Biggin Hill Notes

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Looking across the airfield, with the passenger terminal and control tower beyond the runway, and London in the background

Anyone who has seen my This is me page, can’t have failed to notice that I have a thing about aviation, and living near Biggin Hill Airport, I quite often mosey over there to see what activity is going on. Some times, there’s lots, others it’s very quiet.

Biggin Hill is a busy little airport, with a number of private jet and general aviation companies operating from it. With it only being a few miles from London, it makes a good base for the average ‘bizjet’ user to fly into and out of, and with only a 6 minute helicopter transfer direct to the City of London, its well positioned for the business traveller market, and that, also makes it an interesting place for the average aviation enthusiast.

First Light

Biggin Hill, is of course famous for the role it played as a fighter base in the 2nd world war, on the front line of air defence during the Battle of Britain. Much has been published on that subject, so I won’t venture far down that path, except to say that one of the best books I ever read about the Battle of Britain, is First Light by Geoffrey Wellum, a pilot, one of the few’ , during the battle. I highly recommend it (the BBC also made a film of it).

It’s with that sense of history in mind that I always think about Biggin Hill Airport. Time has moved on and these days it’s a civilian airfield, although the old gates still have the gate guardians of a Spitfire and Hurricane to watch over them. The main entrance for passenger’s is now on the A233 to the west of the runway but there are the many other charter companies and flying schools (as well as Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Management HQ) on the south eastern edge.

The main road runs past the southern end of the runway and it makes for a good spot to photograph the aircraft as they go about their aviation business. There are all sorts of aircraft pottering around. I really like to see the sleek jets that frequent the place, although I’m only now really getting to know what these are, manufacturers, types, ranges etc., but there is always other stuff to see as well. Here’s a selection taken over the last couple of weeks (on only two visits!).

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L-R: Cessna Citation CJ2+ starting take off run, a Harvard trainer coming into land, the Supermarine Spitfire (adapted to take a passenger) and Cessna 650 Citation VII

One of the pictures I took recently was this of a Curtis-Wright Travelair, and I posted the picture on Instagram:

Curtis-Wright Travelair

In one of those strange occurances that only happens when using social media, one of the pilots of this particular aircraft, Carl, spotted it and asked if I would send him a copy to go on the website for Shipping and Airlines who own it, which of course I was happy to do. In return Carl invited me to visit their hanger at Biggin Hill to have a look around their collection of vintage aircraft, which have been lovingly and beautifully restored to airworthy condition by the engineers at Shipping and Airlines. It was a real treat for me to visit them and to get a close up look at the aircraft they have there, so thanks to Carl for taking the time to show me around.

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Miles Messenger

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Cockpit of the Miles Messenger. Timber framed and plywood skin.

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Cockpit of the Rearwin Sportster. Tandem seats, and pretty cosy!

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Rearwin Sportster

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Cessna 195

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Piper L4 Cub

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Dehavilland Hornet Moth

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Cockpit of the DH Hornet Moth. It’s like an old Rover!

The aircraft were spread out in the hanger, as they were readied for one of their regular outings, this time up Northampton way, so it was easy to wander around them and get up close to them. There is something wonderful to me, about the smell and feel of these aircraft; some made mainly out of plywood, others with a timber or metal frame with fabric stretched over it. The cockpit’s of them varied wildly from really basic, or open, to something more akin to an old 1940’s Rover, with a walnut dash and sprung leather seats. The smell was the same as well (my wife’s uncle owns a vintage Aston Martin DB5 – same smell!).

 

More information on these aircraft types can be found here, but I couldn’t visit without taking my own pictures to post on here..

 

© Richard Debonnaire