View Full Version : BOAC Sports Festival at Heston Airport

lawrence hole
29th Sep 2008, 15:41
On the 9th June 1951, BOAC organised a popular Sports Festival at Heston Airport on the sports field next to the Speedbird clubhouse situated on the Cranford side and a specially prepared airstrip was cut into the cornfield to the east of the old airfield which allowed five aircraft from the Airways Aero Association at Denham to fly in on that day once a heavy rain show abated. This included the veteran D.H.Dragon G-ACIT, and an Auster Aiglet Trainer which gave joy rides to about 300 people at 5s per time.
The other aircraft were displayed statically on the sports ground to help promote the Airlines' flying club at Denham. These were G-ALOX, a D.H.Tiger Moth, G-AKKV, Miles Hawk Trainer (see Air-Britain : Picture Details (http://www.abpic.co.uk/photo/10188740)) and possibly another Hawk Trainer. If anyone has any pictures of these aircraft, I would be very keen to obtain copies for my Heston Airport memoirs collection.
According to the BOAC newsletter of this period, the Festival President Mr Whitney Straight (BOAC Board Member) flew in for the day in a D.H.Dove, but it would be interesting to know if this was perhaps Heathrow rather than Heston due to the nature of the airstrip. If it was Heston, then this may well have been the last commercial aircraft landing there since the Airport closed in 1947 apart from some later helicopters.

John T
23rd Dec 2008, 19:52
Hi Lawrence

I worked over there from 1953 to 1955, and all the men that were there when you wanted info on have long died.

I never remember any photos about those planes,but there may have been at the Speedbird club at Brentford, they moved to Cranford, but they may be now over at Heston?.

Worth calling in if you pass, and you may be lucky.

All the best


lawrence hole
24th Dec 2008, 12:28
Hi John,

Which company did you use to work with at Heston that could be interesting for my general research ? I was able to obtain some details of the BOAC Sports Festival from British Airways Museum at Heathrow who sent me a newletter (6 pages) about the event, although unfortunately no aircraft pictures included. Also the Museum were
unable to find out from their collection of records about the D.H.Dove that possibly landed at Heston carrying Mr Whitney Straight. British Airways Flying Club has some vintage photos of some the aircraft that took part taken at Denham which I am hoping to get copies of which would be of interest.

lawrence hole
2nd Aug 2009, 09:50
Whilst at the GA Expo in June at Booker Airfield, High Wycombe and seeing the latest aircraft and technology in general aviation, I was able to visit John Harthill, the CFI of British Airways Flying Club and view his collection of early photos of the Airways Aero Association from the 1950's and later.
Since I had been in touch with him over the last year about pictures of the Fly-In by the AAA at Denham to the BOAC Sports Festival, I had the opportunity to take some digital photos of the original ones which are to be scanned, improved and digitalised in due course for saving onto CD archive disk format.
I was delighted to see the picture of the D.H.Dragon, G-ACIT which along with an Auster Aiglet of AAA gave public sightseeing flights from Heston at 5s per passenger ! Also my long standing query of whether the DH Dove taking the Festival President, Mr Whitney-Straight had landed earlier in the day either at Heathrow or Heston have been resolved and it did land onto


the strip cut into the cornfield, making it the last commercial propeller aircraft to use Heston Airport.
I was unable to find any picture of the aircraft lined up at Denham before this mass exodus which also included 2 Miles Hawk Trainers and DH Tiger Moth, however have included a similar possibility taken probably about the same time.
If you view the aerial pictures in maximum close up, you can make out the D.H.Dove to the left of the main marquee, whilst the 2 Miles Hawk Trainers and D.H.Tiger Moth can just be made out nearer to the hangars on the southern side of the Airport.
Pictures by aerofoil - Photobucket (http://s914.photobucket.com/albums/ac345/aerofoil/)

3rd Aug 2009, 07:56
Denham Aero Club Auster J/4 G-AIPS can be seen in the photograph of the line-up. Six days after the BOAC Sports Festival (9.6.51) it was written off at Denham after a stall (15.6.51). That might help with dating the photograph. This particular Auster suffered at least 5 notified accidents in its short working life of just under four years.

lawrence hole
3rd Aug 2009, 12:37
Thanks for that information about G-AIPS Auster J/4 from Denham Flying Club. I wanted to give an idea of what the 5 participating aircraft from Airways Aero Association might have looked like on their pre-departure from Denham to Heston on the 9th June 1951, so this could have been a similar picture. Perhaps an old AAA member or someone who used to fly from Denham can give an idea of which Auster flew on this day, it could have conceivably even been G-AIPS rather than an Aiglet Trainer since I believe that these came into service with the AAA in 1952 from what I have seen from G-INFO so far. Pity that no earlier BOAC member has been able to add to this post, although they would of course now be at least over 75 year old and I was a youth of only 12 years then, so I am slowly getting ancient too :)!

5th Aug 2009, 07:49
I was taught to fly at the Airways Aero Club in 1948 on Miles Magister G-AKKY was not at Heston that day but in the RAF but still flew with the Club. On leaving the Service I got my Civil Licences at Croydon with AAA Club and flew with them after joining BEA.Stopped flying from White Waltham on November 2nd 2006.
The Heath Parasol in your photo was written off in a forced landing en-route to Hurn.It was attacked by cows!

lawrence hole
5th Aug 2009, 13:11

This is how G-AKKY looks today using major parts of the Hawk Trainer and other parts from a number of Magisters to recreate an earlier version of "L6906", a Miles 14A Magister. This is a photo I took earlier this year when I visited the Berkshire Aviation Museum at Woodley with my aviation group. G-AKKY was one of the two Hawk Trainers from the AAA which visited the BOAC Sports Festival at Heston , together with G-AKKV (Picture on Air Britain Photographic web site) Jack Randall who you maybe know, also flew with the AAA at Denham in 1948 is also involved with the Museum, which is well worth a visit and are their volunteers are currently working on the Miles Student and a Miles Martinet as restoration projects. Perhaps you are able to advise what type of Auster from the AAA flew in to Heston on the BOAC Sports Festival day.:)

6th Aug 2009, 09:35
Thanks for the photo Lawrence, I too enjoyed the Airways Aero Club display at Aero Expo.
But I have to confess I am Jack Randell

lawrence hole
8th Aug 2009, 12:35

Another picture of the DH Dragon taken at Denham probably around 1950.
Was this aircraft used for the Board/Committee of Airways Aero Association for their business schedules or just for club members for longer "jollies", possibly abroad, as per Hampshire Aeroplane Club's 4 engined DH 86 Expressliner" G-ACZP owned by Viv Bellamy also in the 1950's ? Peter Masefield who was a director of BEA later owned "CIT" when he was CEO of Beagle Aircraft, I have a photo of the same when it sported a different colour scheme of gold and white markings over a silver fuselage. The original in this picture was a striking red and silver scheme. It would be interesting to hear what use it was put to by the AAA.

lawrence hole
8th Aug 2011, 16:57
A reported sighting of the Airways Aero Association D.H.Dragon G-ACIT by Air Britain member David Munkenbeck at Heston around September 1950, seems to indicate that an executive or representatives of the Association flew in from Denham in order to prearrange landing rights with the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Heston for aircraft from Denham to attend the future B.O.A.C. Sports Festival and allow flying possibilities for sightseeing.

Since the airfield had been officially closed since 1947, this was a very necessary requirement and would have involved some special arrangements and insurance cover no doubt.


lawrence hole
9th Aug 2011, 09:54
The DH Tiger Moth G-ALOX was displayed as a static exhibit along with two Miles Hawk Trainers G-AKKV and G-AKKY to give B.O.A.C. staff more awareness of flying possibilities with the AAA, whilst the Auster gave sample pleasure flights at 5s per passenger.


lawrence hole
9th Aug 2011, 10:00
The Auster was almost certainly an Auster Autocrat G-AGYO according to well informed sources, seen here at Denham, whilst the DH.Dove which flew in first with Mr Whitney-Straight, B.O.A.C. Board Member and Festival President was most likely G-AKCF. see.De Havilland DH.104 Dove 1B, G-AKCF, BOAC (http://www.abpic.co.uk/photo/1184931)


9th Aug 2011, 19:19

I was a boy at Denham in the 1950's and before the Airways Aero Club moved out to Croydon. The Dragon G-ACIT did not fly very often but I seem to remember Ron Gillman flying it fairly often. It sat in the hangar with the wings folded the rest of the time. He took it to a Redhill Breakfast Patrol one Sunday morning with a full load of passengers. The Redhill folks thought it was a Rapide going into Gatwick so didn't intercept it and they all got free breakfasts!!
The picture doesn't look like Denham but the Magisters in the background would make it seem so. There is a very hurt Maggie in the background and I can't quite make out the registration. Does the original show it better??
There was a small hangar at Heston to the East, and behind the tower where Airways Aero Club stored some aircraft. I went in there once and saw several Magisters, Aeronca 100's and others I can't remember.
I also saw a Swiss registered Bonanza at Heston and that would have been after 1951 so he may have been the last to land there?? He had missed Croydon??
Speedbird 48.

lawrence hole
11th Aug 2011, 10:15
Speedbird 48,

I did not have the original photo of the D.H.Dragon G-ACIT so unable to identify the registration of the Hawk Trainer in the background, but it is definitely taken at Denham probably around 1950.

Your sighting of the swiss registered Beechcraft Bonanza at Heston might have been in connection with the sale of a Messerschmidt Bf108 Taifun HB-DUB (ex G-AKZY) which I witnessed flying near my home at Heston sometime in 1952 after reconditioning by Heston Aircraft. This was far from the last aircraft to fly from Heston, at least 5 others passed through the defunct Airport between 1952 and 1964 as noted in my forum "Miles Monoplane landing at Heston Airport ".

This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the Festival of Britain, for which the BOAC Sports Festival was a part of the celebration. Even as a young observer aged 12 years who witnessed this fly-in unexpectedly, I am still surprised that there are no other persons still around who also experienced this unique airline venture of the time.

11th Aug 2011, 20:36

The Bonanza was definatly lost and he had his family with him. I recall him giving the customs officer the lost excuse??

Speedbird 48.

lawrence hole
12th Aug 2011, 08:59
Well at least with the massive complex of Heathrow Airport less than 2 miles away to the south west, he at least knew where he was located relative to Croydon if that was his original intended destination.
Heston had up until 1939 when WW2 commenced been very much London's second major airport in terms of overall movements, both domestic and international and would have been possibly London's major airport rather than Heathrow later, had expansion plans gone ahead prior to the build up of war preparations.

lawrence hole
12th Aug 2011, 09:14
Some further memories by courtesy of the British Airways Museum at LHR.


lawrence hole
12th Aug 2011, 09:17

lawrence hole
13th Aug 2011, 08:40
A larger picture showing the view to the east of the Festival site with Mr Whitney-Straight's DH Dove of B.O.A.C. just visible in front of the furthest marquee. The three static aircraft of the AAA were on display further towards the old defunct control tower.


lawrence hole
21st Aug 2012, 16:04
Recently I received a copy of a tape recording made in 1952 ,whereby BOAC celebrated a further sports day at their sports club at Heston Airport, although the weather was reported as being good, it would appear that no further fly-in by aircraft of the Airways Aero Association was made this time.
Miles Thomas, the BOAC Chairman however made a short speech on declaring the sports day open.
The :)copy has since been sent to the BA Heritage Centre for their records.

lawrence hole
25th Aug 2012, 13:03
Since Heston Airport had officially closed in 1947, this was the biggest event here since that time, being BOAC's participation in the 1951 Festival of Britain celebrations.
Obviously the Airway's Aero Association's DH Dragon and Auster aircraft had to keep to a right hand circuit when taking off towards the west to avoid any airline traffic joining Heathrow on runway 27R, the approach being about 400m parallel due south to their take off run from Heston. Also they had to make a turn shortly after being airborne to prevent flying directly over the public and sports arena and were therefore well away from any crowd. The short pleasure flights would have entailed flying to the east over parts of Osterley Park no doubt but again not straying into the airline approach lane to Heathrow 27R if that was being used at the time rather than 27L. Perhaps there was a NOTAM to advise LHR airlines that due to the activities at Heston this day 27L was to be used , unfortunately as I was only a schoolboy 12 years old just interested in aviation, this is too far back to remember. However apart from BOAC's own records I have been the only person to record the event at all and few photos exist from the archive at the Airways Aero Association.

25th Aug 2012, 14:20
28R / 28L in those days.

Fascinating stuff. NATCS HQ was at Heston Aerodrome for a while.

25th Aug 2012, 15:22
Runway #1 (28R/10L) was shut down and used for aircraft parking while the central tunnel was dug by cut and cover at the time of the Heston display, I think
bath road | london airport | terminal area | 1951 | 1622 | Flight Archive (http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1951/1951%20-%201622.html?search=runway)

Runway #2 (23L/05R) conflicted with Heston but they had 23R/05L available, I suppose

lawrence hole
25th Aug 2012, 19:33
The NATCS was probably known then as the MTCA Southern Division as there was a noticeboard by the main entrance to the Airport. I wonder if there was any control of the aircraft movements at all from here, although I was unaware of any air traffic school being located here, they might have been able to help me with some later ad-hoc movements at Heston which I have referred to in another forum on this website.

lawrence hole
26th Aug 2012, 07:17

26th Aug 2012, 12:41
BBC Four - The Thirties in Colour - Episode guide (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00cqfd4/episodes/guide)

Part I is Rosie Newmans 1930s British footage ...some aviation...next week American Harry Wright and his travels

lawrence hole
24th Jan 2014, 11:42
Having just acquired a new photo of G-ACIT ,the D.H.Dragon aircraft that participated at the BOAC Sports Festival on the 9th June 1951 taking visitors for local joyrides at 5s per person, I have just realised, judging from the aerial photograph, that the air strip which had been cut into a cornfield on the old airfield was located much further away from the southern side from The Vale at Heston than I first thought,. The aerial view taken from an aircraft from the Airways Aero Association based at the time at Denham Airfield, shows a band of lighter vegetation which reaches almost as far as the top marquee. This to my mind must have been the extent of the landing strip, although in practice the Dragon and Auster aircraft took off and landed well before the end was even reached, so in effect was a generous safety margin. In fact I remember that the aircraft always turned off to the north, well away from the Sports arena and probably flew just skirting the northern perimeter of the airfield and then probably overflying Norwood Green and part of Osterley Park which kept them away from any Heathrow traffic before returning. I was unable to find out the registration of the Auster, even though it flew over with the contingent of 5 Airways Aero Association aircraft and circled near to my house, most unexpectedly that morning, before they all landed. It was most likely G-AGYO an Autocrat owned by the AAA, which unfortunately crashed later in Kent 28th August 1951. No pictures were taken by anyone of the Auster at Heston at this time, possibly due to the fact that cameras were not in such common use then, which is a shame.

lawrence hole
24th Jan 2014, 11:58

lawrence hole
24th Jan 2014, 12:19

24th Jan 2014, 22:35
Nice photos, Lawrence. In the aerial shot (just behind the furthest long marquee) you can see the BOAC Dove the company chairman Whitney Straight arrived in. Closer to the control tower 2 other aircraft probably the Hawk Trainers (edit)Miles M.14A Hawk Trainer 3, G-AKKV, Airways Aero Association (http://www.abpic.co.uk/photo/1018874/)

lawrence hole
25th Jan 2014, 09:15
Just for the record A30yoyo, all the AAA aircraft arrived together since it was an unexpected pleasure to see the 5 assorted aeroplanes, Tiger Moth, Dragon, Auster and the 2 Hawk Trainers circling nearby, shortly after a heavy rain shower that morning. I seem to vaguely remember seeing and hearing the BOAC DH Dove during glimpses of it at as it passed by gaps between the bungalows in The Vale, which lay at right angles to the end of my road. ATC Heathrow would have given all aircraft a limited time slot to get to Heston in spite of runway 28R being out of action due to the tunnel to the central area of Heathrow being built.
The latest picture of the Dragon G-ACIT shows the backlog of queuing passengers for their 5s pleasure flight over the local area. Probably a bargain even in 1951 !

lawrence hole
1st Feb 2014, 09:02
The next photo shows BOAC Chairman, Sir Miles Thomas looking at an aircraft model with Mr Scott-Hill, Chairman of the Airways Aero Club Denham and opposite Mr Lobley, Managing Director of the Airways Aero Association presumably with his family. To complete the hierarchy, Mr Whitney-Straight, Deputy Chairman of BOAC can be seen second from the right.

lawrence hole
1st Feb 2014, 09:49

1st Feb 2014, 10:06
The tall third person on the left is the late Harold Blank. He was Austrian by birth and worked for BEA at Ruislip. His leisure time revolved around the flying club where he was a part-time instructor. When he died, he had a genuine 3,000 plus hours in his logbook, which for a part-timer was no mean achievement.

Allan Lupton
1st Feb 2014, 10:44
I'd say that it's Diana Barnato Walker next to Whitney Straight

lawrence hole
1st Feb 2014, 15:10
I am unable to see any likeness from early pictures of Diana Barnato Walker. It seems most likely to be Whitney-Straight's wife as it was an official BOAC function.

lawrence hole
2nd Feb 2014, 09:51
The person on the far left looks like Mr L.Wenman, the CFI at Denham Airfield at the time, although why he appears in white overalls is odd.

lawrence hole
2nd Feb 2014, 10:02
The second person next to him in white overalls also looks like Mr D.Wright,
deputy CFI judging from the AAA archive photos ,which makes sense.

lawrence hole
6th Feb 2014, 12:16
Question remaining is who is the bespectacled gentleman with the on the far right with an official tag on his coat collar, could he be one of the BOAC board of directors ?

16th Jul 2022, 13:34
It looks like Leslie (Mike) Pace, Recruitment Manager for BOAC. He was my Step-Father, who later married my late Mother, Catherine Pace (formerly Kitching, Maiden name Long) in about 1958. She, too, had worked for BOAC: in Comet Accounts. I believe he had interviewed her, as head of recruitment, or at least knew of her through the recruitment process. They were happily married for more than 25 years.
He had a fascinating history: starting in Aviation as an Engineer with either A.T & T. or Instone Airways, later working with Imperial Airways. I remember him attending Sopwith Apprentices Dinners, although he was never an Apprentice: being with Sopwiths as an ‘Improver’. He was awarded an MBE for his part in moving staff, etc., from Bristol to the new Heathrow. He knew everyone and could well have been longer in aviation than anyone else in BOAC at that time. Because of his very low Staff Number he was able to travel anywhere, with guaranteed seats, anywhere in the World. My Mother’s first ever trip abroad was with him to Barbados.