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Aircraft Exhibit at North Weald Air Field
North Weald Airfield is an operational airfield, near the village of North Weald Bassettmarker in Epping Forest, Essex. It was an important fighter station during the Battle of Britain, when it was known as the RAF Station RAF North Weald. At the present time it is the home of North Weald Airfield Museum. It is currently unlicensed but is home to many private aircraft and historic types, and is host to a wide range of events throughout the year, including the Air-Britain Classic Fly-in and smaller airshows.

History

North Weald fighter base was founded in the summer of 1916 during the First World War by the Royal Flying Corps. 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 Dunkirkmarker and played a key role in the Battle of Britain. In 1940, two Americanmarker Eagle Squadrons moved into North Weald supplied with Spitfire. A couple of years later, Norwegian squadrons were re-assigned to the airfield. Various jet fighter squadrons were based at North Weald from 1949 and the sight of Gloster Meteors and De Havilland Vampire fighters in the west Essex skies was commonplace.

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. And, in 1964, the RAF withdrew from the airfield completely. The airfield latterly 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, who still own the airfield to this day.

Today

One of the original 1927 hangars still remains as does the former Officers Mess, which has now been given Grade 2 listed building status. Some former married quarters, now in private ownership and dating from the early 1970s, can still be seen in Lancaster Road and York Road.

The airfield continues to be very active with many vintage and veteran aircraft such as the Spitfire, Mustang, Kittyhawk, Dakota, Skyraider, Seafire and Harvard based there. In addition, North Weald has become home to many early military jets such as the Hunter, Venom, Vampire, Gnat, Jet Provost and others alongside modern civilian aircraft. Current resident organizations include Area 51, Hangar 11 Collection, Aces High, and Kennet Aviation.

The airfield was granted listed status in 2005.

There is a large Saturday market based on the airfield which draws huge crowds from around Essex and North London. The bus routes 521, 522 and 523 operate to the market and are subsidised by the company which owns the market. The routes pick up passengers from nearby places in Essex, such as Loughtonmarker, Debdenmarker, Waltham Abbeymarker, Harlowmarker, Brentwoodmarker and Ongar on Saturdays only. Route 522 is the most frequent, operating every half hour to Harlow.

The airfield was used as the transit camp for the 2007 World Scout Jamboree.

The Squadron is a private, members-only club based in the old officers mess for friends of the airfield, aviators and aircraft enthusiasts.

In the 1990s, one of the hangars was used as the home for The Crystal Maze, which had moved from Shepperton Studiosmarker because of lack of space.

Future development controversy

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 over 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.

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