Doncaster Aerodrome 1960 - 1983
The main idea was to persuade Doncaster Council to let us rent the Old Airfield to the west of the A1 just opposite Doncaster racecourse.
This airfield had been laid down in the 1930s as an acquisition of common land by the council. It was used in the 1930s as a request stop on the route from Liverpool to Amsterdam. If you wanted to go to either then a telephone call would bring the next passing aircraft in to pick you up. In 1939 the airfield was developed as a maintenance unit for Halifax bombers, the main hangar was built to take 3 Halifax bombers for major repairs or servicing and a Sommerfeld Tracking was laid SW-NE on top of the grass to stop them sinking in. Living on the very edge of the airfield i can remember the Halifax’s revving up for take off at the bottom of my garden.
At the end of World War II three sorts of aviation took place on the airfield. Firstly RAF reserve unit was established on the south of the airfield. At first they had Tiger Moths, then Percival Prentice's, Percival Proctors then finally De-Havilland Chipmunks. They also had Oxfords and Ansons for multi engine flying.
In 1946 an A.T.C. gliding club started on the airfield at the weekends, the training procedure was ground slides, low hops, high hops and circuits.. Signalling to the winch by bat waving, requesting the type of flight, up slack and all out.
As a 9/10 year old i was too young to fly but they entrusted me with the signalling, perhaps the most responsible action of site.
At the end of 1947 a private flying group started on the site with a Hornet Moth, an Avro Tutor (won in a raffle) and two B.A. Swallows. The owner of one of these was Frank Haigh, who became an instructor in the gliding club later. In the mean while, knowing where he lived I inquired if he was willing to give me a ride. 20 minutes later I was airborne, at last, at 10 years old. Over the next few years I did quite a bit of flying in the Chipmunks, Oxfords with the A.T.C. the highlight being a trip down the Mall at 800’ in a Washington B29 practicing for the Queens birthday.
At 16 the A.T.C. sent me gliding at Lindholme and so my A&B dates back to 1954.
My appearance at the meeting to form a gliding club with the vast experience of 40 dual launches and seven solo flights, time was to show how valuable this was. Another visitor at the meeting had got his wings on Harvards in Texas but on return to the UK was given a glider with a Jeep and an artillery piece in the back and told to land in Germany, Bernard Wilson, a very valuable member in the early days.
Flying started officially in February 1960 on Doncaster airfield. Instructors were borrowed from neighboring clubs. I did most of my checks with Bernard Thomas from Camphill, but after 11 flights he sent me solo in the Cadet, the check had been in the K31 or tandem Tutor as some knew it.
By early May thermals were good and took me to cloud base on my 20th launch. Launch 33 found me in the Slingsby Skylark 1 (now owned by Peter Woodcock) After 39 launches solo in June ’60 I was acting as safety pilot and flying passengers. In July 1960 I was made a full instructor.
By John Stirk, Edited by Ian Myles