Could Red Arrows ‘come home’ to Dunsfold?

Many will have seen the news last week that the RAF is closing Scampton – the airbase which, among other things, is the home of the iconic Red Arrows display team. Those with an interest in UK aviation history, including neighbours living around Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, will probably also know that the Hawk trainer jet which is used by the Red Arrows was developed, assembled and first flown at the Dunsfold Aerodrome in 1974.  More than a few people are therefore asking the question – is now the time to consider offering a new base for the Red Arrows, at the historic home of the Hawk, Dunsfold Aerodrome?

Hawk 168 in 1985 over Dunsfold: Image by Andy Lawson/ BAe Systems
Red Arrows and BAe aircraft in 1985 at Dunsfold: Image by Andy Lawson/ BAe Systems
Red Arrows at Dunsfold 2010. Photo courtesy Karen Sutton www.limelight-marketing.co.uk

By coincidence (or may it be providence?), a rare example of a Hawker Hunter fighter jet which has for many years been on public display in a shopping street in Woking, is also looking for a new home. ‘XL623’ was the last Hunter T.7 to be built, and it is believed it first flew at Dunsfold.

T7 Hunter XL 623 as art in Woking
T.7 Hunter XL 623 as art in Woking Photo Courtesy Neil Randell
T.7 Hunter XL 623 being removed from Woking, July 2018 Photo Courtesy Carol Fenton-Balch
XL623. Royal Air Force Hawker Hunter T.7 at RAF Leuchars. Image copyright Jim Cain

Having been donated to Brooklands Museum, and with the help of the Hawker Association, restoration of Hunter T7 XL623  is about to begin – very fittingly at Dunsfold Aerodrome! How good would it be if that aircraft could also find a permanent home at the Dunsfold site?

Dunsfold Aerodrome is also the semi-permanent home of the Brooklands-owned VC10 aircraft, which although not fit to fly, regularly starts up its engines for a short taxi round the runways. In addition, it is a base frequently used by a WW2 Dakota painted in D-Day landing colours.

In the past year, the Aerodrome has benefitted from a flurry of Listings of buildings on the near-intact and still operational airfield.   During 2017, Historic England listed as Grade II;

VSTOL Blast Pads

Engine Running Pens

Royal Observer Corps Monitoring Post

Canadian War Memorial

So are we about to see a resurgence of interest in Dunsfold Aerodrome becoming a living museum as the home of a VC10, Hunter XL623, and – possibly? – a base for the Red Arrows flight of Hawk jets?    Well, while the threat of obliteration of the aerodrome under housing development remains, this would seem a remote dream. But, surely, the site owners, who often cite their interest in the flying history of the airfield, would do well to consider how popular such a proposal might be, and how many tourists the new museum could attract? It may, just, be time for the planes to come home to Dunsfold.

Banner Image: Red Arrows at Dunsfold 2010. Image courtesy of Gareth Stringer

Dunsfold Airfield given approval for 1800 homes.

The Secretary of State has now decided on the fate of the airfield.  After the 3 week long Planning Inquiry on the development plans his Planning Inspector  approved the proposals and the Secretary of State has agreed with that judgement.  The full details of the decision is here.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/695972/18-03-29_DL_R_Dunsfold_Park_3171287.pdf

Grade II Listing for VTO Pads and Engine Running Pens

Engine running pens and VTO blast grid at Dunsfold Airfield, Cranleigh, Surrey – Awarded Listed Building Status

The latest news from Historic England is published here:

Following the application to add the above building to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, we have now considered all the representations made and completed our assessment of the building. Having considered our recommendation, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has decided to add the Engine running pens and VTO blast grid at Dunsfold Airfield to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. They are now listed at Grade II.

VTO Tethering Pad during the early development tests of vertical take off and landing
Engine running pens

Please click on the link below to download a copy of Historic England’s advice report, which gives the principal reasons for this decision. The List entry for this building, together with a map, has now been published on the National Heritage List for England, and will be available for public access from tomorrow. This List can be accessed through the Historic England website.

http://services.historicengland.org.uk/webfiles/GetFiles.aspx?av=57C7E905-875A-49E1-A270-FFAC5B70BDE6&cn=06233F8A-F95E-43A7-81CC-09EBF700A043

The local planning authority will now be preparing the statutory notices required under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.

DAHS Editor’s note:  This brings the total of Listed Structures on the Airfield site to 5:

Primemeads Farm – Grade II

VTO Blast Pads – Grade II

Engine Running Pens – Grade II

Royal Observer Corps Monitoring Post – Grade II

Canadian War Memorial – Grade II

Duncan Simpson

Duncan Simpson    23rd December 1927 –  7th December 2017

Duncan Simpson. Photo from Tangmere Military Aviation Museum

We very much regret to announce the death on 7th December of Duncan Simpson OBE CEng FRAes FIMechE

Duncan was at the forefront of UK military aviation for many years.  He played a key role in the development of the Hunter fighter, the Harrier and Sea Harrier, and led development of the Hawk advanced trainer also flown by the Red Arrows.

His link with Dunsfold is inextricable –   Simpson joined Hawker in 1954 and became Hawker’s Chief Test Pilot in 1970, notable that he flew the P.1127 as well as making the first flight in a Hawk.  He was Master of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators in 2002, and in 2011 received the Guild’s Award of Honour in recognition of his outstanding lifetime contribution to aviation.  He was also a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

Latterly he  served with distinction as the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum’s Honorary President from 2007 until 2013.

His son John contacted the Heritage Society to inform us of his father’s passing:  “He died peacefully at his home on Thursday 7th December 2017 having endured severe ill health since early 2015.  We are aware of the highly valued relationship he had with all those at Dunsfold. We would very much appreciate it if you could please pass on this message to others who remember him.  Any former colleagues or close friends we would very much like to hear from.  Messages can be sent to dmssimpson@btconnect.com .     A Memorial Service is being held at St Clement Danes WC2R 1DH on Tuesday 24th April at 11am and after at the RAF Club W1J 7PY.  Any donations please to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

A Memorial Service to celebrate his life will take place at St Clements Dane’s on Tuesday, 24th April 2018″

A short profile of Duncan is here.

Open Day for VC10 at Dunsfold

On Saturday 15th July we will be holding an Open Day at Dunsfold Aerodrome for our VC10 ZA150, which lives there. This was the very last VC10 of 54 built at Brooklands in the 1960s and was one of the last two to fly with the RAF from Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. On its retirement in September 2013 it was acquired by Brooklands Museum and flew in to Dunsfold, where a team of dedicated volunteers maintain it in running order.

Entry is by pre-purchased ticket only and the timetable is as follows:

  • 12.00-14.00 Pre-booked visitors will arrive via Stovolds Hill
  • 13.00-13.15 Taxi run
  • 13.45-15.30 Visits on board in small groups
  • Last entry to Dunsfold will be 14.00

More info at Brooklands site.