Nottingham's Private Airport (1968)
Much is talked today of how streamlined Britain has become and what
a modern outlook she now has. We hear about `Swinging London' and
all the rest, but, in fact, we are in many respects, in spirit at
any rate, still back in horse and buggy days. Flying in America is
second nature to businessmen, who never drive when they can fly,
even over relatively short distances.
Private enterprise airports proliferate
in America and the air taxi-service, for example, is almost as much
part of the daily scene as motor cabs are here. In this country the
service is regarded too much as a gimmick, and yet in places like
Notting-ham it is available at all times.
Do the citizens of Nottingham as a whole
realize that there is an airport a mere matter of a few minutes from
the city centre? Whether they know it or not, there seems to be a
complete lack of interest by the Chamber of Commerce, travel
agencies and indeed by a number of important business tycoons
HOW IT ALL
IT IS NOT generally known that Nottingham has had its own airport
for nearly forty years. It dates back to 1928 when the airfield at
Tollerton was created by T. Shipside Ltd. to serve as the city's
aerodrome. It seems that the public in those days were more
air-minded, or perhaps just less blase. Here at Tollerton, large
crowds from Nottingham and farther afield flocked to see Sir Alan
Cobham who appeared frequently there. They were also out in full
force to cheer the famous 'Flying Flea' and gasp at the daring
exploits of Cleni Schon, the 'Birdman', that pioneer of the free
fall. Private flying was in its infancy then, yet Tollerton was a
very busy place catering for this side of air transport. It was cut
short at the Munich crisis to become of nationwide importance, being
used for the R.A.F. Reserve School and the National Air Guard. When
war broke out Field Aircraft Services Ltd. took over the existing
maintenance installations and the airfield became a satellite of
R.A.F. Newton, for training purpose's. The air-port was consequently
geared to take Lancasters, Dakotas, Viscounts and even Vikings of
the Queen's Flight.
making a substantial contribution to the war effort, Shipside's
returned in 1946 and the private flying club was re-formed. The
Ministry of Aviation then stepped in, built offices and staffed the
aerodrome with the intention that it should be once again
Nottingham's official airport. At this stage of the story it is
interesting to note that one of the biggest independent airlines
started at Tollerton. In that year a small company started called
Trent Valley. This later sold out to a company which is now British
small airlines were either taken over or closed down, and in 1949
the R.A.F. returned and used the airfield in conjunction with
Syerston. Field Aircraft continued their maintenance work but the
flying club closed down, although individual private flyers
continued to use the runways. These private users of the airfield
kept the place going until 1956/57. In 1956 the airfield was
derequisitioned by the R.A.F. and in the following year Field
Aircraft moved their headquarters to Wymeswold where they now
At this juncture the
Sherwood Flying Club was formed and continued to look after the
airfield. For a time they enjoyed it to themselves.
One Man's Vision
The freehold of Nottingham Airport is vested in the City Council and
after the R.A.F. and Field Aircraft had departed the site ceased to
be of use to the public at large. Considerable speculation and
uncertainty were aroused concerning the aerodrome's future. Either
the site should remain an aerodrome, or be developed as a housing
estate. At one stage it was considered as a possible site for the
East Midlands Airport; but this came to nothing.
It was then that Mr. Derek Truman, of C. H. Truman and Co. Ltd., was
fired with the idea of re-opening the airfield as Nottingham's
airport once again, but this time in conjunction with plans to enter
the light aviation business of selling and operating the new
American aircraft just becoming available.
After much negotiating with the City Fathers, Truman's were able to
obtain a lease of 75 years and permission to develop Tollerton as
one of the country's few airfields devoted exclusively to the needs
of private flying. Plans were also submitted and approved to build
restaurants, bars and a motel and a private firm was commissioned to
carry out the work. Unfortunately this firm was unable to raise the
necessary capital, so this side of the venture was temporarily
Mr. Truman finally got the A.B.C. Film Company interested in
developing the social and catering side of the business and new
plans were submitted which included the country's first project for
a drive-in cinema. With the capital backing of A.B.C., all seemed to
be at last going smoothly. But a further obstacle arose in the form
of official objections. The plans were not passed by the Planning
Committee and the whole thing is at the moment in abeyance awaiting
an appeal. The sole objection was the drive-in cinema (a typical
British approach to anything new).
Meanwhile the new company, Truman Aviation Ltd., went ahead with the
aeronautical side of the business until today, it caters for some 24
privately owned aircraft and has two twin engined 'planes for
private hire. It is not perhaps generally realised this is a
completely private investment supporting the rates through an annual
rental and all development is entirely without help from public
funds. In other words its continual progress must enhance the city
and county without any cost whatsoever to the ratepayer.
Many interesting public figures have made use of Nottingham Airport
during the last two or three years including Sir Alec Douglas-Home,
Lord Robens, the Prime Minister of Malaya, the South African
Ambassador and show-business people like Hughie Green, Stan Stennet.
Dick Emery and Alfie Bass. Over the past twelve months there have
been several thousand visiting aircraft and the total number of
movements, including club training and private owners based on the
airfield, is 22,256. Flights from Tollerton have reached as far
afield as Stuttgart, Nice, Rome, Le Mans and several Eastern
Buying the Piper
Truman's represent the American firm which build the Piper single
and twin engined aircraft which can be purchased through them. These
'planes are mainly bought by individual businessmen or by companies
whose executives do a lot of travelling. The sums involved might be
considered prohibitive, but when balanced against the increase in
business efficiency, prestige and the time saved over long periods,
it will readily be seen that the initial outlay can prove to be a
The cost of a modern twin-engined executive machine can vary from
£18,000 for a 4-seater to £29,000 for a 6-seater. Generous tax
concessions are allowed where the craft is used mainly for business
purposes. Running costs vary between 3/- to 4/- per aircraft mile if
used for only six hours per week including the pilot's salary,
according to size and this compares'very favourably with the running
of the more expensive types of motor car with chauffeur.
The handful of industrialists and
businessmen who own their own aircraft and make use of the airport
are the far-seeing vanguard of what must surely be an increasing
number of similar minded people in Nottingham, who will, indeed
must, see the light and follow suit.
One of the pioneers in this sort of flying is Mr. Lew H. Colton who
was, in fact, Truman's first customer. He bought a Piper Apache, but
recently changed it for a 6-seater Piper Aztec. He has had oxygen
and de-icing equipment fitted to enable him to fly over rather than
round the Alps.
Air Cab Sir?
How many Nottingham businessmen realize that, on their own doorstep,
there is an air taxi service which can ferry them to any part of the
British isles or the Continent at short notice, and that hours of
rail or road travel are turned into minutes?
A group of businessmen can hire a 'plane
to take them to, say, Manchester (30 minutes), or Birmingham (15
minutes) and it costs 3/3d. to 3/6d. per air mile including luggage.
Waiting time is not charged and any pilot's overnight expenses or
hangarage are charged at cost. So divided by three or four, the
ultimate cost per person is very reasonable, particularly when one
considers the time saved can be equated with money.
The 'planes themselves are comfortable and reliable. Each passenger
has individual heating, ventilating and fresh-air controls and the
windows are double-glazed and the seats reclinable. Whenever
possible the altitude of the flight is set to afford the maximum
enjoyment of the view of the earth below.
Tollerton is so close to Nottingham that
the long delays of airports like London in getting to and fro on the
ground are almost completely eliminated. Customs, too, are speedily
dealt with at Nottingham Airport.
Now and the Future
Tollerton has two excellent runways, the main one over 3,000 ft. in
length with a complete new runway lighting system and a modern new
control tower. More improvements are envisaged and some are in
progress at the moment like the latest refuelling system now being
in-stalled. An important aspect for the private and business flyer
is the welcoming informality which greets them—often very different
from the reception he gets at airports not specialising in this type
Concurrently with the commercial side the flying clubs are
their activities. The Tollerton Flying Club has a splendid clubhouse
under the direction of the proprietor Mr. Pat Bingham. The catering
here has a fine reputation and attracts a large clientele, who come
not only to enjoy the food but also for the dancing and the music.
There is a stage and small band and the club rooms can be hired for
weddings, 21st parties or any type of private function. Parties of
200 and more are easily catered for.
A Piper twin Comanche just touching
down for a winter's night landing. The new runway lights can be seen
in the background and the pilot can be assured of a warm welcome and
a hot meal in the clubhouse.
The new control tower.
Mrs. E. Cox, one of the radio
operators in the new control tower. The spacious parking facilities
can be seen through the windows.
Part of one of the
hangars showing some of the aircraft.
The Sherwood Flying
IN THE. PAST 12 months some 22 people have gained their private
pilot's licence at Nottingham airport—the civilian's equivalent of
R.A.F. `Wings'. They have been taught by the voluntary instructors
of the Sherwood Flying Club, which on four days of every week
provides leisure time flying—together with tuition —for its 250 or
The flying club operates two Chipmunk aircraft—the well tried
primary trainers of the R.A.F.—and two Piper Cherokee machines,
comfortable light aircraft of the type so popular in America. One of
the latter is fully equipped with all the necessary radio aids for
air touring, and especially during the holiday months it is not
uncommon for members of the club, many of whom fly their own
aircraft, to be away for continental weekends, or even for day trips
to the south of England. For them no trouble with overcrowded roads
and traffic jams, they travel at their own convenience.
The Sherwood Flying Club is the latest in a succession of clubs that
have been based on the Nottingham airport, and it was formed in 1956
as a non profit making company limited by guarantee. The ten
instructors, half of them with previous experience in the R.A.F.,
have between them something like 25,000 hours of flying experience.
That flying is an
absorbing hobby none of the members of the club would deny for a
moment. It has appeal for the adventurous, it provides a challenge
for the person who responds to challenge, it offers an aesthetic
appeal to those who enjoy the beauty of nature, it provides easy
transport for those who are in a hurry, it opens up possibilities of
travel which are denied to the earth-bound, it is safe, with all the
radio aids available to modern flying, and it is nothing like as
expensive as many people imagine. In fact the fun of flying, and the
good fellowship of the flying club need cost no more than the round
of golf and a drink at the 19th. Indeed there are many aeroplanes
which cost no more to run than a Jaguar car, and there are a number
of ultra light aircraft which cost considerably less--although they
are nothing like as comfortable, being more akin to motor bikes of
Nottinghamshire County Council has agreed to sponsor a number of
scholarships tenable with the Sherwood Flying Club, and available to
young people in their teens who are interested in learning to fly.
Basically they make cheap flying possible for the first ten hours of
instruction, and it is anticipated that most holders of these
scholarships will be capable of flying solo within that period. This
is a new venture between the Sherwood Flying Club and the Notts.
County Council, and it has been well received and is already proving
highly popular. If you are between 17 and 21, and are interested in
the possibility of securing such a scholarship you are advised to
get into touch with the County Youth Organiser, at County Hall, West
If you are over that age
and are interested in learning to fly, then contact the Secretary of
the club at Nottingham Airport, Tollerton. The members include
people from all walks of life, both men and women, and indeed from
17 to 70.