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Fairwood Common Airfirld
Swansea Airport logo.
|IATA: SWS – ICAO: EGFH|
|Operator||Swansea Airport Ltd.|
|Elevation AMSL||299 ft / 91 m|
Swansea Airport has a CAA Ordinary Licence (Number P867) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee (Swansea Airport Limited). The airport is not licensed for night use. The airport has two runways: 04/22 and 10/28. A part of the out of use Runway 15/33 is used as a taxiway.
The airport is mainly used to handle light helicopters and small private aircraft. One of the Wales Air Ambulance helicopters is based there. Additionally, it is occasionally used by corporate aircraft; and police, military and naval helicopters.
Located on the eastern part of the site is the airport's only terminal building with seats for 25 passengers. The control tower is integrated into the terminal building. The airport has two hangars. The airport is quite distant from any major roads, taking around 20 minutes to reach from the nearest M4 junction by mainly suburban roads. It can be reached via the A4118 road, running through the Gower Peninsula.
The fire brigade at Swansea is CAT 1, and able to do CAT 2 on request.
Swansea Airport was built on what was originally common land during World War II. The aerodrome was declared operational on 15 June 1941 as RAF Fairwood Common, after taking nearly a year to develop. It was built as a day and night fighter station within 10 Group RAF Fighter Command. The aerodrome became a sector station in October 1941, taking on the responsibility for the air defence of South and West Wales including shipping in the Bristol and Saint George's Channels.
The aerodrome fulfilled a variety of military roles during World War II, with the addition of an Armament Practice Camp in October 1943 which expanded into an Armament Practice Station in July 1945 following which it went into 'care and maintenance' in October 1946. Finally decommissioned by the RAF in spring 1949, private flying started in July 1949 with the formation of Swansea Flying Club at the renamed Fairwood Common Airfield. The airfield hosted a number of air races and motor/motorcycle races but it was not until 1957 that Swansea Corporation allowed Cambrian Airways to run the airport for them on a commercial basis. Renamed Swansea Airport, it was officially opened on 1 June 1957 with Cambrian Airways inaugural flight arriving from Jersey. Then in the following 12 years, a variety of airlines operated through the airport with varying degrees of success. Cambrian Airways operated services to Jersey and Guernsey; and Morton Air Services operated a service to Gatwick. Scheduled regular flights then ceased in 1969. During the 1970s and 1980s, only ad hoc and summer charter flights continued to operate, mainly by Dan Air/Skyways.
The 1990s saw the arrival of Heli-air Wales to the airport, and so began the era of Helicopter Training in South Wales. In April 2000, Swansea entrepreneur Martin Morgan via his company Jaxx Landing Ltd., bought the remaining lease. Ambitious plans were put in place to upgrade the then run-down facilities. The airport changed ownership again in 2003, when the Morgans sold their interest in the airport to Swansea Airport Limited, owned by Air Wales owner and director Roy Thomas, who was appointed CEO of the airport company.
The airport was, for a short time, the headquarters of Air Wales before they ceased all operations from the airport to focus on more popular routes from Cardiff International Airport, although before their demise, the headquarters remained in Swansea, instead at a city-centre location.
Development of the airport
With the take over of the airport by Jaxx Landing, activity at the airport began to increase: the Welsh Air Ambulance service based a MBB Bö 105 helicopter at the airport in March 2001. In August 2001, gliders of 636 VGS moved from Aberporth back to Swansea Airport.
De Havilland Aviation (DHA) were based at the airport from 1996 to 2002 restoring former de Havilland military and naval aircraft to flying condition, including Vampires, Venom, Sea Devon and Sea Vixen. Gower Jets took over DHA's facilities by early 2003 also keeping former military and naval aircraft in flying condition until late 2004, the aircraft being a Wasp helicopter, Jet Provost, Venom, Strikemaster and a L-29 Delfin.
Air Wales used the airport between October 2001 and October 2004, offering flights to Dublin, Cork, Amsterdam, Jersey and London. However, the venture was not successful. After 18 months of operation, Air Wales's owner Roy Thomas had invested more than £3.25 million of his personal fortune into the airport. The venture received only one tenth of the passengers needed to make the business viable. The final straw came when the CAA demanded that the airport's landing lights be improved at a cost of £350,000. Roy Thomas decided to pull out of Swansea Airport and concentrate Air Wales's operations at Cardiff International Airport instead. Since 29 October 2004, there have been no scheduled flights operating from the airport.
From 2008 to 2011 the airport was the base for the formation aerobatic team 'Team Osprey'.
The Welsh Assembly Government is currently conducting studies into improving the facilities at the airport as part of the transport infrastructure development strategy for the whole of Wales. The improvements may require some public sector support. Development proposals include: a new terminal building, new hangars, upgraded operating facilities, new fencing and a new access road.
Opposition to the development
There has been widespread local opposition against the idea of further development of the airport. The main concerns are: the impact on the internationally important Special Area of Conservation which almost surrounds the airport; noise from the increased number of flights at the airport; and the negative impact of the development of the airport on the local scenery, since Gower is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
- Swansea - EGFH
- Civil Aviation Authority Aerodrome Ordinary Licences
- Welsh Assembly: Development of and Air Transport Strategy for Wales Stage 2 Part 1: Welsh Airports Infrastructure Appraisal
- Welsh Assembly: Development of an Air Transport Strategy for Wales: Stage 4 – Strategies to Deliver intra Wales Air Services
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