An airport with a vibrant history and a big future

The Oxford Times

by Tom Jones – Thursday 31st May 2012

IT was bombed during the war, was the location of a mysterious disappearance and was used by Sir Winston Churchill.

London Oxford Airport, near Kidlington, has a rich and vibrant 80-year history and in September that will be celebrated with nostalgic air show Fly to the Past.

The airport now employs 800 people and offers daily commercial flights to Jersey and the Isle of Man, but it was once a military airfield.

It opened in 1935, after Oxford City Council bought the land from the Blenheim estate and two farmers for £19,671, but was requisitioned by the RAF in 1939.

The grass airfield became RAF Kidlington and was used as an emergency landing ground when RAF Abingdon, Bicester or Brize Norton were full.

It also took over as a training centre after RAF Brize Norton was bombed in 1940.

The following year Sir Winston Churchill, a regular visitor to nearby Ditchley Hall during the war, had the Duke of Hamilton fly into Kidlington to brief him.

Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess had flown to the Duke’s Scottish home the previous day to attempt to broker a peace deal between Germany and Britain.

In 1941, RAF Kidlington also figured in a high-profile disaster when pilot Amy Johnson, who in 1930 became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia, mysteriously vanished en route to the airfield.

She could not find a gap in the cloud over Oxfordshire and ran out of fuel before she could land.

She bailed out over the Thames Estuary, but neither her body nor the aircraft were ever found.

After the Second World War, the airfield ceased RAF training, became a private airfield and was bought in a series of multi-million-pound deals over the following decades. The 1970s saw the first asphalt runway laid, and the 1980s saw the Duchess of York receive a private pilot licence from the airport, the runway extended and a new control tower built.

The airport was purchased by the Reuben Brothers in 2007 for £40m and has since seen an 8,000sq ft executive terminal, a 48,000sq ft hangar and a 12,500sq ft office block built. It now has 20 companies on site, employing 800 people, but the airport���������s business development director James Dillon-Godfray hopes it will expand further.

He said: “In the long term I would like to see employment of up to 2,000 people.

“That will be a combination of building more offices and hangars to accommodate businesses migrating to Oxford.”

Mr Dillon-Godfray also hopes to increase the number of commercial flights. He said: “Very soon we will announce another route and, looking ahead in a year or two, it is almost certain a handful of extra routes will be serviced by the airport.

“We have an exciting future. London Oxford Airport will be the default Thames Valley regional airport.”

Fly to the Past will take place at the airport on September 1 and 2 and will feature flyovers charting the history of aviation, from simple biplanes through to fighters from both world wars and modern-day jets.

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