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

Collection of Photos from heyday of Dunsfold

Eric Hayward had worked at Dunsfold for many years and over that time was able to take photographs of the activities and aircraft that he saw.   His whole collection has been scanned and assembled into an album on Flickr.  Whilst it is a diverse collection, in no particular date order, many images are from Dunsfold, and some are of very significant aircraft.

If you can assist in identifying aircraft and locations, please do add the detail in the comment section.

Eric Hayward. Mainly Dunsfold

Control Tower (1970’s)

The replacement Control Tower installed in the 70’s. Photo taken 1979
Brick built with a concrete slab roof that was asphalted.
Internally the floors were concrete with a tiled finish
It originally had the air traffic equipment, a boiler house (oil fired), radar and radio workshops. All covered an area 2400 sq ft.
The Radar installation was an ex-RAF AR1 system, later removed when BAe left the airfield.

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

Canadian War Memorial – Listed Grade II

The monument stands in front of the Watch Office/control tower that is located to the north of the main runway in the centre of the WWII and latter aircraft development industrial sector.   It was Listed by Historic England in December 2017. 

Dunsfold Monument

A large six sided memorial carved with 3 maple leaves, 3 regimental insignia and an inscription:-  Opened by Lieutenant AGL McNaughton GOC of First Canadian Army and handed over to Air Marshall H Edwards Air Officer Commanding in Chief RCAE overseas for the use of the royal Canadian Air Force 16 Oct 1942.

These were the Royal Canadian Royal Airforce , Royal Canadian Engineers, Canadian Forestry Corps and First Canadian Army.

Other monuments by the sculptor Stephen Trenka include one at Young Street (Leatherhead Bypass) and at Young Street in Toronto, Canada. (Trenka was a designer of coins including the reverse of the Canadian Dollar).

1986 Dunsfold Control Tower with memorial in front

Since application for a Conservation Area and Waverley Borough Council’s rejection there have been a number of assets considered for Listed Building Status.  Historic England have since designated 5 Listed Structures on the Airfield site:

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