The control tower
|Airport type||Private-owned, Public-use|
|Operator||Blackbushe Airport Ltd|
|Elevation AMSL||325 ft / 99 m|
Blackbushe Airport (IATA: BBS, ICAO: EGLK) is an operational general aviation airport in the civil parish of Yateley in the north-east corner of the English county of Hampshire. The facility comprises an airfield, much reduced in size since its heyday, a British Car Auctions site, a kart track owned by Camberley Kart Club, and a small business park. Blackbushe Sunday Market was held on the car auction site but British Car Auctions confirmed on 5 May 2015 that the market will no longer take place due to a decline in trade.
Blackbushe Aerodrome has a CAA Ordinary Licence (Number P693) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee (Blackbushe Airport Limited). The aerodrome is licensed for night use.
Royal Air Force
The airport started life in 1942 as RAF Hartford Bridge, and it was used by RAF squadrons throughout the remainder of Second World War for reconnaissance, defence and strike operations using Spitfires and Mosquitoes. It was also the home of the Free French Squadron (Lorraine).
The RAF Station was closed on 15 November 1946.
Ministry of Civil Aviation
In February 1947 the airfield was opened as Blackbushe Airport under the control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Full customs facilities were provided for both air transport operators and the private owners of light and executive aircraft.
During the next ten years, Blackbushe airport became a major base for a number of UK cargo and charter operators including Airwork Services, Britavia and British Eagle. These operators, and others at the airport, also specialised in the maintenance and major overhaul of various types of airliners from around the world, using the wartime "Bellman" hangars on both sides of the A30 road for this activity.
Overseas-based charter airlines often used Blackbushe for their flight to the UK, normally finding that the airfield was open for operations, even when other airports in the London area were closed by fog. The airfield's hilltop position helped in this respect. The Avro Yorks of Tropic Airways of Johannesburg visited for several years.
Blackbushe was used as a major location for the 1956 film The Crooked Sky in which the former RAF station buildings and then current commercial aircraft are seen.
From the early 1950s, the United States Navy (USN) had a facility on the north-east edge of the airport which frequently handled visiting naval aircraft. These included patrol types such as the Lockheed P2V Neptune and the Martin P4M Mercator. Large USN transports that used the airport regularly were the Douglas R5D Skymaster and Douglas R6D Liftmaster. In 1955 USN UK-based communications and liaison aircraft of FASRON 200, previously attached to RAF Hendon, in north London, were switched to Blackbushe.
On 31 May 1960 the airport closed.
The airport passed into private ownership and was formally reopened as a general aviation field on 6 October 1962. This was not without a fight to reopen this airport as there were many objections however it was due to one man and his resolve, Air Vice Marshal Donald Clifford Tyndall Bennett, CB, CBE, DSO. Born in Toowoomba, Australia and best known for his RAF Pathfinder exploits in the Second World War and his heroic escape after being shot down during the raid on the German battleship Tirpitz, he evaded capture and escaped to Sweden, from where he was able to return to Britain.
The Hampshire County Council Planning Committee rejected an application on August 25, 1961, one of two applications for the development of a private aerodrome on the site of Blackbushe Airport. The applications, made by AVM Donald Bennett, were for the use of an area of 325 acres as a private aerodrome, and for the erection of aircraft hangars. The vice-chairman of the committee, Lord Porchester, said that the Ministry of Aviation was not supporting AVM Bennett in his attempt to re-open Blackbushe for private flying. The reported reasons for the committee's decision were that most of the land was to be an open space so that the proposal would be detrimental to the amenities of Yateley village, and it would interfere with safety and traffic flow on the Basingstoke - London trunk road. Despite many objections AVM Don (Pathfinder) Bennett battled the red tape and finally owned and opened the Aerodrome in 1962.
The airport became a base for a large collection of historic World War II aircraft, including four Junkers Ju 52s, six Douglas DC-3s and a number of smaller planes, such as Spitfires, which were rarely seen on the tarmac. The finest was, perhaps, a Heinkel bomber which, unfortunately, was sold in order to purchase a replacement which then crashed soon afterwards.
Later, British Car Auctions took over the airport and developed it as a centre of private, business and executive aviation.
Blackbushe is situated alongside the A30 road between Camberley and Hook. It used to straddle both sides of the A30, with road traffic having to wait whilst airliners were towed across this busy road. The southside was used for aircraft maintenance, utilising wartime-built hangars. Today, only part of the airfield section that lay north of the A30 remains in active use. The traditional name for the flat piece of land on which it is sited is Hartford Bridge Flats. The nearest towns are Yateley and Fleet.
Unless looking at aerial views or maps, it is hard to visualise that this was once a significant airport for passenger and cargo charter flights for the London area.
It is one of several airfields eclipsed since 1958 by the growth of London Heathrow Airport and London Gatwick Airport. Currently based aircraft include several corporate helicopters and a dealership for Beechcraft. From 1 April 1998 The Queen's Helicopter has been based there.
On 15 July 1978, the airfield was the location for an open-air concert, the Picnic at Blackbushe, which was attended by some 200,000 people. Bob Dylan headlined, with support from Eric Clapton, Joan Armatrading, Graham Parker and the Rumour, Lake, and Merger.
The airport is now open to the general public, and is also popular for walks around its perimeter and to see the wildlife in Yateley Common and Castle Bottom National Nature reserve.
Accidents and incidents
- On 20 January 1956, a Vickers Viscount G-AMOM of British European Airways crashed on take-off when the training pilot mishandled the controls for the starboard engines when simulating an engine failure on take-off.
- Shortly before midnight on November 5th 1956, a Hermes chartered from the Britavia company bringing military families home from Tripoli crashed. 3 crew and 4 children were killed.
- On 1 May 1957 a Vickers VC.1 Viking G-AJBO operated by Eagle Aviation Limited at Blackbushe Aerodrome. The Viking suffered a port engine failure after takeoff the aircraft returned and crashed on Star Hill on approach to Blackbushe; five crew and 29 passengers died. The aircraft was on charter to War Office and carrying servicemen and families to RAF Idris in Libya.
- 1st September 1958 RN Sea Hawk XE462 from HMS Ark Royal and part of a seven aircraft display team at Farnborough suffered a engine fire warning, the pilot peeled away toward Blackbushe and felt it necessary to eject from the aircraft over Blackbushe. The aircraft pitched up and entered into a spin and crashed into the ground close to the Silver City Hangar. The pilot Lt R.C.Dimmock survived with a broken ankle.
- On 26 April 1987 a Cessna 441 Conquest II G-MOXY operated by Brown Air Services Ltd, crashed south of the A30 road after a go-around was initiated subsequent to having received an unsafe landing gear indication on final approach. The pilot, as sole occupant, was killed.
- On 23 December 2000 a Beechcraft King Air 200 VP-BBK spiralled out of control and crashed into a business park at the end of the runway, shortly after take off. All 5 people on board were killed.
- On 31 July 2015, an Embraer 505 Phenom 300 HZ-IBN overshot the runway on landing and crashed into the British Car Auctions site. All four people on board were killed, including a sister and stepmother of Osama bin Laden.
- Blackbushe - EGLK
- Civil Aviation Authority Aerodrome Ordinary Licences Archived 28 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- Blackbushe Airport Limited. "The History of Blackbushe Airport". Blackbushe Airport. Retrieved 2006-07-14.
- "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
- "Blackbushe Airport plane crash: Four dead in car auction site crash". BBC News Online. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
- Jamie Grierson and Kevin Rawlinson (1 August 2015). "Osama bin Laden sister and stepmother feared dead in UK plane crash". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
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