In a letter to airport users and interested parties, dated Aug 19th 2010. The owners of the airfield issued the following statement..
'Closure of Sandown Isle of Wight Airport'
'You will be aware that the airport has long standing viabilty issues. In our opinion this is unlikely to change in the future. With regret we write to inform you of the closure of the airport as Friday 1st of October. All flight operations will be prohibited and the runways and taxiways will cease to exist from this date. Groundwork investigations for the future development of the site will begin in October'
Very sad news - I have been a regular visitor for many years. What a great shame for all of the very friendly people that I have met there .That just leaves Bembridge as the only airfield on the island when I believe that at one time there were 4 or 5. Such is progress !
It is sad, but in the 9 years I have been going there it always seemed like the IOW did not have anywhere near enough traffic to support two airfields - especially two so very close together, and with Bembridge having a hard runway and thus being preferred by most.
Hopefully this will generate more money at Bembridge which has to be a good thing. They need to improve their cafe; the most tasty thing there are the Mars bars
I was over there week before last and what had been a decent little airfield had become a dump. Obviously things went awry when the restaurant burned down, but there always seemed to be activity and the pleasure flight booth, which is over run with weeds, seemed busy.
Didn't think too much of the bar at Bembridge, nor The Propeller. The Pilot Boat Inn, not far away, is our preferred choice at present.
A real shame; Jim (the pleasure-flight man) is now based at Bembridge. They have re-furbished the cafe there, although the fare is much the same. Try the Crab & Lobster on the top of the cliffes- 30 mins walk, but well worth it!
The pleasure flights were run by the delightful and elegant Mary Ellis. When over there with my daughter several years ago we were persuaded to ask Mary what her favourite aircraft was.
"Well the Spitfire was very nice, but I think I preferred the Wellington" was the reply.
From the Sunday Mirror, Sep 23, 2007
Mary Ellis, 85, lives on the Isle of Wight, with husband Don. She still has a part-time job, selling tickets for pleasure flights at Sandown airport.
She flew 400 different Spitfires, among them every model that was produced between 1941 and 1945. "We were so young - it was absolutely wonderful," she says. "When you are that age, you don't think of danger. As long as we knew what we were doing, we had no fear.
"But it was all so many years ago, and it's strange now to be the centre of attention.
"I've never talked much about those times, so I find all this fuss suddenly quite overwhelming - I've even been asked to sign autographs. Our generation kept very quiet about what they did in the war - we all just got on with our duty.
"But back then, people thought a woman was odd for even wanting to fly. You had to move Heaven and Earth and really fight for it before anyone would let you near the controls.
"All the women said the Spitfire was their favourite, and I loved them all. I didn't break any of mine - though I did have one near- miss when another Spitfire was coming in directly in front from the other direction.
"We only knew of the danger when we scraped past each other, which was a bit of a heart-stopper.
"Once I landed a Wellington bomber, and the officer who greeted me on the tarmac asked where the pilot was. He searched the plane looking for a man.
"I suppose some felt threatened. They expected us to go right back to being home-minders once the war ended."
"I did have one near- miss when another Spitfire was coming in directly in front from the other direction." That was when Mary and two other ATA pilots were delivering three Spitfires to Wroughton. They came from the factories with no radio. The three set off in less than perfect weather. One turned back but Mary and the other pilot both found Wroughton. As Mary was on late final she looked up and saw the other Spitfire also on late final coming at her from the opposite direction!
Mary is a former Managing Director of Sandown Airport.
Here's Mary at the unveiling of the ATA Memorial at Hamble in July this year (she's the lady immediately to the left of the memorial)
This is hardly unexpected news. A company with the name of Wharf Land Investment would not have purchased the airfield if they felt that aviation would continue there for the forseeable future. Promises that it could do so were always meaningless. Land investment companies often use this model, buy on a promise to keep it going, prove that it is uneconomic to maintain 'as is' and propose housing or factory development. Blocking of such proposals are overcome by the 'ratchet effect' of a steady stream of planning applications over a lengthy time period which wear away local resistance and the building permission is eventually obtained. Proposals of a 'theme park' are just a smokescreen as there would never be enough tourist trade, month in, month out, to make it viable. There will be a vast housing estate, or an 'upmarket' development where the airfield used to be, in about 10 years. Just wait and see. The returns from such an outcome are so high that Wharf Land Investment can afford to wait, they know that they are highly likely to win. The same will happen, eventually, on what is left of the beautiful Hamble airfield, where the owners are playing the waiting game. It will be a sad day when Sandown is no more, it's always a favourite 'day away' to go there. Maybe there is an IOW resident who might open a private PPR strip. That might be viable, given the low traffic levels.
I always thought opening private strips, with full planning from day 1, was the future of GA facilities in the UK where property/land values are so high that most existing airfields are doomed in the long term.
Going for planning at the outset avoids the charade of the practically-useless 28 day rule, resulting in most strips operating like some top secret GCHQ signals facility...
The issues are finding ~ 1000m in one piece and reasonably level, the £100k or so budget for the planning application, another £200k spent levelling the place and building some hangars, £300k on a hard runway thick enough for piston twins, most GA pilots being too tight on money to want to pay even £10 to land, and those who have it won't put it where their mouth is
I was not suggesting another hard runway on the island. A 600-800m grass strip would do for most SEP visitors and might be useable without expensive levelling.Twins could still use Bembridge, after all. The 28 day rule would probably make it unworkable and anything too ambitious too expensive
Last edited by 777fly; 27th Aug 2010 at 10:14.
Reason: added text
I would think that for another runway on the IOW to attract traffic away from Bembridge it would have to compete purely on price, which would push it into the gutter as far as runway / taxiway maintenance goes, and you would basically end up with a grass version of Elstree.
There is a lot more to selecting a destination than 100's of metres of concrete.
Some of the most pleasant destinations operate from short grass strips. Take for instance, Compton Abbas, Old Sarum or even Headcorn, all are grass strips, they are nice to fly to and just chill for a while. Loads of folk fly into my home strip, Brimpton, despite the lack of catering, because of the relaxed nature of the place. Sandown always had a cheerful feeling and was a good place to go for an egg butty even before the posh restaurant was ever built. It is just a shame that the greedy property developers got involved.
Bembridge never seemed that welcoming to me. Few hard runway places do.
I had my first ever flight from Sandown in an Auster G-APJZ. In the 1960's there was just a hangar on the far side and a small tower. It was regularly used by Hamble students for touch and gos. It closed sometime in the 1970's and was left to go to rack and ruin. Somewhere I have the old movements log for about 1970. Remember one of the visitors included an Avro 748 which must have been a sight. The museum was great there before it closed. The restaurant was good before it was burnt down. Always very friendly if you flew in. Runway had a few bumps and slopes which made take offs fun. I shall reall miss it. I do hope someone comes in and keeps it opereating.
I agree with Rans6andrew regarding grass aerodromes. Have had many very pleasant flights into Sandown in preference to Bembridge, with a bus or taxi ride to the seaside. If it's got to be Bembridge, as rogerbucks says, take a pleasant walk via the windmill to the seafront for a first-class lunch at the Crab & Lobster cafe.