited.jpg

Aerial view of Edinburgh Airport, looking south-southwest, March 2015. © Historic Environment Scotland. Licensor

Marlene Dietrich at Edinburgh Airport, 1960s. Courtesy of HuntleyFilmArchives

Footage of Edinburgh Airport, 1965. Courtesy of clarkgore

More footage of Edinburgh Airport, 1965. Courtesy of clarkgore



Plan of Turnhouse, 1918. Courtesy of Ed Andrews

Decoy Airfield(s):


Home Defence Flight Station(s):

Penston II / Whiteburn

Home Defence Landing Ground(s):

Acklington (Southfields) / Cairncross / Charterhall (Eccles Tofts) / Gilmerton / Hoprig Mains / Kincairn / Milfield (Woodbridge) / Old Heton / Skateraw / South Belton / South Kilduff / Tynehead / Winfield (Horndean)

Associated Airfield(s):

DremEast Fortune / Macmerry

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