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Dunsfold Aerodrome

Dunsfold Aerodrome: “

58apr18: typo

Dunsfold Aerodrome was built by the Royal Canadian Army and civilian contractors as a A Class Bomber Airfield for Army Co-Operation Command. It was commanded by the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1942-1944 and was entitled Royal Canadian Air Force Station Dunsfold.

First squadrons based on the aerodrome were 400, 414 and 430 Sqns, RCAF – equipped with P-40 Tomahawks and P-51 Mustangs. They were followed by the North American B-25 Mitchell Mk II medium bombers of 139 Wing, RAF – consisting of 98 and 180 Sqns RAF and 320 Sqn, Royal Dutch Naval Air Service. When 139 Wing departed for the continent in the autumn of 1944, 83 Group Support Unit (later 83 Group Disbandment Centre) arrived with Spitfires, Typhoons and Tempests. After the war the airfield was used by the RAF to repatriate prisoners of war.

Dunsfold was declared inactive by the RAF in 1946 but was then used by Skyways Ltd, with York, Lancastrian, Skymaster, Rapide and Dove aircraft. Skyways’s operations included support of the Berlin Airlift. Skyways also refurbished ex-RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes for the Portuguese Air Force.

In 1950 The Hawker Aircraft Company acquired the lease of the site. Dunsfold became internationally known for development of the Hunter jet fighter, limited numbers of Sea Hawks were also produced and Sea Furies were refurbished. Airwork Ltd leased two hangars from 1953-58 for the refurbishment of F-86 Sabres and Supermarine Attackers.

In October 1960 the then Hawker Siddeley flight tested its Hawker P.1127 prototype, the development aircraft that led to the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, the first VTOL jet fighter bomber. Folland Gnat test flying and production moved to Dunsfold in 1961.

Final assembly of the Harrier and the Hawk trainer aircraft was at Dunsfold. Hawker Siddelely became part of British Aerospace in 1977. On 2 July 1986 British Aerospace’s deputy chief test pilot Jim Hawkins was killed at Dunsfold when his developmental Hawk 200 crashed. On 24 June 1999 British Aerospace announced the closure of Dunsfold as part of a restructuring; Hawk final assembly had been transferred to Warton in 1988 and Harrier production finished in 1998.

Post-British Aerospace
In 2002 BAE Systems (British Aerospace’s successor) sold Dunsfold Park to The Rutland Group and The Royal Bank of Scotland, forming Dunsfold Park Ltd. Today the BBC motoring show Top Gear is recorded at the park using a former hangar as a studio and parts of the runways and taxiways of the aerodrome as a test track.

Since June 2007 Dunsfold Park has been home of the Surrey Air Ambulance Service. Dunsfold Park is the home to Wings & Wheels, an air and motor show that has been running for many years now and typically held in late August. Currently run by the site owners, Dunsfold Park Ltd, it will continue until the park is redeveloped.

A memorial, funded by public subscription, was raised outside the nearby Alfold Barn pub (on the A281 road between Guildford and Horsham) with the permission of Alfold Parish Council. Dunsfold Parish Council declined to host the memorial.

The memorial and its unveiling (on 20th July 1992 – exactly 50 years to the day after the first aircraft, a RCAF Tiger Moth, landed at Dunsfold) was organised by the Dunsfold Society of Mssrs Alan Barrett, Christopher Mason, Paul McCue, Gareth Morgan, Peter Robinson and Brian Spencer. A Tiger Moth and Lockheed P-3 Orion (of present-day 320 Sqn RDNAS) performed fly pasts.

A fascinating museum is maintained on site (open on Wednesdays to the public) by Reg Day who served with 98 Sqn RAF at Dunsfold in 1943-44.

Film Work
A Boeing 747-200 which served with British Airways until 2002 as City of Birmingham, G-BDXJ, was purchased by Aces High Limited, a company specialising in supplying aircraft for television and film work, and transferred to Dunsfold.

It was modified and used for filming for the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale. Some of the scenes set at Miami International Airport were filmed at Dunsfold. It has also appeared in the background of numerous Top Gear episodes and directly in an episode where it is towed by a JCB Fastrac tractor. It was also towed by a Volkswagen Touareg in a 2006 Fifth Gear episode, the same year that the modified aircraft and Dunsfold Airfield were featured in a television advertisement filmed for the Volkswagen Touareg, demonstrating the vehicle’s towing ability. In 2008 it featured in a episode of Scrapheap Challenge in which contestants created machines to tow the aircraft. Modifications to the aircraft include the removal of the existing Rolls Royce engines and replacement with twin mount engines, similar to those fitted to aircraft such as the B-52 Heavy Bomber.

The BBC’s Top Gear programme uses the airfield.

The Future
In 2006, the owners of Dunsfold Park proposed the construction of a new town with 2,600 homes on the site, a school, health services, public transport and road links to the A281, and an expanded business district. One of the largest construction projects in Surrey, it would result in the closure and replacement of the aerodrome. A project of this kind and size is controversial, resulting in the formation of the STOP Dunsfold Park New Town campaign.Campaign Web Site

In late 2007, Dunsfold Park Ltd. applied to have their plans for the new town selected as one of Gordon Brown’s proposed ‘eco-towns’. On 3rd April 2008 Dunsfold Park was denied Eco-town status by the Housing Minister Caroline Flint. According to the Government’s press release over 40 applications including Dunsfold Park were rejected ‘for being undeliverable or not ambitious enough to meet the high environmental and affordability standards set by Government.’

Barry Myers, the Chairman of the action group ‘Stop Dunsfold Park New Town’, said ‘this is a massive blow to the developer as this scheme has received no support at any level of local Government, from the local Parish Councils through to Waverley Borough Council, Surrey County Council and SEERA (South East England Regional Assembly). Now central Government has failed to support it. This is a victory for common sense and we believe that all plans for a major housing development at Dunsfold Park should now be dropped.’

References: Dunsfold – Surrey’s Most Secret Airfield by Paul McCue, published by Air Research Publications,1991 ISBN 1-871187-12-5

(Via Wikipedia – New pages [en].)

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