Panshanger Aerodrome

Panshanger airfield

The airfield approach from the west

In September last year the global consultancy Atkins were brought in by WHBC to report on the aviation heritage of the airfield as a result of objections to the site being developed as per the proposed draft local plan. The intention was to decide whether the airfield and buildings should in part, or in entirety, be listed and protected as a heritage asset, thus saving them from destruction. Sadly, after reviewing the report the council decided it did not merit saving, however it’s an interesting report and worth a read by anyone with a historical interest in our area or World War Two.  Half of the war time airfield is now the Bovis estate of course.

Panshanger Airfield in 1950

Panshanger Airfield in 1950

You can download the full report by clicking here, the last section has photos and descriptions of all the buildings on the site which may be of interest to anybody who has been there. The air raid shelters and control building are also covered, these are blocked off now, but this writer remembers playing inside them as a child over many years. The report will take a while to download as it’s a 10Mb file and the councils website is quite slow.

 

Panshanger Aerodrome is home to the North London Flying club who offer flying training for  private pilots licence (ppl) and other licences and are open for flying operations from 9.00am to sunset (plus 30m) from Tuesday to Sunday. They  run the airfield and also provide facilities for private owners who base their aircraft at Panshanger and for numerous visiting aircraft. Fuel and maintenance are provided on site as well as the cafe and club house. The club has a fleet of 8 PA (Piper Alpha) Archers and Warriors which carry up to 4 people and 2 cherokees which carry two people, as well as a twin engined Seminole and a bright yellow  super cub which carries two. These planes can also be hired out to qualified pilots. In addition, there are approximately 30 more private aircraft based at the field from the high wing basic Cessnas to the small, but very powerful, bright red aerobatic mono and bi-planes, that can be seen practising on clear days.

Depending on the wind, planes will take off on either runway 11 or 29 – approximately east or west. You can often see planes taxiing  behind the houses on the edge of the estate.   When returning to land, the planes join a standard ‘circuit’ which is always to the North over Tewin and is designed to try and minimise the  number of houses flown over and the amount of noise to those on the ground.    When training, pilots will often go round this circuit many times to perfect their take offs and landings, although not on Sunday mornings. Once they become more competent, they will learn to fly further afield. At some stage they will go solo, usually on just one circuit of the field.  After enough training- typically 60 hrs or so- they will be experienced enough to take a final Skills test and gain their licence.  This allows them to fly anywhere in Europe- flying to Spain, Southern France, Germany etc is easily possible in a days flying. Flying at the airfield can be frustrated by strong winds across the run-way i.e. 15 Kts (17 mph) or more from the N or S,  or by low clouds, rain and poor visibility such as fog or haze.  Flying with snow on the ground is possible though and magical. Further training allows pilots to get a licence to fly in IMC conditions when clouds and visibility restrict normal flying, but allow IMC pilots (Instrument meteorological conditions) to fly above the clouds.

The airfield cafe is also open to members who want to just watch the aircraft and enjoy the atmosphere. Lifetime membership is £30 which enables the member plus up to three guests to enjoy the facilities and get 10% off cafe prices.  Members can also buy tickets to special events days such as the de Havilland Fly- in day, the Revival day (with vintage planes and cars), the aerobatics day and the fireworks evening (which is free to members and a great show).

Try spotting some of these planes as they go past:

A blast from the past…

This wonderful old film clip linked to below is from the website of British Pathe. It shows the airfield as it was and the green fields of Panshanger from above. This part of WGC has seen virtually no development at all at this point in time. The first phase of Panshanger didn’t get going until about ten years later.

For a few minutes the film transports us back to a bygone era with the characteristic tone of Pathe and their boundlessly optimistic RP commentary in the style of Mr Chumley-Warner. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Note the reference to “Panshanger Airport”!

 

POLICE FLYING CLUB – a short film from British Pathe

Click on the picture to go to the clip, remember to turn on your speakers!

As we know the airfield is now under threat of development, you can read a recent newspaper article featuring comments from our MP about that here. The issue is also featured in greater detail elsewhere on this site.