As a small boy in the 1950s I would be taken to see the aircraft at Blackbushe, then London's second airport. Blackbushe was London Heathrow's main fog diversion as it always has been one of the most fog free airports in the UK.
So what was to be seen in the 50s? It was the home of the US Navy, Europe, and the spawning ground for many independent airlines, Dan Air, Eagle, Silver City, Britavia etc etc. Airwork were based there with their military contracts. Trooping flights, royal flights, and regular passenger flights to many distant parts. Unique in having a major road run through the middle, the A30 London Southampton road provided excellent opportunities for watching the proceedings. During the war Blackbushe, known as RAF Hartford Bridge at the time, was home to many military units and saw the Free French, Dutch, Canadian, Polish air forces operating along side RAF squadrons.
I became directly involved in 1960 when the government decided to close Blackbushe to support Gatwick where they had invested heavily. Tragic seeing this beautiful airport vandalised by the government, where the destruction was rapid and thorough. I met AVM Don Bennet of Pathfinder fame who purchased the majority of the airport site with the intention of developing a prime executive airport. The opposition from a small number of local people was fierce but eventually the airport was given the green light to operatate as a small light/business airctaft centre although permission to develop much was thwarted by the application of medieval laws.
I joined the new Blackbushe Aero Club and spent all my spare hours helping clearing runways and doing all I could to restore this prime bit of aviation real estate. The camaraderie was fantastic amid the band of like minded people who gave so much time to defeat the plan that Blackbushe was never to see aircraft on its runways again.
In the mid 60s I worked at Blackbushe as an operations clerk and along with the wonderful Bill Freeman who managed the place I spent 3 happy years in the fresh air doing all from sweeping runways and building hangars to handling visiting aircraft.
Time moved on and in the 70s I ran two major air shows under the Blackbushe Airport Users Association. The RR 747 made its UK debut at the 77 show!! After that I ran a number of Aviators Weekends, flight competitions and top rate social activities on the ground. Mid 90s saw me put together the 50th Anniversary celebrations. Another small air show and a fly in that attracted over 200 aircraft! I was very happy with that!!
I flew for the first time in 1960 in a Piper Colt from Blackbushe's runways. The first of hundreds of flights in a wide variety of aircraft types. I moved on and joined the airlines but have never lost contact with Blackbushe. I have much to thank this airfield for, as it has played a significant role in my life. Many fantastic friends have come, and sadly in some cases gone, but the satisfaction of running events, the thrill of the early fly ins when on a Sunday maybe as many as 8 aircraft would drop in from other airfields..this airport has indeed given me many rich treasures.
If any of the old team who fought to save Blackbushe in the 60s should read this I would love to hear from them. To all I say "Hi", and I will never forget some very dear friends who are no longer with us who shared the Blackbushe experience too.
Let us hope that Blackbushe thrives into the future as it is indeed a leading British light aircraft centre. Its location adjacent to motorways, nearby rail connections, its excellent weather record, lack of noise nuisance, all make it a contender to become at least an equivalent of London City Airport. Runways around London are worth their weight in gold, and Blackbushe is without doubt the best!!!
A memory shared byon Mar 4th, 2008.
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