Sunday 22 September 2013 saw the Real Aeroplane Company stage its helicopter fly-in at Breighton Airfield, Yorkshire, held in support of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. Michael Frodsham guest reports for GAR.
The Real Aeroplane Company hosted this event in aid of the fabulous work done by the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. Sadly, due to operational commitments the Air Ambulance itself could not attend this year’s fly-in; nonetheless, volunteers arrived with a stall to welcome visitors and accept donations towards this very worthwhile cause.
Thankfully, the weather played a great part in making the day enjoyable, with sunshine and summer-like temperatures for much of the day. This led to a good turnout of visitors, both in terms of visiting aircraft and spectators. 20 helicopters arrived during the day, with flying also carried out by the home-based aircraft until well into the evening.
Most prolific amongst visiting types was the Aerospatiale Gazelle, of which several were in attendance, including Hungarian (HA-) and US (N-) registered examples. Amongst the other visiting helicopters were the likes of Sud Aviation Alouette II, Bell 47, Robinson R44, Bell LongRanger, MD 369E and Eurocopter EC120B, giving a fair spread of different machines over the day.
The Real Aeroplane Company also fielded a number of its fleet during the fly-in, with local sorties being undertaken throughout the day. Adding some vintage flavour to the helicopter-dominated event were the Bucker Jungmann, Ryan ST3KR and the rare Yak-18A, whilst a raft of beautiful vintage aircraft – Comper Swift, Dart Kitten, Fokker DR1, Arrow Active and Aeronca, to name some of the more prominent machines in the collection – could also be found on the ground.
Breighton Airfield itself started life as an RAF base in 1941 when it was constructed to facilitate the operation of RAF bombers. In 1942, construction was completed and the airfield was handed over to the RAF as part of No. 1 Group, Bomber Command. The hangar which is still visible today would have accommodated aircraft such as the Handley Page Halifax or Avro Lancaster whilst the on-site engineers performed maintenance on them.
Unfortunately most of the original buildings have been demolished but if you wander around the site, outlines of the old station infrastructure can be found.
Breighton remained an active military base post-war, and, in 1959, it became a Thor Intercontinental Ballistic Missile base, housing 32 Bloodhound surface-to-air missiles as part of the UK’s nuclear deterrent at the height of the Cold War. The site eventually closed in 1964 and the Ministry of Defence pulled out; in 1991, there was further civilian redevelopment when part of the airfield was taken over and turned into an industrial estate.
The airfield is now privately owned and houses the Real Aeroplane Company’s sizeable collection of vintage aircraft. Breighton now has a grass runway and several new hangars, making it a great place to store and maintain some of the fine aircraft that they have on display. Events like this illustrate well the variety of aircraft based at Breighton, as well as those visiting for the fly-ins and other open days held over the course of the year.
All in all, a great day – a big thank you to the team who organised this event.