Blackbushe of the Past & Present
History of Blackbushe Airport
The airfield was originally laid out from October 1941 onwards on an area of Yateley Common known as Hartfordbridge Flats. RAF Hartfordbridge was provided with three all weather runways, dispersal areas, 11 Bellman hangars and a large campsite for personnel to the east. The airfield was first occupied in August 1942, when it was still incomplete, and was in
use throughout the war. At its peak over 3,000 service personnel were based at the airfield. The A30 road to the south was within the perimeter of the airfield and was closed to traffic from mid-1943. The name was changed to Blackbushe in late 1944 to avoid confusion with a similarly named airfield in Norfolk.
The first civilian flights took place in September 1945, to Denmark. Military use declined throughout 1946 and in the later 1940s, the airfield was established and grew as a major civilian airport used by a number of independent operators to Europe and the Commonwealth. By 1950 there were 11,000 movements, serving 16,000 passengers; by 1955 this had increased to 36,000 movements annually. The airfield was also used by the military, serving as a communications HQ for a squadron of the US Navy from 1955. It was a centre for the evacuation of refugees of the repression of the Hungarian revolution in 1956.
Blackbushe was used as a diversion aerodrome for London Airport (Croydon) and in 1952 had been identified as one of the airfields that would accommodate European traffic when the London Airport closed. By the time London Airport at Croydon closed in 1959 national policy had changed with an emphasis on the new airport at Gatwick as the focus for independent operators instead of a number of smaller airfields. Blackbushe closed in 1960 when the lease ended.
For more details about Blackbushe’s history click here.
Recent Years at Blackbushe
Following the closure, flying activity for private clubs and flying schools recommenced in the 1970s and grew alongside diversification of activities (car auctions, a market). In the early 1990s the runways were resurfaced and the refurbished Terminal building and Control Tower were refurbished.
Blackbushe Airport was owned by British Car Auctions for many years but in 2015 was purchased by a group of investors led by Sir Peter Ogden. The new owners of Blackbushe Airport now wish to carry out improvements to the site to enhance the appearance of the site and allow the Airport to respond to customer requirements.
As owners, BCA decided to ‘repurpose’ the large hangars based on the north side of the airfield adjacent to the their auction site. These had been occupied by one of the largest helicopter charter operators and maintenance facilities (PremiAir) in the country. It employed well over 100 people at its peak before the 2008 stock market crash. The decision to remove the hangars from use by the airfield has meant 40,000 sq ft of hangars are no longer available. This decision has had a significant impact on the profitability and sustainability of the airfield. They generated a large part of the income for the airfield and were the only modern purpose built hangars on the site.
As owners of the Airport, BCA quite rightly focused on its core business. The Airport has therefore not had significant investment and, over the years, a series of uncoordinated and ad-hoc developments have taken place. The layout of the developed area of the Airport is not ideal and currently precludes the development of a more modern facility designed to
meet current aviation needs.
After outlining the range of current activities at Blackbushe, this document explains how it is proposed to rationalise and improve the Airport.
Current Activity at Blackbushe
Blackbushe is currently home to a number of small scale, low key aviation activities. Blackbushe has a number of flying schools. Blackbushe Aviation / Blueplane has twelve aircraft based at the Airport and offers private and commercial
training, air experience flights and ad hoc charters. Air First – the Blackbushe School of Flying has been in existence since 1985 and offers commercial and private pilot training. The Phoenix Helicopter Academy offers a wide range of courses for beginners through to experienced pilots.
Aerobility is a registered charity founded in 1993 offering disabled people, without exception, the opportunity to fly an aeroplane. Aerobility provides ‘experience of a lifetime’ trial flying lessons for as many terminally ill and disabled people as possible every year, also subsidised flying days for other disability charities and at-cost instruction and qualification flight training to disabled people.
Wijet (previously Blink), a charter operator of very light jets has its headquarters on the airfield. It operates a fleet of 13 aircraft across Europe. Its mission is to provide cost effective private air travel.
The Bushe Café is well used by air crew, people working at the Airport and visitors to the site.
BLACKBUSHE AIRPORT TOTAL MOVEMENTS
Total aircraft movements (a movement is a landing or a take-off) for the last few years have varied between 40,000 – 50,000 and are set out below:
Blackbushe Airport Infrastructure
|Sq ft||Sq m|
|The Terminal Building||7,000||650|
|The Bushe Cafe||1,800||167|
|Blackbushe Aviation / Blueplane||1,300||121|
Source: Google Maps (approx.)
The aviation infrastructure at the site is adequate for current operations and able to accommodate all of the improvements set out in this document.
The Airport has a new modern fuel depot with excellent environmental protection features and a fire training facility that also has built in groundwater interceptors.
Blackbushe has a large car park. At present the car park is used by businesses based at the site and visitors to the Airport. It is also used by walkers visiting Yateley Common as this is a convenient place to stop.
From time to time HGVs pull into the site (sometimes to visit the café) but this causes difficulty for others to manoeuvre and is discouraged. With some rationalisation, and the provision of some car parking close to the proposed new hangars, the current car park is adequate for the activities at the Airport.
The Airport itself has some twenty employees and there are approximately 100 others employed at the site.
Licensed opening hours are currently 07:00-22:00 and there is no intention to change this.