1958 - Interesting visitors.
As already mentioned, the principal flying instructors at Denham were Derek 'Wilbur' Wright and Eddie Hewett. The membership of the Denham Flying Club under their leadership were a varied crew, regular parties at the Hawksridge restaurant, now known as Biggles, were the order of the day. The membership represented a wide range of aviation backgrounds and experience, from Ron Gillman, who was Chief Training Pilot for British European Airways on the Ambassador and Elizabethan fleet at the time and has featured several times in this history, to Peter Heywood who had been a 21 EFTS instructor during the war but was now a teacher. Ab initio members included Brian Dunlop, an enthusiastic local lad who was to have a distinguished aviation career ending up as a training captain with British Aerospace, and Roy Mills, whose memories of leaning to fly at Denham at this time form part of Peter Campbell's excellent "Tail ends of the fifties", the third of his anthologies of aviation memories of the period. Roy Mills was to go on to be a founder member of the Vintage Aircraft Club in 1963, an organisation dedicated to the preservation and operation of vintage aircraft still in existence today.
The membership bought a wide variety of types of aircraft to the club throughout the 1950s, some of them quite unusual. Herbert Warwick brought G-ADHE to Denham in 1955, a de Havilland dH.60G III Moth Major, very similar in appearance to a Tiger Moth but without the staggered wings of that type, so the top wing centre section was immediately above the front cockpit. This arrangement gave the aircraft quite a high sink rate on approach when compared to the Tiger, so flying it required a degree of caution and knowledge. In 1957, Warwick sold the aircraft to Nightscale Aircraft Services who kept it at Denham. Sadly, this was to be written off in an accident in March 1958 near Rickmansworth, neither of the two people on board were hurt. Another aircraft belonged to Charles Cosmelli, G-AGAK, a rare Hirtenberg HS.9A built in Austria in 1937. This was a two seat open cockpt design and was unusual in that it had a parasol wing suspended on struts above the fuselage. This too was to be written off in an accident on 15 February 1958 in Hampshire. Cosmelli, who was flying it at the time, escaping with minor injuries after trying to land in bad weather.
Fly-ins from other clubs became a popular activity during the 1950's with aircraft coming from all over the UK for Breakfast Patrols or other events. The two aircraft seen below were at Denham for such an occassion, a fly-in organised on 13 April 1958. Both are de Havilland dH.82a Tiger Moths, the first, G-APFX, was owned by Southern Flying Schools and based at Portsmouth, whereas G-ANSR was privately owned and based at Christchurch.
On 21 September 1958, the Denham Flying Club held a Garden Party for visitors and members. Amongst others, the famous Tiger Club flew in to Denham for the event. The Tiger Club had been formed in 1956 by Norman Jones of Rollason Aircraft and five pilots interested in racing Tiger Moths. Jones purchased five Tiger Moths for the new club and when he began producing the Druine D.31 Turbulent at his factory at Croydon in 1957, the first four aircraft also went to the Tiger Club. The Tiger Club moved to Redhill in 1959, and today still operates from Daymns Hall just outside London in Essex. The club flew in with two Tiger Moths and three of their Turbulents, including the first one built for the club, G-APBZ. Another visitor was an Aeronca Champion from the United States Air Forces Europe Flying Club, flown by Captain Collins of the US Air Force. The club was made up of personnel from the USAF base at Ruislip or from the US Embassy in London. The base was eventually closed and later became a housing estate.
During the autumn of 1958, a new resident began to make regular flights in and out of Denham. This was Miles M.38 Messenger G-AKVZ, owned by Hector Laing, chairman of the United Biscuits Group. Laing had learned to fly in 1947 and found aircraft to be very useful in commuting across his extensive business interests, initially owning an Auster A.1N Alpha, G-AJAJ. Realising that the assistance of a professional pilot would be of great value, particularly in bad weather, Laing approached Hughie Kennedy, a test pilot for Miles aircraft, to discuss his aviation requirements and to initially employ him as a co-pilot on long or bad weather flights. Kennedy suggested that a Miles M.38 Messenger would be an ideal aircraft, Laing purchasing G-AKVZ on 16 September 1957. The Messenger was based at Denham as Laing had many business interests in London and the surrounding area and as can be seen in the programme above, was to win the best kept aircraft at the Denham Flying Club Garden Party on 21 September. This aircraft was to be followed by a Miles M65 Gemini 1A, G-AKDJ, delivered on 21 December 1958, and like its predecessor was based at Denham from that time onwards.
The arrival of the Hector Laing's first aircraft at Denham and his eventual development of the United Biscuits' aviation department were to have a tremendous effect on the development of the aerodrome, as will be related later in this history.