Southend Airport
It was in 1933 that Southend-on-Sea Corporation purchased the land from which in World War I squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps had flown against the Zeppelins and Gothas approaching Essex from the North Sea, and before anything more than an enthusiastic flying club could be formed the Air Ministry established a unit of RAF Volunteer Reserve here and earmarked the airfield as a satellite for Hornchurch (and later for North Weald). 18th September 1935: Official opening of the Southend Airport 10:00am Gates open; Admission Up till 1:30pm Adults 6d, Children 3d, Cars 1s Admission After 1:30pm Adults 1s, Children 6d Mayors enclosure: Adults 10/6, Children 5s 11:00 Formation Flying by Southend Flying Club Avro Cadets 11:15 Arrival of Mr C. W. A. Scott 11:30 Autogiro 11:45 Lecture by Mr C. W. A. Scott 12:00 Crazy flying by Capt Glover Southend Flying Club 12:15 Pleasure flights over Southend 12:45 Arrival by His Worship The Mayor of Southend & Rt Hon Sir Philip Sassoon. The Under Secretary of State for Air 12:55 Presentation of Bouquets to the Mayoress & Mrs Webber 1:00 Luncheon Interval 2:30 Official Opening by Sir Philip Sassoon 2:45 Autogiro 3:15 Display by Air Publicity, aircraft will tow banners between 150 - 250 feet in length by 4 to 7 feet high these can cover up to 600 to 1750 square feet of sky space 3:30 Display of the latest type of high speed fighter by S. A. Thorne of A. V.Role 3:45 Special Surprise item 4:00 Converging Bombing 4:15 Parachutes 4:30 Demonstration of the latest open and closed civil aircraft, including Short Scion & De Havilland DH86 Express The Astoria Grand Orchestra 4:45 Mannequin Parade 8:00 Illuminations Pleasure Flights Aircraft displaying included: Avro Lynx 4x Hawker Heart Mew Gull Kings Cup Falcon From here in 1940 Churchill's illustrious "few" battled with the Luftwaffe, and it was not until 1946 that the corporation was able to continue with its plan. On 1st January 1947, the airport was at last opened and licensed for traffic. A few months earlier though, on 16th August 1946, Sqn Ldr Jack Jones AFC had brought in a Puss Moth for joy-riding and to lay the foundation for what is locally known as "Southend's own airline" - Channel Airways. In March 1947 a municipal flying school was started, followed by the early flights of East Anglian Flying Services and the official airport opening ceremony in July. The nearness of E. K. Cole's radio and radar factories enabled the then manager of the airport, Bernard Collins, to liaise over approach aids, and by 1948 airfield lighting and customs facilities were introduced. The Berlin airlift saw Halton transports of Bond Airways (converted Halifax bombers) being serviced by Aviation Traders, who remained on after the airlift ended to become an integral part of the airport's maintenance organization. Then came the Channel air bridge with the Bristol freighter, initiated by Air Charter Ltd, associated with Aviation Traders, and on Good Friday 1955 Captain Bob Langley DFC (who flew Carvairs of BUA), took the first cars and passengers to Calais, having earlier flown over to dump the ramps in France to facilitate off-loading. Southend was expanding in many directions and the trooping of sailors, soldiers and airmen to Malta and Cyprus by DC4 Skymasters was almost a nightly occurrence. Then on the morning of Christmas Eve 1958, as fog rolled across England, both Heathrow and Gatwick airports ceased accepting incoming airliners. Until this moment Southend had not been regarded as a major diversion base by the international operators, but within a short space of time more than fifty airliners, ranging from Viscounts to DC6As and Constellation 749As, were most efficiently landed and the airport was well and truly on the world aviation map. The following year Southend was second in total movements (beaten only by Heathrow) and third in the country for total freight tonnage. BKS Air Transport had moved in to become the airport's third resident airline and the mile and a third pier had taken second place, as the town's major feature was now definitely the coming and going of aircraft, whether the local flying of light machines or the arrivals of the huge Britannias for major overhaul before returning for their trooping schedules at Stansted. Often, too, great air freighters left for bases as far away as Australia, carrying supplies for the Woomera rocket range and the British nuclear tests at Maralinga and Christmas Island. In 1961 Channel Airways purchased its first four-engined airliner, a DC4 Skymaster, and two years later, on acquiring Tradair, another company, Channel introduced the Golden Viscounts and invested enormous sums in a large maintenance base, today reckoned as a £500,000 unit in itself. The Hawker Siddeley 748 twin prop-jets have been added to the growing fleet, and during Easter 1967 the smallest of the eighteen airliners flying thousands of holidaymakers to Channel Island and continental destinations was the fifty-eight seater HS748. To this magnificent fleet was added four BAC1-11 eighty-nine seat jets for regular flights to Malta and many other European airports in 1967, supported by Channel Airways' fifty-two seat coaches and a growing interest in hotels and catering to make the company virtually self sufficient. British United Air Ferries were already firmly established in Essex, perhaps because of the ingenious conversion by Aviation Traders Ltd. of the DC4 Skymaster into the now- famous Carvair, partly achieved at Stansted and partly on Southend Airport. On 31st March 1967, the last scheduled Bristol freighter (three cars and sixteen passengers) gave way to an all-Carvair service taking five cars and twenty two passengers or an increase to fifty-five passengers at holiday times. In addition BUAF flew many freight services as an integral part of the export drive (with a far-seeing eye on Common Market possibilities), taking seven and a half tons per trip of items as varied as live lobsters (from Alex Jarno's ponds at Fambridge) to five-ton ships' crankshafts often in emergency to a continental port where BUAF aircraft enable a quick repair to be quickened. Baggage for our forces in Germany is handled and, to offset the loss of the old Thames steamer outings to Calais and Ostend, negotiations began in February 1967 for day and weekend excursions by BUA and Channel Airways - at most reasonable rates. BKS Air Transport wanted to resume passenger operations from Southend in 1967, but remained locally based as BKS Engineering Ltd busily overhauling Britannias and Elizabethans that fly from Heathrow, Newcastle and Leeds-Bradford airports along with HS748, DC3 Dakota and Bristol freighter aircraft. One BKS engineering task was the conversion of the Elizabethan airliner to take eight horse-boxes, and the famous Arkle was flown in a BKS aircraft for a well deserved break in Ireland. Within the mighty Aviation Traders hangars some quite unusual work proceeds, including the testing of alternators from the BUA VC10 and BAC1-11 Gatwick-based and Stansted-based fleets, and the design and manufacture of seats for these machines and the giant freight doors for the VC-10s and Britannias, not only for BUA but for RAF transport Command and other operators of these giant aircraft. Studies proceeded into the conversion to freighters and/or car-carriers of such types as the Douglas DC6 and DC7 airliners, using Rolls-Royce Dart engines. Meantime the demands for the locally designed and built "Hylo" lifts and loaders used by airliners world wide (and by the RAF) - helped to keep Aviation Traders busy, despite the cut backs at the time for Carvair flights. No operator at Southend airport - including "Laddie" Marmol and his popular pleasure flights and the Rochford Hundred Flying Club, whose members included well known aviation writer A. J. Jackson, a Southend schoolmaster and keen "Tiger Club" pilot - would deny the final word in praise of Southend-on-Sea's airport committee and airport staff. The airport commandant for 1967, Mr Anthony P. Cusworth, first flew from the airport as a schoolboy before joining the RAF in which he flew with squadrons in Army Co-operation (Lysanders) and Coastal (Sunderland flying-boats) and Transport Commands during the pre-war and war period. Post-war he was based at North Weald in 604 (R.Aux.AF) Sqdn., and after being senior traffic controller and then deputy commandant he became commandant in 1964. His progressive outlook has seen the airport grow in all directions - the envy of many airports throughout Europe. Not least in importance is the customs bonded freight shed owned and operated by the corporation, supplemented by a separate export shed through which passed vital cargoes to all parts of the world. The fifteen freight agencies that used Southend airport formed their own association allowing for fast cargo transfer allowing for example a flight to happen within a day to Ireland. It was never intended as a future ambition in 1967 to make Southend airport a "big jet" base, and the twin engined HS125 and the Lear executive jets along with the BAC1-11s as perhaps the largest types of that decade, although still expected to fly at least 750,000 passengers in and out, with 70,000 tons of freight. When one remembers that this is the only non-state airport in Europe that does not receive state aid and operates at a substantial profit, to reduce the local rates (in 1966 the profit was £100,000 after deduction of taxes, etc) we cannot but take off our hats to a truly inspiring performance. The 1914 field noted by the War Office as an important link in the Essex chain around London saw in 1967 more than 250 aircraft flights per day throughout summer and rarely fewer than eighty in the winter-many would help to stress Britain's value to the Common Market.
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