1950 - A change of flying club, a hangar extension and skydivers.

During 1949, Bickertons Aerodromes Ltd (BAL) had applied for permission to extend the back of Hangar J. The two hangars were of different depths and had been reconstructed with their front walls aligned. The application to extend Hangar J was intended to bring the back walls into line. This had initially been refused for an unknown reason, so BAL appealled, permission being granted on 22 March 1950. This gave the airfield an additional useful area of hangarage.

The airfield photographed in June 1950, the two hangars evident on the north side would soon be of the same depth.
The airfield photographed in June 1950, the two hangars evident on the north side would soon be of the same depth.

In January it was decided that Denham Air Services, the company that ran the Denham Aero Club should leave. Problems with fuel coupons, as rationing was still in force in the UK, missing fuel and poor accounting all came to a head that month. By February a new organisation, the Denham Flying Club, was founded and took over flying training. Two of the personnel from the earlier organisation, director J. Milli and chief flying instructor Derek Wright remained as part of the new club which began operating in early March. Derek was a very experienced pilot, having flown a wide variety of RAF aircraft during the war, including the Bristol Blenheim and Douglas Boston, before becoming an instructor. The other two directors of the club were M Dickenson and Joan Crane. Joan was a British European Airways stewardess who had joined the company in 1946. She was already experienced aircrew after serving as a nursing orderly in air ambulances with the Women's Auxiliary Air Force during the Second World War. She was to stay with BEA, later British Airways, until 1981, celebrating her retirement as their oldest stewardess with a trip on Concorde.

Mr Derek Wright, a former RAF instructor, remained as the CFI of the new Denham Flying Club. He is seen here with his secretary, Audrey Warwick.
Mr Derek Wright, a former RAF instructor, remained as the CFI of the new Denham Flying Club. He is seen here with his secretary, Audrey Warwick.

The sport of parachuting, or skydiving as it is often known, was in its infancy in 1950, parachutes having previously been considered solely the domain of the military. Parachutes were initially not adopted by the Air Ministry during the First World War as it was suggested pilots would abandon their aircraft unnecessarily. However, it was realised a parachute gave a pilot a second chance to reach the ground safely if his aeroplane broke up or caught fire, so parachutes were officially adopted from 1923 onwards. By 1950, parachute jumps were still sufficiently rare that the activity quickly drew a crowd, and the jumps at Denham were no exception.

A former military parachutist, Major Willans, nicknamed Dumbo, began parachuting at Denham and offered instruction in the skills required. One of his proteges was Britain's first civilian female parachutist, Phyllis Weir, known as Phyl at the aerodrome. Using the aircraft of the Denham Flying Club, Willans, his students and Phyl Weir made many jumps over the aerodrome, an activity that was to continue until 1953. After this point, the London Control Zone was created to provide a safe area around Heathrow airport. The airspace above Denham was dedicated to airline traffic, so parachutists no longer had sufficient height to operate safely. The group moved to Weston On The Green where a parachute club still exists today.

Britain's first female parachutist, Phyllis 'Phyl' Weir seen at Denham in 1950 with one of the flying club's Auster aircraft, ready for another jump.
Britain's first female parachutist, Phyllis 'Phyl' Weir seen at Denham in 1950 with one of the flying club's Auster aircraft, ready for another jump.

The Denham Flying Club quickly established itself, acquiring new aircraft including several Auster variants and a rarity for the time, a nosewheel trainer in the shape of a Piper Tri-Pacer. The clubhouse had been extended to give more room for administration and socialising and do-it-yourself tea was available for visitors.

The Denham Flying Club acquired a Piper Tri-Pacer trainer, the nosewheel design being a relative rarity in 1950.
The Denham Flying Club acquired a Piper Tri-Pacer trainer, the nosewheel design being a relative rarity in 1950.

The flying club's shed on the south side of the airfield was exended to provide the new club with improved facilities.
The flying club's shed on the south side of the airfield was exended to provide the new club with improved facilities.

The Denham Flying Club settled in and many visitors came to the airfield to watch the parachuting and aircraft. The airfield's usefullness as an asset to the military was about to develop and modern technology was to arrive at Denham, as will be related next.

 

1949 page

Index page

1951 page