Monday..No Monday morning feeling nowamondays, but despite the state of 'retiree' life has never been busier.. An early meeting dictates a the need for speed on here this morning, so I'll dive straight into the vaults, and grab....
One of the beautiful Eagle DC-6's caught in flight by the camera of Ron Francis..
With every passing day it seems harder to believe that such machines lived, breathed and worked from Blackbushe. The memory remains very clear, but the passing of time and the 'wilderness' look that has been allowed to take over so much of the old airport must make it even more difficult to comprehend for the casual passer by who happens to spend a few minutes looking at our "Airlines of Blackbushe Airport" sign by the Terminal Building.
I think I'll feature photos that I chose for the sign now and again, they are all due to reappear now that we've put life back into the recently killed off "Blackbushe Pictures from the Past" series when our trust was placed in another forum..
Looking at the DC-6 in flight recalls one vivid memory from my cycling days...It was a grey overcast occasion, and I'd been to Camberley on the old push bike for a bit of teenage shopping. Whatever that might have been. Decided to take the dog-leg route back to Crowthorne and track via Blackbushe - as one did! As the peddles creaked through their endless orbits and I took up my westerly heading through Blackwater the sound of large Pratt & Whitney engines spurred me on..The wind being from the east ensured that departures from Blackbushe would be coming toward me. The sound of a heavy occurred again and again as my progress slowed thanks to gravity and the hill climb toward Blackbushe. The source of these wonderful sounds soon became obvious, t'was an Eagle DC-6 on circuit training. Magic. With the low stratus, typical of overcast days blown on an easterly, the DC-6 soon brushed her body against the waiting clouds and periodically vanished only to reappear a little further along. To this day I can see so clearly in my mind's eye as I cycled toward the Airport, this fabulous aeroplane repeatedly circuit bashing, sending out her wonderful sounds whilst playing with the clouds. Maybe every time I drive on the dual carriageway from Blackwater toward Blackbushe I see that same DC-6. It's inescapable, my mind owns some wonderful 'footage'..I wish I could share it with you, but I've done the best I can toward that end....
Some of the magic...
..and one of Gordon Wilmer's old photos of an Eagle DC-6 on crosswind crew training...
Short finals for 26 on this occasion. You can see some of the Blackbushe approach lights as they reached out over the surrounding open spaces. A terrific sight at night, especially as you drove along the A30 through the Airport in the dark. Experimental lighting systems were installed at Blackbushe, she really looked a gem at night. More locked away memories...
"Experimental lighting" reminds me of the time around 1980 we'd got someone to drive onto the airfield late at night and positioned a car on the threshold of 26, with lights on full beam pointing down the runway, so we could land after hours and avoid having to pay the (£50-£100?) charge to have the runway lights on. Reg was a bit suspicious the following morning, but we simply said we'd landed shortly after dawn.
No pictures yet but some interesting ones coming I hope coming soon!! I took a call from a chap this afternoon who tracked me down from the internet via the sign I assisted Peter with commemorating the "Airlines Of Blackbushe". The expected photos include a number taken at Blackbushe, late forties and early fifties including the Berlin airlift. Some are in colour and include David thinks a red Halifax parked up at the Bushe!! David who they belong to lived in Sandhurst as a youngster and recalls playing by the airfield aged around 10 in 1958 and watching some of the heavier types to be seen there. Davids father was a wartime Halifax and B24 pilot whose RAF logs and civil logs are with David and will assist in dating pictures and locations. Never ceases to amaze me whats waiting out there to be discovered in connection with Blackbushe, I eagerly await developments.
A further advance on my earlier post British Eagle seems like there is a 50/50 chance of it being "Red Eagle", why I said David I don't know, when in fact its Keith who called, here is his email
Nice to chat today.
Father died in 2013 and I've been going through his flying pictures and books. The picture he has of the Eagle Airways Halifax in on his study wall. I'll retrieve it next time I'm at the house and scan it.
There are other pictures and these I will sort out. I seem to remember something about Eagle and the Aldwych in London!
It was never this exciting even as a five year old waiting in anticipation on Christmas eve!!
My father also flew Avro York's in the Berlin Air Lift . He was forced to stop flying for medical reasons. He became an engineer/draughtsman at Fairy Aviation in Hayes and worked on the Fairy Delta 2.
We moved to Sandhurst in 1959. Most of Blackbushe was disused except the American base. We used to spend time after school playing in the old Nissen huts which were full of all sorts mischief. There was even a complete Dragonfly helicopter.
I'm wondering if Harold Bamberg remembers father, they only had two aircraft at the time? I think they crashed one!
Another day, another photo...I've found one important thing to do when working as a forum Administrator..you cannot do much if you don't log-in first! Maybe it's age, too early in the morning, but there was a failure in basic procedures this morning where non logging-in resulted in some keyboard confusion. Perhaps I should keep such weaknesses to myself, we don't want any forum administrators going off the straight and level, although it might not be the first time that such has happened?
Moving on, I'm here, and you may have noticed one or two subtle changes in the forum layout overnight. I though it was getting ambiguous in places, and it was beginning to confuse me, so...the "Photo of the Day" thread I plan to hold for just that, and would be very pleased if all photos could be directed at the respective spots I have - hopefully - made clear. If not, it's my fault as a trainee forum administrator for making things messy..but hopefully we will all muddle by and have a bit of fun in the process. Can be confusing when a surfeit of 'categories, 'boards' and 'sub-boards' start dancing around, but the learning curve is far from assuming level flight.
So, today....I know a lot of you will have seen many of my photos in our 'previous life', but following the blessed resurrection of this humble offering from its former home I am having to start again from the beginning, but perhaps with a few different commentaries than before to help oil the wheels...
Running a bit late today, I've decided to wander back to the days of Doug Arnold for a moment. One has to say that during his tenancy of Blackbushe, we did have quite a variety of types, large four engined jets to warbirds, there was usually something interesting to see...
The arrival of the beautiful Dan-Air Comet was a sight to behold, as for the first time in decades the famous de Havilland shape appeared on finals for 26, gear down and her massive flap area giving as much low speed lift as it could..rather like barn doors dangling, but they did have a shorter than usual stopping distance awaiting..
Comets were not our only four engined heavies at Blackbushe during Doug's Days..
I trust that this forum will be free of character deformations - especially mine - as we trample over the past years at BB. Why? Well, I will admit to the fact that Doug was not everybody's best chum, and hopefully that covers that, but Doug and I did get on extremely well, a relationship engineered to give me the best access/use of Blackbushe I could manage..This involved doing his nibs the odd favour, one of those happy moments being when the Comet was on her way in. Doug asked me to park the old girl and after discussions he agreed that by the A30 would be good for our image, and I wanted to give Blackbushe a touch of what had been seen there long ago, days that many of us desperately missed. (..and still do). Previously such versions of the Comet would have been wearing their original BOAC marking at Blackbushe, although Dan-Air were huge operators at Blackbushe, they were more prop driven back then... BOAC Comets, all marks, used Blackbushe for crew training, photo will be on here tomorrow.
Thus, having hot footed down to where we had 'agreed' the Comet would go, there was your scribe, trusty marshalling bats in hand wondering how the heck the next few minutes would work, and where the Comet, or I, might end up??
Passing motorists are in for a treat, thought I, hoping the treat would not include my size elevens following the rest of me into a hungry Comet's intake? Here we go....
Feeling a little self conscious, your scribe performs moves that would no doubt get rapturous applause from Darcy Bussell, a pure ballet of aircraft handing as the bats make gyroscopic orbits indicating to the Comet where here final resting place - under power - was to be.
It also gives you the chance to recognise me should our paths cross..I may look a little different today, and the jacket has now gone into the bin.
So endeth another Comet's life, further so endeth the days when Dan-Air crews would fly into Blackbushe Airport. This, although I didn't reflect on it at the time, was the last Dan-Air crew to land here from the many who flew Yorks, Dakotas, Bristol Freighters, and Ambassadors in and out of Blackbushe when she once was known as London's Second Airport.
The young lad who sat by the edge of the Airport in the 1950's, carefully dangling his legs amid the gorse bushes, never dreamed that one day he'd be on 'the other side' parking a Comet 4 on a Blackbushe that had all but been destroyed by government planning and local 'powers'. How could they do it, how could he have imagined that anyone could wish the destruction of such a magnificent airport??
How could the 'duty marshaller' who parked the Comet have dreamed that the men in grey from the County Council would demand the Comet be taken away from its position by the A30 for 'health & safety' reasons. The aeroplane was a distraction!! I wonder how they felt about the many aircraft all over the site pre 1950?? My god, they must have bad nights, and obviously, I had selected a most effective spot for our new airliner!!
What a wonderful looking machine the Comet was Peter. I recall seeing my first "up close" at Lasham, probably around 1970-ish and then of course, residing in Wiltshire as I have done for many years, regularly passing "Saggy", the gate guardian at Lyneham before she was chopped to pieces and what was left of her transported down to the museum at Old Sarum. I don't know what the technical term is for an aircraft with the engines encased in the wing but suffice it to say that two of my favourite looking aircraft are the Comet and the Victor, both absolute works of aviation artwork.
Gone 09.00 and no POTD...Operational complications within the transport department, but back on the roost and time to descend into the vaults to find that Comet photo I promised during yesterday's POTD..I was going to suggest that this thread is like a POTD history of Blackbushe, but decided it would be best not to...silly really.
There she is, G-ALYU, BOAC's Comet Mk 1, "Yoke Uncle" as was known phonetically in the fifties, appeared at Blackbushe regularly during 1951, 52, and 53.. Usually these were crew training sessions, and for a while they were conducted throughout the night. Comet's flying circuits through the night generated a certain amount of animosity amid the local population in the village of Yateley, a mere hamlet in those days, and such flying was curtailed to keep the peace.
It is entirely possible that Blackbushe was the first airport in the world to generate complaints with regard to night time heavy jet operations and their resultant sound effects...
Sadly some of G-ALYU's sister aircraft from the BOAC Comet fleet came to grief while cruising at high altitude, creating something of a mystery as to why. "YU" was donated to the RAE at Farnborough for the famous water tank stress tests, and became one of the most famous Comets of all with her wings sticking out of the huge tanks in which she was incarcerated. She weakened and gave up the Comet's problem to the accident investigators. Metal fatigue due to cracks originating from the then square windows the Comet was fitted with. All later Comets had the oval windows. Little did this lovely aeroplane know her fate as she taxied the length of Blackbushe.
There are rumours that Flyboy's early enthusiasm for flying and Blackbushe lead him to living in a tent by the runway as the above photo shows. It has yet to be disproved...Oh no, sorry, apparently the object is not a tent, but one of the large markers laid out either side of the entire main runway...
The Comet was not a stranger to Blackbushe in her military guise either..
An RAF Comet C2 rests on runway 14/32, often used for additional parking. This runway would not have been required for arrivals or departures on this occasion, the wind sock indicating a healthy airflow from the east! The aircraft in this shot is XK669 of 216 Squadron, possibly on 20 June, 1959, when inbound from Gibralter.
All marks of the Comet in BOAC's fleet crew trained at Blackbushe, the Comet 4 being a particularly beautiful aeroplane to spend time in our circuit. The first Comet 4 to be seen at Blackbushe was BOAC's G-APDB arriving on 19 September, 1958. On 10 February, 1958 BOAC Comet 2, G-AMXK made an emergency landing here following an engine failure, while another unusual Comet movement was when a Royal Canadian Air Force Comet 1 flew an approach during a sortie from Hurn on 29 April, 1953.
There was necessarily a big element of PR in the switch from 'square' to oval windows in the Comet redesign...EVERY cut-out, join, and hole including rivet-holes had to be re-appraised. Yoke Victor had failed from an ADF cut-out corner, I believe, and the manufacturing process ( punching rivet holes rather than drilling? using rivets where only bonding was specified?) had to be reviewed. The DC-8 and 707 noticeably stayed with small 'square' windows(actually rectangular with radiused corners).
The Comet, (and the Valiant) were brilliant aircraft because they had decent wings which could take them both to places types like the B-47s couldn't. Didn't the unmodified RAF reconnaissance Mk1s do high altitude flights with no pressurisation and crew on oxygen? .
Here we are in the briefing room with another "Photo of the Day" mission ahead of us. We appear to be carrying increasing numbers of 'passengers' each day on these sorties, and I thank each and every one for their time spent aboard.
Responses such as from a30yoyo above indicate how valuable informative feedback may be received. Thanks to Mick for his info, and I seem to recall that the Comet was involved in discomfort flights while serving with the Royal Air Force? One's ear drums pop at the thought of it! I can't forget my first high altitude exploration flight - in a Three Counties Aero Club Auster 6 'Kilo Charlie' - we dragged ourselves to 10,000' one summer's evening in the Odiham vicinity. Took some photographs and came straight down again spiral dive fashion. That hurt.. I was about 17 years old and my sinuses were obviously not used to such rapid attempts to remove so many years' "build-up" in so short a time. Even with a few thousand hours hovering above the planet's surface one still gets the odd cranial twinge as terra firma beckons! I will never understand how sky divers ears tolerate such rapid re-compression. A cabin altitude of 8,000' with a controlled return to earth so much more relaxing....
There she is, the wax-works-wonder machine, G-ARKC with sister ship G-ARGB taxiing in the back ground. The Dakota helped make the picture on one of those VERY rare occasions when something so big joined us on the deck.. I used to spend time at the weekend washing the Three Counties fleet of aeroplanes as a nice alternative to school work. My reward would be half an hours free flying lessons each week..The Austers were white with the exception of the fin and rudder, and white canvas was a devil to keep wash-day white with exhaust and the other staining elements that tended to blow in the slip stream.
A few random moments from the past now...
We discussed the Comet of late, and her being seen at Blackbushe over the decades. Here's another visit by that familiar airframe design..
..as a Royal Air Force Nimrod brings tranquility to a halt during one of the Blackbushe Air Shows late sixties/early seventies. British aeroplanes do tend to look rather nice, you must agree?
At the other end of the performance and good looks envelope we find another Aeronca 100 as it reaches 'rotate' speed on Blackbushe's runway 26.
If you read my recent account of ascending in one such a machine, you'll know that the lucky occupants of this motor-bike powered device were in for a fun time!!
Looking back to the days when we had fairly regular fly-ins at Blackbushe, a good variety of types would be seen amid the camaraderie that tends to accompany such gatherings. Another aeroplane with a minimal thrust device attached to her front end was the parasol designed Luton Minor G-BCFY.
Post rotation, she seeks escape velocity from the Blackbushe traffic pattern. Must be time for another fly-in soon...?
Today's final photographic offering reflects further life within the Blackbushe traffic pattern..
One has to remember that in the sixties we had a tremendous demand for space in the Blackbushe circuit....minimum circuit height was flexible, but we did prefer pilots to try and land on the runway if time permitted.
Here we see home based G-APCY on short finals to the apron with Reg Venning in Taylorcraft G-AHUG doing all he can not to land on the sadly disused end of Blackbushe. A Chipmunk appears to be visiting the location of the Blackbushe car breakers' yard.. The breakers' yard has been there for many many years. Now they break cars at the east end, while others sell 'em at the west end - with a bit of flying wedged between.. This shot does indicate how much of the apron the local 'powers' grabbed and subsequently destroyed. A crime against aviation, and the rate payers whose pockets paid for such dastardly actions.
Finally, it's nearly 7am and the worms need feeding...
Hoskins gets it wrong again while Reg leans out of the tower window with megaphone in hand suggesting he executes a missed approach. In the nicest possible way....
Ahh, happy days of long ago when a degree of freedom of expression was tolerated! Obviously the above photos belong to some kind of fun gathering as happened in those treasured days, all was perfectly under control, and I'm not sure if Reg was on duty that day...
These colour photos so bring the events portrayed to life Peter. What photos I ever took back in the late 60's as a very young man were always in B & W simply because the cost of both purchasing and developing colour film were prohibitive for a chap dependant upon his weekly "pocket money".
Friday the thirteenth...should I stay in bed on such a date? Nah, too risky, you'll develop a clot that'll find somewhere inconvenient to lodge, you'll fall out of bed and break something important..best to face the world. So, here we are on another venture into the many shades of grey that float between today and memories of Blackbushe in her better days.
A novel idea streaked through my head, I rather wish it had kept going, but why not look at significant aircraft movements that took place on Friday 13th between 1946 and 1960, the years during which Blackbushe was a major London Airport.
So, turning into sad-man-behind-computer-screen I trawled through the years from the outbreak of peace to the outbreak of destruction when the dark forces conspired to destroy Blackbushe once and for all in 1960.
How convenient was that??? Turns out that the only Friday 13th's to be concerned about occurred in 1948, 1953, and 1959. There, I bet you're glad to be spending time with me this morning, betcha didn't know that?? Next job is to search the far end of the vaults for Blackbushe movements on those days, risking the bats and other undesirables that haunt those 'dark, sinister' quarters....
Friday 13th, February, 1948. Lockheed Lodestar G-AJAW of Silver City was on the move..
Friday 13th,February, 1953 No records found...Eaten by inhabitants of the vaults.
Other movements that were recorded on 13th February, regardless of the day of the week...
1960, PLUNA Airways Viscount 13/02/60
wrong aeroplane, right airline..
Hunting Clan Viking G-AHPB 13/02/60 I knew this was a bad idea! Not one photo of PB or even a Hunting Clan Viking to be found. Sorry!
Britavia Hermes G-ALDM 13/02/57
Best I can do is sister ship "DI"..
Silver City Freighter, G-AMWB 13/02/54
The right aeroplane for once!!
BOAC Comet, G-ANAV, crew training 13/02/54
It's a Comet departing Blackbushe, but that's all I can say! Obviously it's the wrong owner!!!
Blackburn Beverley, XB288, 13/02/58
Wrong Beverley, but it gives the right impression..
I am now totally frazzled with searching thru' zillions of photos, records, and stuff. Apologies for the mish mash presentation, it is still early having just turned 0800. I KNEW I should have stayed in bed - and taken my chances!! At least it gave you a small taste of Friday 13th at Blackbushe, not such bad old place eh??