Another week begin! A change of direction this morning, we'll return to Silver City/Britavia tomorrow..
For a couple of minutes we're drifting back to 1978, Easter, and the Blackbushe Easter Rally in association with the PFA and Blackbushe Airport. One of those happy occasions when a bunch of people who love aeroplanes get together with their steeds, the public can come and 'take a look', and an altogether 'jolly good time' was had by all..
The programme contained a number of pages and some adverts, this one appeared from the attic yesterday...
Blackbushe proved an excellent venue for the event, when her new infrastructure is in place it will be even better for similar gatherings?
The Rally was organised in conjunction with the PFA's Hanworth & Heston Strut. Doug Arnold made the airfield available for the event and closed it to all other flying, he also put some of his fighter collection on show. Neil Williams flew Doug's Spitfire and Harvard in the way that only Neil Williams did, while on the ground aircraft marshaling services were provided by 328 Squadron (Kingston) Air Training Corp. The weather was kind once again!!
On a bright and breezy weekend thinking of Three Counties, PFA and Vintage Aircraft Club members' gatherings at Blackbushe memories too easily slip back to those seemingly free and easy days. For example, summer formation sorties to Sandown with a gaggle of whoever was around at the time. As in this old photo, Tiger Moth, Comper Swift, a Miles Whitney Strait and whatever I happened to be in. The fading log book suggests August, 1968 aboard Three Counties Auster 6, G-ARGB.... Truly happy days.
A moment's reflection. On this day, 1871, a certain Orville Wright was born in Dayton, Ohio. We have much to thank him and his brother Wilbur for.. Orville piloted the the very first heavier than air powered flight.
Moving through the decades POTD arrives back at Blackbushe amid her golden days of heavier than air transport aircraft and further images from the Silver City/Britavia hangar.
The British Aviation Services team abeam their Blackbushe hangar. Trusty Lockheed Lodestar,G-AJAW, forms the background.. Dates the photo to 1948/1949.
A Wiki quote.."British Aviation Services' first investment in a British independent airline occurred in 1946, when it acquired a minority interest in Silver City Airways. Silver City Airways operated the world's first cross-Channel air ferry service on 13 July 1948. It subsequently became British Aviation Services' biggest operating division. In 1953, British Aviation Services took over the independent airline Air Kruise. The same year, BAS Group also took control of Aquila Airways, the last commercial flying boat operator in the United Kingdom. The completion of these acquisitions by mid-1954 resulted in a reorganisation of the British Aviation Services group, with British Aviation Services Ltd (BAS Group) becoming the group's holding company and Britavia one of its operating subsidiaries. By the late 1950s, BAS Group became Britain's largest independent airline operator. Its numerous operating divisions included Britavia's Hermes Division at Blackbushe Airport and Aquila Airways's Flying Boat Division at Hamble near Southampton. The former concentrated on trooping services and inclusive tours while the latter provided scheduled services to Portugal, the Canary Islands and Italy. In 1962, BAS Group merged with British United Airways (BUA), which by that time had replaced BAS as the UK's largest independent airline operator".
Hermes, G-ALDI, shows how two Hermes could share the hangar. Oh for a hangar, or two, today? Once Blackbushe had no less than five large aircraft hangars, more would have been appreciated by the likes of Dan-Air whose engineering base was over at Lasham. One hangar that survived...
Where better than a hangar when then the weather turns chilly?
Britavia Hermes, G-ALDP, one of Blackbushe's most faithful servants. She first operated from Blackbushe in 1954 with her last recorded movement in 1959. During those years her feet hardly touched the ground with extensive operations on charters and trooping flights to the Far East, Middle East and Africa.. In September, 1956, she carried the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra..
Taken on Blackbushe 'south' the photo again shows some of the multitude of offices and workshops that remained with the Airport after the war providing her civil operators with very welcome accommodation.
Tomorrow images from Hermes engineering at Blackbushe and a couple of rare interior photographs of these aircraft whose mighty white tails made a lasting impression on the memory of some...
Continuing our insight into aspects of everyday life on Blackbushe 'south' in the 1950's..
First, an extract from "Flight" May 1952 from one of their transport aircraft surveys, this regarding the Handley Page Hermes.... "The power units are four Bristol Hercules 763 radial engines, each rated at 2,100 h.p. at take-off. Normal accommodation in the B.O.A.C. version is for 40 passengers but for high-density work the Hermes cabin can be adapted to take 64. In its present form the Hermes is regarded by many airline travellers as one of the most comfortable piston-engined aircraft in the world. Span, 113ft; length, 96ft loin; wing area, 1,408 sq ft; basic equipped weight, 55,350 lb; gross weight, 86,000 lb; max. speed, 355 m.p.h. at 20,000ft; typical performance: 3,330 miles at 242 m.p.h. (max.range speed) at 20,000ft with payload of 6,400 lb.
Not everything took place under the hangar roof. A Britavia Hermes undergoes an 'al fresco' engine change..
Under the hangar roof, a Britavia Hermes Bristol Hercules engine undergoes inspection at Blackbushe.
Scrapped in 1959 after a career at Blackbushe from 1954, all we have to show of the mighty G-ALDX is her radio stack. A lifetime of long haul operations included a period operating for Kuwait Airways.
International airlines and airports don't stop because of the night! Nocturnal maintenance at Blackbushe..
The Hermes with a bare interior..
..and the Hermes fully furnished. The photo is dated 25th May, 1957.
A little more from Britavia and Blackbushe 'south' this morning. Tomorrow POTD will bring some more in the way of old Blackbushe infrastructure with exciting evidence of one of the Airport bus stops from the 1950's.. With very little feed back from our readers it's difficult to know whether our current trip into the world of pre 1960 Blackbushe is of significant interest? Having Blackbushe running through one's veins due to direct memories of days gone by I know only too well the 'emotional' link that is possible due to experience, maybe those with younger blood who never witnessed the airport with transport aircraft in all directions and its full infrastructure at work have a greater interest in today's operations, prospects, and recent visitors? "Photo of the Day" has tried to give a reasonable balance to serve all of the eras of Blackbushe's existence; some more feedback from 'out there' would be appreciated to let us know how we're doing!
For now, back to the past...
FIDO arrived at Blackbushe in efforts to beat fog and keep aircraft landing and taking off in times when blankets of fog would mean staying on the ground or diverting to somewhere you could see... The remains of FIDO are still seen today as two lines parallel with and either side of the main runway. Just paving slabs now where once pipes full of petrol were situated causing a massive inferno between which one would land or take off... Blackbushe enjoyed an excellent 'fog free' record, hence 1950's diversions from Heathrow, but nonetheless it did not have magic properties and FIDO did sometimes provide a pathway through the fog
A British European Airways Ambassador, G-ALZY, amid FIDO's flames as the benefits of her fog clearing ability at Blackbushe are demonstrated. Foggy time, 11th November, 1952....
It's a long while since FIDO roared in anger; Fido at Blackbushe today tends to be the four legged variety as he uses disused Blackbushe 'east' for his 'needs'..mind how you go!
Blackbushe as seen from the A30 in good visibility! The entrance to Blackbushe 'south', ie south of the A30. This was the eastern entrance and as can be seen behind the Hermes access leading to the Britavia/Silver City hangar and engineering base. An area totally destroyed at the beginning of the sixties and now no more than entangled trees and undergrowth, memories of how it used to be are enriched by photos such as this that clearly 'bring it back'..
Hermes, G-ALDU, poses with a bit of Blackbushe past in the background and some vehicles of the era. Funny thing is, how cars of the time look so ancient, yet the aerodynamics of the era's aeroplanes keep them still looking somewhat more 'modern' in comparison with cars of the time....
G-ALDU and the great expanse that once was Blackbushe Airport. G-ALDU was the only Hermes to visit New York! She pioneered independent charter flying across the Atlantic when in October, 1955, she flew a party of ship's crew across the Atlantic. From 1954 through to 1959, LDU worked hard as did all her sister ships making Blackbushe the gateway to destinations across and around the world. Sadly today al that is left of the Hermes is one precious fuselage in the care of the IWM museum at Duxford..