North Weald Airfield

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North Weald Airfield
North Weald ATC - geograph.org.uk - 268851.jpg
The control tower at North Weald
Summary
Airport typePublic/unlicensed
OwnerEpping Forest District Council
OperatorEpping Forest District Council
LocationNorth Weald
Elevation AMSL321 ft / 98 m
Coordinates51°43′18″N 000°09′15″E / 51.72167°N 0.15417°E / 51.72167; 0.15417Coordinates: 51°43′18″N 000°09′15″E / 51.72167°N 0.15417°E / 51.72167; 0.15417
WebsiteNorth Weald Airfield
Map
EGSX is located in Essex
EGSX
EGSX
Location in Essex
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
02/20 Main 6,171 1,881 Asphalt/concrete
02/20 Grass 963 294 Grass
Sources: Epping Forest District Council[1]

North Weald Airfield (ICAO: EGSX) is an operational general aviation aerodrome, in the civil parish of North Weald Bassett in Epping Forest, Essex, England. It was an important fighter station during the Battle of Britain, when it was known as the RAF Station RAF North Weald. It is the home of North Weald Airfield Museum. It is home to many private aircraft and historic types, Essex & Herts Air Ambulance helicopter and is an active flight training airfield.

History[edit]

A Spitfire Mk VI at North Weald in 1942

Royal Flying Corps Station North Weald Bassett aerodrome was established in the summer of 1916 during the First World War by the Royal Flying Corps. Later it became Royal Air Force with effect from Monday 1 April 1918. Its military functions continued to develop during the interwar period, with the building of large hangars and accommodation for Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel. The airfield played an important part in the air defence strategy of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Initially Hawker Hurricanes were deployed at the airfield, alongside Bristol Blenheim night fighters. The Hurricanes from North Weald saw action over the beaches of Dunkirk and played a key role in the Battle of Britain. In 1940, two American Eagle Squadrons moved into North Weald supplied with Supermarine Spitfires. A couple of years later, Norwegian squadrons were reassigned to the airfield.

Following the war jet fighter squadrons were based at North Weald. The sight of Gloster Meteors and de Havilland Vampire fighters in the west Essex skies was commonplace from 1949. In the late 1940s and until the mid-60s an Air Training Corps gliding school, latterly No 614 VGS, also operated at North Weald on weekends, teaching cadets up to certificate B. Later the Essex Gliding Club was formed at North Weald and operated for many years until local airspace congestion forced a move to Ridgewell in North Essex.

The Control Tower was built in 1952 as part of the early Cold War modernisation efforts. A Grade II listed building, it remains one of only seven control towers of this type to be built and considered to be one of the best surviving examples.[2][3]

The last front line combat unit, No. 111 Squadron RAF flying Hawker Hunters, the famous Black Arrows of 22 loop formation fame, left North Weald in 1958. In 1964 the RAF withdrew from the airfield completely.[4] The first Royal International Air Tattoo was held at North Weald in 1971.[5] The airfield spent time in both British Army and Royal Navy hands for a short time until in 1979 North Weald became surplus to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) operational requirements and was sold to Epping Forest District Council.

An original 1927 hangar remains,[2] as does the former Officers Mess, a Grade II listed building.[6] Some former married quarters dating from the early 1970s (and now in private ownership) can be seen in Lancaster and York Roads. A Hawker Hurricane Mk1 replica has been erected near the main gate and can be viewed on market days.

Civilian use[edit]

Aircraft exhibit at North Weald Airfield

North Weald is a general aviation airfield with over 40,000 movements[7] per annum, connecting people from London and Essex, with destinations across England and abroad by air travel.[8]

The airfield is home to a collection of vintage and veteran aircraft such as the Spitfire, Mustang, Kittyhawk, Dakota, Skyraider, Seafire and Harvard. The aircraft are kept airworthy and many are available for experience flights.[9] The resident operators include Hangar 11 Collection, Aero Legends, and Kennet Aviation.[10][11][12] It's also home to early ex-military jets such as the Hunter,[13] Venom, Vampire, Gnat, Jet Provost.[citation needed] The Hawker Hunter, which crashed at the 2015 Shoreham Airshow was based at North Weald.

Pilot training, aircraft rental and pleasure flights on general aviation types such as Cessna 172 and Piper PA28 are offered by Academy Aviation, North Weald Flight Training and North Weald Flying Group.[14][15][16]

On occasions North Weald has 300 to 500 movements a day.[repetition]

The airfield was granted listed status in 2005.[17][repetition]

Non-aviation uses[edit]

The former crosswind runway and the southern side of the field are used to host community events, supercar driving experiences, as a filming and a specialist driving training location and has commercial, logistical and local businesses, with further industrial development currently planned.[2]

There is a large Saturday market based on the airfield[18] which draws huge crowds from around Essex and north London. It claims to be one of the largest open air markets in the UK. Bus service 522 operates a frequent service to the market from Harlow, and the service is subsidised by the company that owns the market.

The airfield was used as the transit camp for the 21st World Scout Jamboree.[19]

In the 1990s, the Aces High hangar was used as the home for Channel 4's TV game show The Crystal Maze, which had moved from Shepperton Studios because of lack of space. A Lego City Stuntz commercial was filmed on the field.[20]

An inland border facility has been opened on the airfield in January 2021 to help alleviate the impact of Brexit.[21]

Maintenance organisations[edit]

FBOs at North Weald provide aircraft maintenance and repair, handling and cleaning, refuelling and hangarage services, as well as visitor parking and events organising.

North Weald Flying Services or The Squadron, established in 1989, is a licensed general aviation aircraft maintenance company in accordance with EASA Part M Sub Part G, Part 145 and M5.[22] It has a World War II style bar and restaurant for their members, who typically consist of aviators, aircraft enthusiasts, and their guests.[23] North Weald Flying Services has been acquired by Aero Legends in 2019.[24]

Weald Aviation is a licensed general aviation aircraft maintenance company offering A8-20 maintenance and E4-M5 design approvals, with specialist knowledge on various types of warbirds and ex-military aircraft.[25]

North Weald Airfield Museum[edit]

The focus of the North Weald Airfield Museum is the people who worked at RAF North Weald in World War I and World War II, including both service personnel and civilians.[26] Exhibits include photographs, personal memories, and artifacts about the airfield's history, including its role in the Battle of Britain, the American and Norwegian squadrons stationed there in World War II, and the Royal Air Force squadrons stationed there over the years. The museum is located in the former RAF North Weald Station Office, situated just outside the airfield's current perimeter.[27] Visitors can examine military vehicles and historic aircraft.

North Weald Fire Rescue[edit]

North Weald Fire Rescue are a private independent fire and rescue service from Great Dunnow in Essex. Their vehicles are based and operated nationwide out of the airfield. Their fleet of vehicles and crews have been in attendance at events at the airfield since 1987.[28]

RAF North Weald Memorial[edit]

The RAF North Weald Memorial with the Norwegian Memorial at the centre

The RAF North Weald Memorial is dedicated to all who served at North Weald. Located near the airfield's main gate, it was dedicated in 2000.[29] The memorial includes an obelisk erected in 1952 by the people of Norway in commemoration of the Norwegian airmen stationed at the airfield in World War II.

Development controversy[edit]

The East of England Regional Assembly on its Draft Regional Spatial Strategy for the East of England examination in public exercise asked members of the public for comment on the possibility of the airfield location being used as the site for a development plan for 6,000 houses. It received over 6800 objections and followed on strong lobbying against the project by local residents.[30]

Essex & Herts Air Ambulance[edit]

Essex & Herts Air Ambulance launched its Hertfordshire service in 2008. Originally based at Hangar 7 on the airfield, it moved to a purpose-built base in 2021.[31] From 2008 until 2017, the service operated an MD902 Explorer. From August 2017, Helimed 55 was upgraded to an AgustaWestland AW169 - a £5 million helicopter which the charity fully owns. Two rapid response vehicles are also based here.

The other aircraft operates from Earls Colne Airfield.

National Police Air Service[edit]

On 7 September 2017 it was provisionally agreed by Epping Forest District Council to allow the National Police Air Service to operate three helicopters and one fixed wing aircraft from North Weald Airfield with a 25-year lease.[32] The facility serves as the main base for police aircraft in the London area and neighbouring counties, replacing the previous London base at Lippitts Hill. Kier Capital Projects commenced work near the airfield's western perimeter late in 2018, and flying operations commenced in the autumn of 2019.[33]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Three people were killed in a mid-air collision in 2000.[34] The AAIB report [35] in part concluded that "The collision occurred because the pilots of both aircraft did not see the other aircraft in sufficient time to take effective avoiding action".

On Sunday, 9 May 2010, a light aircraft crashed into a car at the airfield [36] and burst into flames a few seconds after the collision. The two vehicle occupants were not injured and were able to pull the pilot free from the aircraft. The pilot had initiated a go-around after aborting the landing attempt due to turbulence, and had then lost full directional control of the aircraft. The report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch noted that the accident occurred after the pilot attempted to avoid a collision with tall trees and a potential crash on top of parked aircraft, having by then only very limited control of the plane. However the cause was not wholly conclusive due to the extent of the impact and the subsequent fire damage and as such stated that "a pre-impact anomaly could not be entirely excluded".[37]

Past residents[edit]

The following squadrons were here at some point:[38][39]

Units;[40]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ "Pilot's Self Briefing Pack" (PDF). Epping Forest District Council. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "North Weald Airfield Draft Strategic Masterplan" (PDF). Epping Forest District Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  3. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1413519)". National Heritage List for England.
  4. ^ "North Weald airfield: Centenary celebrates 'pivotal' RAF station". BBC News. 16 July 2016.
  5. ^ Johnson, Paul (4 June 2021). "The 50th Anniversary of the Royal International Air Tattoo". Flightline UK. Archived from the original on 18 June 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  6. ^ Historic England. "Norway House (former Officers' Mess) (Grade II) (1392985)". National Heritage List for England.
  7. ^ "Halcrow Group Limited : North Weald Aviation Intensification Options" (PDF). Rds.eppingforest.gov.uk. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  8. ^ "Home".
  9. ^ Land, George (16 June 2021). "A 'Supermarine Spitfire Super Saturday' at North Weald". Warbird News. Archived from the original on 8 October 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  10. ^ "Kennet Aircraft Collection". Kennet Aviation. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  11. ^ "The Hanger 11 Collection". Hangar 11 Collection. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  12. ^ "The Harvard Experience". Aero Legends. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  13. ^ Smith, Matthew (24 May 2022). "Restoring WT555, the first production Hawker Hunter F.1". The Vintage Aviation Echo. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  14. ^ "Academy Aviation". Academy Aviation. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  15. ^ "North Weald Flight Training". North Weald Flight Training. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  16. ^ "North Weald Flying Group". North Weald Flying Group. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  17. ^ Prudames, David (12 February 2005). "Historic First & Second World War Airfields Granted Listed Status". 24 Hours Museum. Archived from the original on 17 May 2018. Retrieved 21 August 2006.
  18. ^ "North Weald Market". www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 20 August 2018.
  19. ^ Jackman, David (25 April 2007). "District to play its part in the World Scout Jamboree". Guardian Series. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  20. ^ "Our little secret project..." North Weald Fire Rescue. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  21. ^ "North Weald Inland Border Facility". Inland Border Facilities. Archived from the original on 1 April 2022. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  22. ^ [1] Archived 11 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "The Squadron". Northwealdairfieldhistory.org. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  24. ^ "North Weald Flying Services Acquired". Flight Training News. Archived from the original on 26 October 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  25. ^ "Weald Aviation". Weald Aviation. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  26. ^ "Official site". North Weald Airfield Museum. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  27. ^ "North Weald Airfield Museum". Epping Forest District Council. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  28. ^ "North Weald Fire Rescue". North Weald Fire Rescue. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  29. ^ "Memorial". Northwealdairfieldhistory.org. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  30. ^ "Enquiry in public report rejects housing development on North Weald Airfield". North Weald Airfield Users Group. 2006. Retrieved 21 August 2006.
  31. ^ Durrant, Will (20 October 2021). "Official opening held for new air ambulance base". Saffron Walden Reporter. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  32. ^ "EFDC Cabinet Meeting 7th September, 2017". Epping Forest District Council. 7 September 2017.
  33. ^ "New Police airbase at North Weald Airfield". Epping Forest District Council. 24 January 2019.
  34. ^ "3 die in mid-air collision". BBC News. 19 April 2000.
  35. ^ "C150 G-INGR and Yak 50 RA02030" (PDF). AAIB Report. December 2000.
  36. ^ "Pilot rescued as plane hits car". BBC News. 9 May 2010.
  37. ^ "Aero AT-3, G-UKAT". AAIB Report. December 2010.
  38. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 169.
  39. ^ Falconer 1998, p. 66.
  40. ^ "North Weald (North Weald Bassett)". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 25 April 2022.
  41. ^ Lake 1999, p. 114.
  42. ^ Lake 1999, p. 84.
  43. ^ Lake 1999, p. 92.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Falconer, J (1998). RAF Fighter Airfields of World War 2. UK: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-2175-9.
  • Jefford, C.G. (1988). RAF Squadrons. A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Lake, A (1999). Flying units of the RAF. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-84037-086-6.

External links[edit]