RAF Church Fenton
|RAF Church Fenton|
|Near Church Fenton, North Yorkshire in England|
The RAF Church Fenton control tower during 2001.
|Owner||Ministry of Defence (MOD)|
|Operator||Royal Air Force|
|Fate||Sold by the MOD and became Leeds East Airport.|
|Identifiers||ICAO: EGXG, WMO: 03355|
|Elevation||9 metres (30 ft) AMSL|
Royal Air Force Church Fenton or RAF Church Fenton (ICAO: EGCM) was a former Royal Air Force (RAF) station located 4.3 miles (6.9 km) south east of Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England and 6.3 miles (10.1 km) north west of Selby, North Yorkshire, near the village of Church Fenton. The station was opened in 1937 and during the Second World War was home to air defence aircraft, a role retained by the station until the 1960s when it became a training station. It closed in 2013 and is now a civilian airfield known as Leeds East Airport.
Plans for a new airfield adjacent to the village of Church Fenton were announced in June 1935, it was subject to protest from the local population particularly concerning the waste of valuable farming land and was close to an existing airfield 2 mi (3.2 km) away at Sherburn. Despite the protests construction started in early 1936 on the 260 acres (1.1 km2) site, a mixture of private and West Riding County Council-owned farm land.
On 1 April 1937 the station was declared open and on 19 April the first station commander Wing Commander W.E. Swann assumed command. Within two months No. 71 Squadron RAF had arrived with the Gloster Gladiator.
Second World War
Opened in 1937, it saw the peak of its activity during the years of the Second World War, when it served within the defence network of fighter bases of the RAF providing protection for the Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Humberside industrial regions.
During September 1940 it became home to the first RAF "Eagle squadron" of American volunteers being No. 71 Squadron RAF initially with the Brewster Buffalo I for one month before changing to the Hawker Hurricane I. The airfield was also home to both the first all-Canadian and all-Polish squadrons, with No. 242 Squadron RAF for the Canadians and No. 306 Squadron RAF for the Polish.
As technologies evolved, No. 54 Operational Training Unit (54 OTU) was formed at Church Fenton in 1940, the first night fighter OTU, staying until 1942. Some of the squadrons stationed there also flew the de Havilland Mosquito.
The following squadrons were billeted at Church Fenton at various times:
- No. 25 Squadron RAF (25 Sqn), 
- No. 26 Squadron RAF (26 Sqn), 
- No. 46 Squadron RAF (46 Sqn), 
- No. 64 Squadron RAF (64 Sqn), 
- No. 68 Squadron RAF (68 Sqn), 
- No. 72 Squadron RAF (72 Sqn), 
- No. 73 Squadron RAF (73 Sqn), 
- No. 85 Squadron RAF (85 Sqn), 
- No. 87 Squadron RAF (87 Sqn), 
- No. 96 Squadron RAF (96 Sqn), 
- No. 124 Squadron RAF (124 Sqn), 
- No. 125 Squadron RAF (125 Sqn), 
- No. 183 Squadron RAF (183 Sqn), 
- No. 234 Squadron RAF (234 Sqn), 
- No. 245 Squadron RAF (245 Sqn), 
- No. 249 Squadron RAF (249 Sqn), 
- No. 264 Squadron RAF (264 Sqn), 
- No. 288 Squadron RAF (288 Sqn), 
- No. 307 Squadron RAF (307 Sqn), 
- No. 308 Squadron RAF (308 Sqn), 
- No. 409 Squadron RAF (409 Sqn), 
- No. 456 Squadron RAF (456 Sqn), 
- No. 488 Squadron RAF (488 Sqn), 
- No. 600 Squadron RAF (600 Sqn), 
- No. 604 Squadron RAF (604 Sqn), 
After the war it at first retained its role as a fighter base, being among the first to receive modern jet aircraft, namely the Gloster Meteor and the Hawker Hunter. Between October 1950 and March 1957 it was the base of No. 609 Squadron RAF, within the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and named "West Riding". The unit was equipped with Gloster Meteors.
In later years, its role was mainly flight training. No. 7 Flying Training School was based here between 1962 and 1966 and again between 1979 and 1992, equipped with Hunting Aircraft Jet Provost T3 trainers.
For some years it was home to the Royal Navy Elementary Flying Training School (RNEFTS) using the Scottish Aviation Bulldog, and again 1979-1992, triggered by the introduction of the Panavia Tornado, being the first station to receive the new turboprop-powered Short Tucano T.1 basic fast jet trainers. From 1998-2003 Church Fenton was the RAF's main Elementary Flying Training airfield.
The following squadrons were also posted here at some point:
On 25 March 2013 it was announced that Church Fenton would close by the end of 2013. The units would be relocated to RAF Linton on Ouse by 31 December 2013.
By 19 December 2013, all units had relocated and the airfield was closed. Some equipment will be relocated to RAF Topcliffe. MoD security continued to secure the site until disposal. A NOTAM was issued suspending the air traffic zone (ATZ) at the end of 2013.
Yorkshire Universities Air Squadron and ATC
The station was home to Yorkshire Universities Air Squadron and it is from there that they used to conduct their flying training in the Grob Tutor Aircraft. Much of the station is now derelict and fenced off and the Officers Mess has been demolished. The airside section of the station is closed with various hangars incorporating YUAS’s aircraft, engineering support, fire/ambulance facilities and a sports hangar. The station used to have a fully functioning and manned Air Traffic Control Tower.
The Station headquarters remains and used to incorporate YUAS’s administration, presentation and social facilities. There was a canteen facility known as the "Feeder" and a basic accommodation block. Yorkshire UAS ceased operations at RAF Church Fenton on 19 December 2013, following the closure of the airfield.
The airfield is now known as Leeds East Airport and is also home to 2434 (Church Fenton) Squadron Air Training Corps.
The site was sold on 23 December 2014 to Makins Yorkshire Strawberries with the exception of a section containing the Air Cadets. Makins intends to keep the airfield operational.
In February 2015, Makins Enterprises (the new airfield owners) launched their new website, renaming the airfield. It will now be known as 'Leeds East Airport', with the slogan "Yorkshire's newest aviation destination." It is believed that Makins Enterprises will target the business jet market, while also running a flying school and other ventures.
Current operational units
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