The airport was opened as the "Leeds and Bradford Municipal Aerodrome" (Yeadon Aerodrome) on 17 October 1931 and was operated by the Yorkshire Aeroplane Club on behalf of Leeds and Bradford Corporations. In 1935 the aerodrome was expanded by 35 acres (140,000 m2) and scheduled flights began on 8 April 1935 with a service by North Eastern Airways from London (Heston Aerodrome) to Newcastle upon Tyne (Cramlington). The service was soon extended to Edinburgh (Turnhouse). In June 1935 Blackpool and West Coast Air Services started a service to the Isle of Man. By 1936 the London/Yeadon/Newcastle/Edinburgh service was flying three times a week and also stopped at Doncaster and carried on to Aberdeen (Dyce).
In 1936, No.609 (West Riding) Squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF), Royal Air Force (RAF) formed at Yeadon, and seasonal flights between Yeadon and Liverpool commenced. Work also began on a terminal building, but progress was halted after only one section had been completed.
Civil aviation at Yeadon was halted in 1939, with the outbreak of World War II. Avro built a new shadow factory, to produce military aircraft, just to the north of the aerodrome; a taxiway connected the factory to the aerodrome and many of the aircraft first flew from Yeadon. The aircraft manufactured included the Bristol Blenheim (250), the Lancaster bomber (695), the Anson (over 4,500), the York (45) and the Lincoln (25).
Significant developments were made to the aerodrome; the addition of two runways, taxiways and extra hangarage led to Yeadon becoming an important site for military aircraft testing.
1947 to 1969
Civil flights recommenced at the airport in 1947, after Geoff Rennard fought for Leeds and Bradford to have an aerodrome, and eventually gained permission for an Aero Club. He was then appointed Airport Manager and stayed at the post for 5 years. Subsequently Yeadon Aviation Ltd was formed in 1953 to run the Airport and Aero Club. Two years later in 1955 flights to Belfast, Jersey, Ostend, Southend, the Isle of Wight and Düsseldorf were added to Yeadon's destination list.
Scheduled flights to London began in 1960, and Dublin was added shortly after. A new runway was opened in 1965, and in that year the terminal building was destroyed by a fire, with a replacement terminal opened by 1968.