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Heston Aerodrome was a 1930s airfield located to the west of Londonmarker, UK, operational between 1929 and 1947. It was situated on the border of the Hestonmarker and Cranford areas of Hounslowmarker, Middlesex. In 1938, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, flew from Heston to Munichmarker for talks with Adolf Hitler, and returned to Heston with the paper referred to in his later "peace in our time" speech from 10 Downing Street.

Private flying

Heston Air Park was built by Airwork Ltd, and was officially opened on 5 July 1929, to coincide with hosting the 2-day King's Cup air race. By then, the Airwork Flying School had become well established, many privately-owned aircraft had moved in, and the Household Brigade Flying Club, also known as the Guards flying club, had moved from Brooklandsmarker. Frequent public events helped promote Heston as a major centre of private flying, with air displays, public demonstrations of new aircraft types, 'garden parties', air races, and as the starting point for long-distance flight record attempts. The King's Cup race was again staged at Heston in 1931. From the start, the first UK use of a concrete hangar and concrete aprons had already been established. Additional hangars and facilities, and expansion of the airfield, continued through the 1930s.

Commercial operations

In September 1931, Heston Air Park was renamed Heston Airport, following provision of customs facilities and ongoing improvements for passenger handling. Night flying facilities were installed and further developed, and in 1932 it was designated as a commercial diversionary airport, often required when Croydon Airportmarker was fog-bound.It is claimed that the central building was the first purpose-built airport control tower, on which all modern control towers are based.

In April 1933, Spartan Air Lines started a twice-daily service to Cowesmarker in the Isle of Wightmarker. During 1934, the service operated from Croydon Airport, but reverted to Heston for the 1935 season, in collaboration with Railway Air Services.In May 1934, the Portsmouth, Southsea, and Isle of Wight Company (PS&IOW) started aservice from Heston to the Isle of Wight.In May 1934, the British Air Navigation Company (BANCO) started operating scheduled services to Le Touquetmarker, Dieppe, Pourville, and Deauvillemarker, having previously operated cross-Channel charters.In 1934 and 1935, United Airways Ltd operated services from Heston to Stanley Park Aerodrome markerIn 1936, British Airways Ltd, formed by mergers of Spartan Air Lines, United Airways Ltd and Hillman's Airways, started scheduled services at Heston, then moved to Gatwick Airport, then to Croydon Airport, before returning to Heston in May 1938, remaining until April 1940.

Resident aircraft manufacturers

Manufacturers at Heston included Comper Aircraft Company (1933-1934), Chrislea Aircraft (1936-1947), Heston Aircraft Company (1934-1948), Fairey Aviation Company (1945-1947). Lesser use of the airfield was by Carden-Baynes Aircraft, Robinson Aircraft, Navarro Safety Aircraft, Martin-Baker. First flights took place of the first UK-built Mignet HM.14 "Flying Flea", Watkinson Dingbat, Luton Minor, Helmy Aerogypt, Hafner AR.III gyroplane and the Fane F.1/40.

Expansion plans

In 1937, the airport was bought by the Air Ministry, and developed to become almost as large as Croydon Airportmarker, making it London's second airport at that time. Imperial Airways serving the Empire from Croydon,and British Airways serving European destinations from Heston The area of the landing field was 3,540 feet by 2,700 feet. With the outbreak of World War II, civil flying was suspended at Heston.

During the late 1930s, the British government had been studying the future of air transport and airports in the London area. It had been decided that London would be served by four airports - Croydon, Heston and new airfields at Fairlopmarker in Essex and Lullingstonemarker, Kentmarker. To this end, improvements and extensions had already begun at Heston with the intention of bringing it up to the most modern standards of airports elsewhere in Europe. New drainage was put in and trees near the flight path were removed. Runway lighting and radio aids to landing were installed. Land and buildings around the site were bought up for expansion, including St Mary's Boys Orphanage in North Hyde that was demolished.

An act of parliament (Air Ministry (Heston and Kenley) Act 1939) authorised the compulsory purchase of land and road closures needed. The work was planned to take three years, partly because it was intended to keep the existing facilities in uninterrupted use, and partly to allow the new ground to be prepared and substantial new buildings to be constructed. The plans did not meet with universal approval, including the Heston Aircraft Company, whose production facility on the site was planned to be demolished in December 1939.

World War II

The Air Ministry had intended to completely take over the site from Airwork Ltd in September 1939 for civil airline operations, but the outbreak of war intervened, and the plans were never implemented. Heston ceased to be a civil airport in mid-1940 and most civilian services still operating were transferred to Gatwick airport.

During the Second World War, RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes flew from what was then RAF Heston, followed by USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress bombers.

Post-WWII

Following WWII, the 1939 plans for four London airports were scrapped. Heathrowmarker was by then chosen as the main London Airport, and its proximity would have made regular flying from Heston aerodrome impossible.

Since official closure in 1947, several aircraft movements have occurred. On 9 June 1951, a BOAC (staff) Sports Festival was held, and aircraft that landed at the site included a Miles M.14A Hawk Trainer, de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth, Auster J/1B Aiglet, de Havilland DH.104 Dove, de Havilland DH.84 Dragon and perhaps two others. One of the last aviation movements at Heston was by Agusta-Bell 47J Ranger helicopter G-ASNV in Sept 1964.

Triumph TR2 and TR3 car rallies were held at weekends on the tarmac perimeter roads in the 1950s, and the airport bar remained in use until the late 1960s. Sprint racing was also carried out in the 1950s.

Woodason Model Makers

Heston Aerodrome was the site of Victor Woodason's shop during much of the 1930s and in the immediate post-war period. The company was founded by Victor Woodason (1904-1964). Victor Woodason was a British model-maker who created miniature aircraft models for the aviation industry, airlines, movies, the Air Ministry and other government agencies, merchandisers, advertising, aircraft owners, and collectors. The airport was a hotbed of private aviation activity in the pre-World War II era, and became the home base to a variety of military aviation operations during the war; the Woodason shop had to vacate the airport during the military phase.

Today

In 2009, much of what used to be Heston Aerodrome is now covered by housing and industrial estates, but many of the roads in the area have aviation-related names, such as Brabazon Road and Bleriot Road. Until about 2000, a WWII black hangar was still visible. The original tree-lined approach driveway (Aerodrome Way) still exists, and radiating from it, buildings in the original 'Aircraft' plan-form designed to resemble an arrow pointing to true magnetic North. Only one building remains, the hangar built by Jackaman and once adorned with a large Airwork logo sign. In 1929 it was the first concrete hangar in the UK, and in 2009 was given Grade II listed building status.

Parts of the airport land were still owned by the UK government when the M4 motorway was proposed and a site was needed for a motorway service area - Heston Services that now covers the northern half of the 1940s aerodrome site.

Notes

  1. Sherwood (1999)
  2. Control Tower in 1930 http://www.photolondon.org.uk/assoc_pages/gunnersbury/gunnpics2.htm Retrieved on 2006-09-27
  3. http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1935/1935%20-%201087.html Flight 9 May 1935]
  4. Smith (2002)
  5. Image of G-ASNV at Heston, Jackaman concrete hangar and control tower in background http://www.abpic.co.uk/photo/1115128/
  6. Woodason website http://www.collectair.com/woodason.html
  7. West London airfields http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?t=151003


References

  • Delve, Ken. 2007. The Military Airfields of Britain: Northern Home Counties. Crowood. ISBN 1861269072
  • Halpenny, Bruce B. (1992). Action Station Vol.8: Military Airfields of Greater London. ISBN 185260431X
  • Horne, M A C, FCIT. The London Airports with particular reference to their transport links with London] (working draft 18/6/2003) http://www.metadyne.co.uk/AIRPORT2.pdf#search=%22%22Heston%20airport%22%22
  • Sherwood, Tim. Coming in to Land: A Short History of Hounslow, Hanworth and Heston Aerodromes 1911-1946. Heritage Publications (1999) ISBN 1899144307
  • Smith, Ron. 2002. British Built Aircraft Vol.1 Greater London. Tempus. ISBN 0752427709


External links

  • Memories of a girl who lived near Heston airfield during the war http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/77/a5550077.shtml
  • Memoir of a worker at Heston who witnessed Chamberlain's return http://www.pfabristol.flyer.co.uk/strutter/november01.htm
  • Woodason Models based at Heston and in-depth history http://www.collectair.com/woodason.html
  • Heston in the 1939 looking south-east across the airfield http://www.airteamimages.com/63221.html
  • Various images here - type Heston in the search field http://www.scienceandsociety.co.uk



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