Royal Air Force Weston-super-Mare or more simply RAF Weston-super-Mare is a former Royal Air Force
station which was located on a civilian airfield in Weston-super-Mare
It was set up as a municipal civilian airport in the 1930s before being taken over by the RAF in the Second World War
for training and technical services. It was also the site of an aircraft production facility. In the postwar period it was used by Westland Helicopters
. It is now home to the Helicopter Museum
and a housing estate.
The airport was started by Weston-super-Mare Urban District Council in the 1930s. Sir Alan Cobham
had encouraged local authorities to build airfields as part of his 'Municipal Aerodromes Scheme' in the late 1920s.
In May 1936, scheduled air services were started by Railway Air Services
using the de Havilland Dragon
and de Havilland Express
to fly from Plymouth
, then across the Bristol Channel
to Cardiff Municipal Airport
before recrossing the Bristol Channel to Weston and then flying on to Bristol (Whitchurch) Airport
. The distance from Cardiff
to Weston is less than across the water, however the road journey would have been around or a trip on the Aust Ferry
before the Severn Bridge
opened in 1966, although the Severn Tunnel
enabled rail travel between South Gloucestershire
and South Wales
By 1938, a passenger terminal and administration building had been completed, along with a side opening hangar, and Western Airways
started services using de Havilland Dragon Rapide
s and a de Havilland Dragonfly
, for a scheduled service via Birmingham
On 18 October 1938 the Straight Corporation
, headed by Whitney Straight
purchased control of Norman Edgar (Western Airways) Ltd
. and renamed it Western Airways, Ltd.
On 2 January 1939, the Royal Air Force
opened a School of Technical Training at RAF Locking
, that did not have an airfield, but was only a mile from the Weston-super-Mare site. This was followed in 1939 by the establishment of No. 39 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School RAF
(ERFTS) at the airport, using Miles Magister
s and the Audax and Hind variants of the Hawker Hart
. In September 1939, the No. 39 ERFTS was disbanded and replaced by the No. 5 Civil Air Navigation School RAF
(CANS); both were run by the Straight Corporation, until the RAF took it over and renamed it No. 5 Air Observers Navigation School RAF
and, in 1940, transferred to Oudtshoorn
, South Africa
, and were replaced by No. 10 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School RAF
On 1 May 1940, the RAF formally took over the airfield, and a main runway of was laid, with shorter runways of and on the grass. On the west of the airfield at Oldmixon
, a factory was built by the Ministry of Aircraft Production
to manufacture the Bristol Beaufighter
, that were then flown out of the airfield. A Q-decoy site
was set up at Bleadon
, in an attempt to protect the factory from bombing by the Luftwaffe
In October 1942, it became the headquarters of No. 286 Squadron RAF
that operated a variety of aircraft, including Hawker Hurricane
s, Boulton Paul Defiant
s and Airspeed Oxford
s, to provide targets for anti-aircraft gun practice in the west country of England. 286 Squadron was replaced in November 1943 by a detachment of No. 116 Squadron RAF
its main task was the calibration of predictors and AA radar used by numerous Anti-aircraft
batteries in the UK. In March 1944, an Aircraft Torpedo Development Unit was added, that used ranges in the Bristol Channel for testing, and stayed at Weston until 1949.
It was latterly as the Polish Air Force
Staff College from April 1944 to April 1946.
RAF training in conjunction with RAF Locking continued after the Second World War, but also civilian flights resumed. In 1955, the old Beaufighter factory at Oldmixon was converted for use by the Bristol Aeroplane Company
Helicopter Division, headed by helicopter pioneer Raoul Hafner
, that transferred there from Filton
. Production at the site included the Sycamore
, that was the first British
to fly and serve with the Royal Air Force, that used it for search and rescue
and anti-submarine warfare
. The Belvedere
followed, a twin-engine, tandem rotor
. It was designed for a variety of transport roles including troop transport, supply dropping and casualty evacuation
. It was operated by the Royal Air Force from 1961 to 1969. In 1960, the factory was taken over by Westland
, and served as a logistics supply station, until closure in 1987.
The airfield was the home to No. 87 Glider Squadron (87 GS), that had been set up at Weston in 1943, and later became No. 621 Volunteer Gliding Squadron
(621 VGS) staying at the site until 1993, when it moved to RAF Hullavington
Today there is an operational heliport
on site, used occasionally by the RAF Search and Rescue
service and other civil and military visiting helicopters.
A corner of the airfield site houses The Helicopter Museum
that took over part of the site in 1978 including a Second World War
armoury building and air-raid shelter. The main part of the site passed into the ownership of Persimmon Homes and
in 2011 a housing development, to be named Winterstoke Village after the Hundred of Winterstoke
, was proposed, with associated areas for new employment opportunities.
On 6 September 2012 construction machinery moved in and began building a new road on the line of the main runway, with a roundabout to give access from the A371
Locking Moor Road.
Accidents and incidents
On 22 November 1946 a Royal Air Force twin-engined Douglas Boston
bomber hit and ripped the top off a bus with its landing gear as it was on approach to the airfield.
The bus was the middle one of three taking 57 airmen from nearby RAF Locking
to Weston-super-mare railway station.
Seven airman were killed at the scene and one died later, four others were seriously hurt.
The aircraft crash landed on the airfield and the crew of three were not injured.
On Wednesday 7 July 1948 de Havilland Sea Mosquito TR.33
''TW284'' of the Air Torpedo Development Unit at RAF Gosport
in Hampshire was performing a slow roll around 400 or 500 feet when one of the wings failed and it crashed on the airfield killing the two RAF officers on board.
["News in Brief." Times ondon, England8 July 1948: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 4 March 2015]
*Tillbrook, Ray (Editor). 1998. Over & Out: A History of Royal Air Force Locking. Forces & Corporate Publishing
*Dudley, Roger and Johnson, Ted. 2010. Weston Super Mare & the Aeroplane. Amberley Publishing
. 2004. Fleet Air Arm Fixed-Wing Aircraft since 1946. Air-Britain
Category:Royal Air Force stations in Somerset
Category:Buildings and structures in Weston-super-Mare
Category:Royal Air Force stations of World War II in the United Kingdom