Tollerton Aerial View

Snapshots In Time Index

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 themselves.

HOW IT ALL STARTED
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.

After 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 Eagle Airways.

Eventually the 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 operate.

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 shelved.

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 European countries.

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 first class
investment

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 of aircraft.

Concurrently with the commercial side the flying clubs are constantly increasing
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.

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.

 

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.

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 at Nottingham Tollerton

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.

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 at Nottingham Airport Tollerton showing some of the aircraft.

Part of one of the hangars showing some of the aircraft.

H J (Harold)  Hall and Co. Aircraft Engineers

 

The Sherwood Flying Club

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 so members.

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 so members.


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 the air.

Recently the 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 Bridgford.

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.

 

Airports like Nottingham throughout the country are pioneering the way for increased private flying in face of apathy and reluctance. As our roads become more and more congested, and the rail-ways have not, in all honesty, improved all that much since the late nineteenth century, air travel is the only real answer. A civilian airborne future is a cast iron certainty, but it remains to be seen who those men are who realise the fact and act upon it.