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

 

A Sunny Day Out in London

 

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I had the pleasure of doing a university visit with my daughter Emily on Saturday. She wants to study Geography and today’s lucky uni, was Kings College London. We only live about 35 minutes train ride from London, so KCL would be a good choice for Emily should she choose to go there, as she would be able to live at home.

None of us in our house are strangers to London and frequently go in, either for work, or perhaps a concert or just to have a wander round. It’s a great walking city! As I often do, I took my camera along for the trip, and thought I would share the pictures that I took.

The KCL campus is spread about the centre of London, and we were headed towards The Strand campus. This is an easy train journey to London Waterloo East, and a walk over Waterloo Bridge to the Strand. The weather was, quite simply, superb.

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To the east, St. Paul’s Cathedral on the left, then Heron Tower, Tower 42, the edge of the Gherkin, the ‘Cheese Grater‘ and the ‘Walkie Talkie‘. The face of City is changing all the time.

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Looking west from Waterloo Bridge, the London Eye on the left, The Houses of Parliament (including ‘Big Ben‘), the hotels of the Strand, and the back of Charing Cross station.

The walk across the bridge is one of the nicest in London for views, and drops you right onto the Strand just a short walk from Covent Garden. However, we turned right and headed along to the KCL building. Unfortunately, I hadn’t read the open day information properly and now realised that we had to walk all the way back across Waterloo Bridge to attend the welcome talk. (d’oh!)

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A great view from behind the Royal Festival Hall, of Big Ben (see FAQ here) seen through the London Eye. The sky was so clear and blue during the morning. Not a cloud to be seen.

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To the west of Waterloo Bridge is Hungerford Bridge, which is a rail bridge that brings the trains into London Charing Cross station. That’s another very nice walk. About 10 years ago, Hungerford Bridge was renovated and two pedestrian walkways were added to the bridge, one on either side to mark The Queens Golden Jubilee.

These also make great places from which to view London, and also make for a great walk from Charing Cross over to the Royal Festival Hall and South Bank complex on the other side of the river.

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A British Airways Boeing 747 seen through the ‘eye’

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Big Ben bracketed by the supports for the Hungerford Bridge walkways.

 

 

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A Qantas Airbus A380 seen over the top of the London Eye…

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A Qatar Boeing 777 flies over the London Eye. This one taken from Victoria Embankment underground station, by Hungerford Bridge

London is a fantastic city…there is so much to see and do. It’s not the cheapest place in the world to visit (or live!), but there are many things you can do for free such as walking, visiting the royal parks or the museums and galleries etc. (check a good guide book for details), and it is a city steeped in history.

If you view London on the basis of the Tube map, it’s possible to think it’s larger than it is, but you will find that if you walk, places tend to be easily walkable, although it’s a good idea to have a street map to make sure! It’s useful to know that if you fancied walking from Tower Bridge to say, Kensington Palace; it’s long walk!

But, when the sun is shining (and mostly even when it’s not) there is no better place to be – although all city dwellers in New York, or Paris, or Sydney would say the same about those places I imagine!

 

© Copyright Richard Debonnaire