View Full Version : Luton in the Fifties. Grass track runway.

14th Apr 2010, 21:21
I see there was a discussion about airfields near Watford back in 2006 and I wasn't registered with this forum then otherwise I'd have joined in but I see that Luton was mentioned a few times and I wondered if anyone is interested in my memories of the place.

When I was just 7 yrs old in 1953 my father an ex RAF Bomber Command Pilot who flew Wellingtons in WWII was working for Smiths Aircraft Instruments and he took my brother and me over to Luton for a pleasure flight around the area doing a few circuits of Luton.
Smiths had a Percival Proctor there G-AHFK which later won a few Air Race Trophies and ended its days in South Africa. After Smiths sold the Proctor they acquired a Saab Safir G-ANOK and we also had a flight or two in that.

The Luton aerodrome was very crude affair compared to the complex that is there today. We had to drive almost through the middle of Vauxhall's factory to get there and there was a very modern control tower and it was manned by a guy who lived in a bungalow right by the entrance gate called Mr Rushton.

At the age of 7 I hated flying as I couldn't see out of the window and the massive amount of bumping in flight was like being blindfolded and sent on a roller coaster. The noise was horrendous and I was not a fan of flying from that moment on. But I did go plane spotting by cycling on my bicycle to Bovingdon from our home in Watford and I would have been about 11 or 12 at the time. We used to watch American planes at Bovingdon and I seem to remember the Blackburn Beverly or possibly the Fairchild Packet.

At one point my father landed the Saab at somewhere like Bovingdon and parked it up just below the wing of the huge Blackburn plane making it look quite funny by comparison that the press photographed it.
I remember my father showing me the press proofs of the photos.

At Luton on one unfortunate occasion my father let a partly trained pilot bring the Saab into Luton to land. Something went a bit wrong on touchdown and the nosewheel snapped off and the plane nose dived into the grass when almost stopped. This did a fair bit of damage and snapped off the prop.

I remember taking the yellow and black tip of the prop that my dad brought home after this incident. Nobody was hurt but it was a great boost to my ego to take the prop tip to school and show it off.

It is indeed sad to think that Bovingdon has become just a Car Boot sale site and a store for something and has no connection now with the Aircraft industry or military. I did have an email from a Canadian guy who was at Bovingdon during the Cold War and he had a very nostalgic soft spot for the place.

I wonder if anyone else reading this forum has any memories of Luton.

Saab Safir G-ANOK was eventually sold to a private owner who flew many trips from Scotland to Sweden and back. It was eventually sent to the East Fortune Museum and somehow it left there and found its way into a barn in a farm on the Scottish Borders where it still remains to this day. It is in what is best described as a sorry state now. The present owner doesn't wish to make contact about it and one can probably assume it will never fly again. Restoration would probably be too expensive and not guaranteed to be made airworthy again. It was a very advanced plane for its time.

I would be happy to hear from anyone in email or on the forum if they have any parallel memories of that time and place.
Plado (New member now in S Devon)

15th Apr 2010, 06:05
You are a bit older than myself Plado but I do recall logging G-ANOK at Turnhouse on a spotting trip, although I don't have an exact date - I think in the 60's would that have been possible?
I remember my first trip to Luton in 1968 and how helpful the staff were to myself and a friend. We were allowed to go into the hangars but told to not
touch anything and to stay away from the busy apron. :ok:

15th Apr 2010, 08:57
We were allowed to go into the hangars but told to not touch anything and to stay away from the busy apron.Its the same today for we "back office" staff. :)

15th Apr 2010, 19:21
Plado. Welcome to the forum, and a little memory for you, not at Luton but Turnhouse photo courtesy of Colin Lourie.



16th Apr 2010, 07:55
Sorry but my first visit to Luton came in August 1966 and then only briefly as I still lived in the North of England. After moving to Bedford later in the year my visits became more frequent and one of the most enjoyable was a visit to Airline Engineering in July of 1968. Monarch only had two Britannias then G-AOVH and G-AOVI and after I had written to Monarch (I still have the invitation) to have a look round and they told me to come on a weekday as both Brits would be busy at the weekend naturally. I turned up and was invited to look round the hangar and a Britannia (unfortunately cannot remember which one) which was having its seats taken out for a charter to Khartoum in the Sudan for British American Tobacco carrying cigarettes. The day was a Tuesday and it would be back in time for passenger service for the weekend. There was not much on the ramp as I recall - a couple of Britannia Britannias and not much else.
Looking further ahead does anyone remember the regular Condor B727 flights in the 1970s?

16th Apr 2010, 20:55
Thank you muchly for that superb photo of G-ANOK
I've never seen that picture before. Where is Turnhouse exactly?

It's a very early 1960s looking photo.
My memory of G-ANOK seems to place the colour as pale primrose yellow with a black stripe but I could be mixing that up with my father's Triumph Vitesse which was pale yellow with a very dark green stripe down the side.
However, I feel pretty sure she was pale yellow at any rate.

The amount of space in the cockpit was amazing and it was a 4 seater or 2+2 and it seemed to me a very much smoother machine than the Proctor. I learned in recent times that the Proctor was a flawed design and a few of them crashed with air-frame failures. So it looks like I might have been up in a bit of a death trap in 1954! Oh well I lived to tell the tale and nobody crashed G-AHFK as far as I know.

Thanks very much for that photo it was a very nice touch. I will cherish that one. It's so good, I think I might even frame a copy to keep at home.

With best wishes
Plado (Laurie Prior)

19th Apr 2010, 23:26
Turnhouse is the 'old' name of what is now called Edinburgh EDI EGPH

Think we should reinstate these good old names........

Woolsington, Yeadon, Ringway etc etc etc...

the list goes on and on and on.......

Agaricus bisporus
20th Apr 2010, 13:03
...like John Lennon, George Best?

Nah, best stick to place names.

20th Apr 2010, 19:18
Hi, Please note the name of this Forum..."Aviation History and Nostalgia".

Castle Donington, Lulsgate, Rhoose etc. are place names.

Not like the namby pamby George Best, John Lennon which I agree are naff for names as locations......:ugh:

The 'Oldies' fight back.......:D

20th Apr 2010, 20:06
Not quite the same vintage as 'Plado', my first visit to Luton was in April 1965. The old-old terminal (just off what is now taxiway echo) looked out over two grass runways (06/24 and 18/36) towards the main 08/26 runway. Constellations (Euravia, Brit Air, Skyways), Vikings and Ambassadors were being replaced with Britannias and HS748s. Jets followed in 1968.
Luton Flying Club operated three Austers, and was re-equipping with Cessna 150s. On my first visit in April 1965, I 'logged' about 30 aircraft.

27th Apr 2010, 09:40
The thought of large turbo-propped aircraft using Luton back then is one that almost seems unbelievable. I imagine that after around 1960 the grass runways were upgraded to something a little more compatible with civilian passenger planes as the grass runways of the 50s was only really suitable for small craft and TigerMoths!

I never visited there after about 1961 and I remember my Dad filling up his Hillman Minx with very high octane petrol, the cheap stuff on tap from the pump outside the hangar door! Those were the days of "pinking" and regular decokes. You never hear of grinding valves in today, or new piston rings. When we filled up with petrol at Car Petrol stations my father would ask for "A shot of upper cylinder" which was I think RedEx upper cylinder lubricant. Oh those days of "cooking grade" petrol at 4/2d a gallon. We'll never see fun like that again. It was nice to be here for the best bit though.

And the phonetic alphabet left over from the RAF days George Able Nan Oboe King, and George Able How Fox King, nothing like the police phonetics of today
Golf Alpha November Oscar Kilo. Almost completely different.

27th Apr 2010, 11:11
Hi Plado,

My first visit to Luton was around 1956 - and bingo - there was the Proctor HFK.


There was also the local airline and the scrap behind the hangar. I will try and put these up on separate posts, as I cannot get two more full size photos on this one (limited skills).

What a cracking shot of the Safir at Turnhouse!! :ok:

27th Apr 2010, 11:46
My first memories of Luton date from August 1958 when I was doing my PPL at Marshalls, Cambridge. I was sent off on a solo cross-country via Luton and White Waltham back to Cambridge in Tiger Moth G-ALTW. No particular problems with the grass, and no need to use the newish control tower, as I had no radio anyway. Also a bit of time to look around. A few gems were the Scorpion-powered Canberra WK163, the silver fuselage of Rapide G-AFOI in a hangar, 2 other Rapides IBB and LBC, Jet Provost OBU, Lockheed 12A GTL, as well as some more "ordinary" stuff such as Apache PLJ (quite new at the time), the red Chipmunk PAC, the dark green Gemini KEK, red Tiger Moth OGS ("Miss 'Obbs"), and the Pegasus Viking HOY.
An excellent flight and a great day out. A hard day though, with 7 flights and about 6 hours logged.
Tomorrow I fly, as I often do, by easyJet from Geneva to LTN. It is very different these days!


27th Apr 2010, 15:03
Rapide IBB - Like the prototype airstairs -


Still can't get a normal sized image from this one - it says 'Luton Airways' on the nose! :ok:

27th Apr 2010, 15:35
http://img404.imageshack.us/img404/7960/getimage10.jpg (http://img404.imageshack.us/i/getimage10.jpg/)

By Luton's "new" tower

27th Apr 2010, 16:30
Yes, G-AIBB was one of the Rapides I saw in 1958, and it was marked "Luton Airways", and the "new" tower was there.


27th Apr 2010, 20:26
Looking further ahead does anyone remember the regular Condor B727 flights in the 1970s?

Very much so, I must have some photos somewhere, about the time my dad was a regular at the flying club. If I wasn't up with him I was wandering around the grass areas without any hassle, as long as 18/36 wasn't in use.

29th Apr 2010, 16:12
Dated 1970
http://img580.imageshack.us/img580/862/layoutxe.jpg (http://img580.imageshack.us/i/layoutxe.jpg/)

29th Apr 2010, 18:04

30th Apr 2010, 14:47
Luton's first tower can be seen on the right

30th Apr 2010, 15:40
Obviously you're referring to the present Luton Airport rather than the 'original' one at Barton in the Clay, where the Luton Minor and Major were developed.
Anyway my first visit was for a flight in the Chrisair DH Dragon (not Rapide) G-ADDI in about 1964. It was arranged by Air Britain (Chorleywood Branch - yes it actually existed!)and the pilot was Claire Roberts, wife of the owner Chis Roberts. It signifed several 'firsts' for me: first flight in a civil aircraft (but as a seasoned ATC cadet I'd flown in several miltary types), first in a biplane, and first with a 'lady' pilot.

30th Apr 2010, 18:11

30th Apr 2010, 19:35
Entaxei thanks a lot for your contributions and everyone has been putting up fabulous photos here. To see G-AHFK again in a photo I've not seen before is quite a thrill. It's funny but when my memories are from the age of 7 the boarding of the Proctor sticks in my mind as particularly tricky since it only had a couple of half-foot shaped reinforced dents in the wing close to the cockpit side and getting one's feet into them when your legs are only child-age short was extremely scary.

Later "treats" to board G-ANOK Saab were a lot easier as it had a simple non-slip wide band up the wing and you could get into the aircraft almost like boarding a car.

I had no idea during later years that G-AHFK would go on to win Air Race trophies.

Incidentally Entaxei if you're having trouble resizing photos digitally drop me an email and I'll give you a few tips & tricks.

30th Apr 2010, 19:41
Is there any chance you might remember what colour G-ANOK was?

My own memory is that it was a pale primrose yellow with a black stripe down the side. Of course all old photos are black and white so I can't prove that it was a pale yellow aeroplane.

I'm just hoping you can recall or know what it was registered as?


30th Apr 2010, 19:43
http://img534.imageshack.us/img534/3394/21770342.jpg (http://img534.imageshack.us/i/21770342.jpg/)

Taken late 40's with the old Italian prison of war camp in the background

30th Apr 2010, 19:51
Obviously you're referring to the present Luton Airport rather than the 'original' one at Barton in the Clay, where the Luton Minor and Major were developed.

I thiink Barton opened in 1935 while Luton was already open in 1934

Victor Oscar
3rd May 2010, 18:39
I grew into aviation as a young teen at Southampton/Eastleigh as it then was, and was closely linked with the Hampshire Aero Club as one of a number of youngsters who were encouraged to get involved. I washed aircraft and helped with various minor "engineering" tasks, and occasionally got to taxi an aeroplane etc. I was never paid for the jobs I did, but did log some great flying experiences - C of A test flights, etc - and flew quite regularly from there and from Hamble as an ATC cadet.

G-ANOK was based at SOU in the early 60s, not sure who owned it but the guy who flew it on the occasions I was aboard was Shaun Hennessy a club member. A great aeroplane, and fairly powerful as I recall.

Yes I can confirm she was painted primrose yellow, with I think a redstripe. Thanks to those who've supplied her later history.

3rd May 2010, 20:01
Interesting to read your contribution Victor Oscar, suspect we may have been around HAC Eastleigh at the same time. G-ANOK was owned by Ben Halpin who as I recollect ran a radio business. After the Safir he owned Comanche G-ARFY, remember a flight to Blackbushe with him and Shaun Hennessy. I wonder if the Safir was resprayed around that time as I remember it as being grey with some dayglo on it? Some where I have a slide of it but sadly I do not have the IT skills or necessary hardware to display it in here.


PS 04 May 10. Have dug out my slide of G-ANOK taken in the aeroclub hangar: Grey, dayglo orange and white. Have checked dates on G-INFO. It had been sold to KFP Couling in Essex (Stapleford ??) before I arrived on the scene at HAC Eastleigh. So it was a "visitor" when I saw it. Suspect it came back for some work on the avionics.

This is really testing the grey cells but think Halpins system was called ADAS ???? The obvious external feature was a red "T" shaped aerial fitted above the cockpit. It was fitted to G-ARFY as well.

Victor Oscar
4th May 2010, 19:24
Planemike, you suspect right! Confirmation for you from my present location and interest in this thread. But interesting that although we were contemporary (and friends) at Eastleigh, your memory of the Safir's colour scheme is different. Guess we must be talking of slightly different dates then. But my memory is gettting selective. Thanks for confirming B G Halpin as owner.

2 sheds
4th May 2010, 20:40

Further to yours above, you might be interested in...


Taken in 1966 while parachuting at Thruxton. Claire Roberts used to fly it for us.

2 s

4th May 2010, 22:09
Was she wearing the `sprayed-on` leopardskin trousers,or were you too keen/innocent to notice ?

5th May 2010, 14:17
G-AHFK went on to finish to its life in Kenya. I have a photo of it at Nairobi West (Wilson) in 1964. Unfortunately cannot display it on here (limited IT skills).......!!!


12th May 2010, 18:30
Good grief! Planemike, Dayglo orange must have been an afterthought.
Back in the 1950s there wasn't any dayglo paint for painting on vehicles and aeroplanes!
Back then even the police cars were black Wolesleys with bells on the front.
Someone must have re-painted it. I think it was Primrose Yellow with a black stripe.

So it looks like it's down to memory for this, after all most of us in the late1950s and very early 60s were only doing black and white photography until Kodachrome transparencies came along with 35mm. I doubt if any colour prints exist from that era.

Anyhow it's all very interesting what you've all come up with on this.
G-AHFK did indeed go to Kenya but I had heard that it rotted away out there once it fell out of use. Rather sad really.

13th May 2010, 08:16

See my msg No 28. Take your point about "dayglo", I would have said not around in 50s. My slide was taken in early 64, I reckon NOK had just been repainted. I would be more than happy to display the image on here but unfortanely my IT skills do not permit that. Have a slide of Tiger Moth G-ANEE with "dayglo" rudder, wing tips and nose cowling.

Yes, my understanding is also that HFK fell in to disuse after arrival in Kenya. In all probablity it was burnt at Wilson. My slide shows the a/c intact so I guess just after arrival in Kenya.


13th May 2010, 09:18
I think dayglo was around in the (late) 1950s. I saw a couple of Geminis (G-AKGC and KHH) and an Auster Autocrat (G-AJRN) at Tollerton with dayglo markings in October 1959. There was another Auster, an Aiglet Trainer G-APVG, at Rearsby, also in October 1959.
Several aircraft had dayglo in 1960, such as the Argosies G-APRL and M.


14th May 2010, 16:35
The earliest dayglo type example that I can remember, is the Automobile Association Auster Alpine G-APAA, which was painted bright yellow for all lettering and the AA badge, this was registered 23/6/56. I cannot remember anything prior - even military.

Re colour film, for individual filming and shots, it simply was not available, the developing process was extremely complex and results very variable. I worked in BOAC's photographic unit in London for a couple of years, where we did all of the publicity photography and developing, and we kept to B & W, even when we did all of photographs of Princess Margrets wedding dresses as they were designed by Norman Hartnell !!. (could have made a fortune from the press, but we were very honest/loyal).

I was given a 50 foot length of 35m Positive Eastmancolor film by the sales rep about 1959 to try out at a Brands Hatch motorbike race, but the result was very poor. It was only the film industry that got it going.

I will try & send over a photo of PAA in a minute - Plado I will be back at some stage for Bucketshop tuition!!

Cheers :ok:

15th May 2010, 22:04
Hi Plado!

This is my very first post having joined just a few hours ago. And now an automotive memory. Like your father, my grandfather had a Hillman Minx and I remember him asking for a shot of RedEx. I never thought I would hear that name again! I did fly out of Luton in about 1967 in a Britannia Airways Britannia - G-ANBL.

17th May 2010, 11:50
Well I'm sure everyone welcomes you here just as they all welcomed me a few days ago.
Hillman Minxes of the 1950s stuck in my mind vividly because my Father had 4 of them as company cars with Smiths Aircraft Instruments Sales job. Sorry if this is a bit off-topic from our conversation here about GANOK and GAHFK but it's nice to just talk 50s nostalgia as a by-product of the thread. Some of the early Minxes were column gear change and my dad used to let my brother and I take it in turns to steer the car at normal cruising speeds when we had the opportunity such as on a holiday visit to the Durham Dales. Lots of deserted winding roads there and the Minx had a bench front seat and no floor change in the middle to get in the way.

It struck me as very easy to steer a car (I was only 12 years old then!) not much movement needed more just guiding it with small steady movements of the steering wheel.
The cars my dad drove were all serviced at a place called Campbell Simmonds on London's North Circular near Hendon.- and I remember a flaming row developed when someone left all the jets out of the carburettor on re-assembly when cleaning the fuel system.
Somehow the car ran, but a half mile from the dealer things went a bit pear-shaped.
So he walked back and ordered them to tow it in and give him a car to get home.
Sparks flew! Not only from the plugs.

I used to help with later servicing jobs when my dad did stuff DIY at home once he'd got his own car. I remember two products that may ring bells with you. Dirty Paws (Hand Cleaner) and Rozalex hand barrier cream for making it easier to clean off gunge from your hands after an oily job. Amazingly Rozalex still exists.

For Luton to have taken Britannia aircraft in the 1960s the place must have undergone a considerable runway upgrade as I don't think there was enough room for something that big to land or take off back in the mid 1950s. The ground was much too bumpy for a passenger aircraft of that size to land without suffering the "forced landing in a ploughed field" effect !

One last thing that just sprung into my mind, we had a holiday on Hayling Island in the 1960s and the approach road to the Caravan Site had a small bungalow opposite a fairly large field. The occupant of the bungalow had his own Piper aeroplane parked opposite in the field beside the pavement. He used to fly in from somewhere and make a low pass to shoo away the horses and get a strip to land on. Then he'd come round again and do a proper approach and touch down. It had a very short pull-up distance and also when taking off he'd repeat the same thing by taxiing round to move horses out of the way and then take a really short run-up to lift-off almost like a Harrier jump jet. We were astounded to watch it. No fire engines standing by. My father never said it was illegal what this chap was doing. I don't even know how he refuelled as there were no pumps or cans beside the road. What freedom eh?


17th May 2010, 15:07
Some of the early Minxes were column gear change and my dad used to let my brother and I take it in turns to steer the car at normal cruising speeds when we had the opportunity such as on a holiday visit to the Durham Dales. Lots of deserted winding roads there and the Minx had a bench front seat and no floor change in the middle to get in the way

Remember doing the same thing with several of dad's cars, Standard Vanguard, Austin A55 and Zepher 6 spring to mind, that was out in Kenya, open roads and very little traffic.


21st May 2010, 21:49
Hi Plado and PlanMike!

Thanks for your welcome and Hillman Minx comments. Yes, my grandfather's was a column shift/bench seat arrangement. I never got to steer it on the road, but in my parents' driveway, which was uphill and short, he let me try to find the clutch bite-point.

I remember Rozalex barrier cream from my days as a British Aircraft Corp (just missed being able to claim Bristol per se) Filton apprentice, so I guess that at least gets this sequence back to aeronautics!



vintage ATCO
22nd May 2010, 20:17
For Luton to have taken Britannia aircraft in the 1960s the place must have undergone a considerable runway upgrade as I don't think there was enough room for something that big to land or take off back in the mid 1950s. The ground was much too bumpy for a passenger aircraft of that size to land without suffering the "forced landing in a ploughed field" effect !The hard runway was built in 1959 and completed in 1960. Prior to that, Jet Provosts (built there) and Derby Airways DC3s and Miles Marathons regular use to use the grass, and the Bristol Freighter taking Vauxhall cars to Ireland.

And let us not forget that John Cunningham landed a Comet on the grass on 27 Feb 1952 after fog closed Hatfield.


28th May 2010, 17:06
Started at Luton a little later than fifties, 61 to be exact, and here are some early memories.
Helicopter Services, with their crop spraying Hiller 360,s
Autair's Dakota being washed down with avgas on Mondays, by Bill, next to our old McAlpine hanger
Derby Airways on schedule service.
JP's disturbing the peace and quiet of daily life
Mr Rushdon taking his daily walk with his scottie dog.
Flying club activities . Cross country learner pilots asking us to prop swing their Tigges.
Listening to the story of the Gemini that was prop swung by its own pilot only to find that when it fired it jumped the chock and in spite of all attempts to get on board kept going round and round loosing bits of airframe . Faster and faster till the other chock was overriden and headed for the flying club bar where it stopped, still ticking over .
Ah the memories

vintage ATCO
28th May 2010, 19:11
It was a Messenger . . . . ;) The wreckage was dumped around the side of the heli blister hangar. :) I could probably find the reg somewhere . . . :confused:

Mr Rushton's dog once got on board the daily Bristol Frightener to Ireland with Vauxhall cars. It had to come back. :\

28th May 2010, 20:20
Vintage Atco
Yes you are right it was a Messenger ,senior moment

29th May 2010, 04:09
Was it G-AJKL Miles Messenger ? It was laying behind the flying club hangar derelict in the mid seventies. When was it scrapped ? The owners replaced it with a Piper Apache.

31st May 2010, 08:12
That's amazing to hear these stories. I'd forgotten Mr Rushden's dog Scottie. I seem to remember Mr Rushden as a smartly dressed medium height fellow who wore a tweed jacket. He was always polite and my father used to chat with him quite a lot.

The name John Cunningham of course was frequently mentioned by my father but more in context with the "Cat's Eyes" tag I think he had during the war. I'm surprised that Comet landing was never to my knowledge mentioned. Quite an event. I know my father was once "talked down" by the control tower in bad fog at Northolt in the Proctor. The rest of our family went to fetch him in the car and it was a scary moment or three!

Also I'd not heard of the later Messenger throwing a wobbly without a pilot. My father's flying days at Smiths seemed to peter out by 1960 and the only opportunity he got to fly again was on a visit to LA when someone let him have a go in a Piper or some aircraft of similar size. Then it wasn't worth him keeping his pilot's licence going.

Anyhow thanks for those great memories of Luton that have been added here, I've really enjoyed this trip down memory lane.

5th Jun 2010, 16:36
Yes, it was 'KL. It was gone by about 1974. I remember discussing it with a bloke at Autair Helicopters who looked just like 'The Master' from Dr Who. He said I could have it for 100, but I declined.

That was in the days of the busy flying club, with the late, large, Dave Hughes at the helm.

7th Jun 2010, 12:14
Yes indeed that would make interesting reading. Do you have a copy or is there a link to a document?

You're welcome to send it to me in email if you have it. I think my email is listed here on my profile. If not get back to me and I'll post it here on the replies.

Many thanks.

7th Jun 2010, 21:44
So is that the tower we all remember under construction in the Comet photo from 1952- I thought it was built in 1959.

What was the layout of Luton runway wise prior to construction of the concrete - we remember 18/36 and 24/06 but was there a grass runway where the concrete was laid?

8th Jun 2010, 00:01
I remember that Plado! I was watching the whole thing from the entrance to the Flying Club Bar. I recall Dave Campbell (Flying Club CFI) trying to board the spinning Messenger and having to retreat every time. The alternative was to have been knocked over by a wing and then a possible haircut from the prop.
I seem to recall there were some provosts on the taxyway which was immediately in front of the tower.
Liz Overbury (Flying Club Instructor) climbed on board the aircraft when it eventually made it's way prop first into the Flying Club Bar to turn off the switches. I took a photo of her while she was doing that - rear end sticking up in the air. Never did show her. I wasn't that brave. If I can find it I'll post it. Liz passed away a couple of years back. She ended her flying career on a DA 748 based at NCL. Unfortunately I did not get to see her when I moved up here from civilisation. Pity. She was a grand lady.

8th Jun 2010, 02:24
John "Cat's Eyes" was an absolute gent to me when he lived just up the road. Great storey's he told me and much encouragement when I was in my teens. RIP.
A few laughs we had about Hatfield & Luton at the time.....

8th Jun 2010, 06:42
Sad to hear about Liz Overbury. Some may recall the Jet Provost accident in which her husband lost his life whilst a test pilot at Hunting -Percival.

vintage ATCO
8th Jun 2010, 13:26
So is that the tower we all remember under construction in the Comet photo from 1952- I thought it was built in 1959.

What was the layout of Luton runway wise prior to construction of the concrete - we remember 18/36 and 24/06 but was there a grass runway where the concrete was laid?Yes, the 'old' tower was built in 1952, into service in '53.

There wasn't a grass runway where the hard rwy now is as it was pushed out of the then airfield boundary. Initial length was up to the current twy B, 5532ft, and no other twy (in 1959). It was then extended to about 6000ft where the small intermediate turning circle and then to its current length in the early 60s.

ISTR that 24/06 had a parallel, somewhere where the current terminal must be, and there was also a rwy something like 15/33 although I think when it was all grass you could land more or less in any direction.

When John Cunningham landed the HS125 on rwy 26 with no gear down he said on the RT 'I am awfully sorry, I seem to have made a mess of your runway'. John was always very polite. The following Monday he called all his test pilots into his office, explained exactly what he had done and they were not to repeat it! With the Spanish Minister of Tourism on board he was early and slowed the acft down. The gear horn was annoying him so he pulled the circuit breaker. Whoops.

The Fox on the (now) A1081 was John's local and although it has been refurbished there is still a wall dedicated to photos of John. Pity about the Spitfire though, completely out of context. I don't suppose anyone working there knows the significance.

Sorry to hear about Liz Overbury, knew her when she flew for Autair.

I have got quite a lot of old information about Luton Airport that I rescued. Must get around to sorting it but it will have to be done over a winter.

8th Jun 2010, 13:54
Regards the 125 belly landing by JC, I was there and have a photograph of it
As I walked around the aircraft and glancing at the CB's,one was popped and as I had worked on the 125's I knew which one it was ,so we knew on the day.
Strange, but a Twin Comanche belonging to a certain Racing manager Colin Chapman,had a annoying U/C warning horn that was of the same nuisance and the end result was a belly landing , so John C was'nt the first .

10th Jun 2010, 23:16
Many of us seemed to be around when G-AYRR? landed wheels up that Saturday afternoon- we just kept watching not believing there were no wheels and I can still see the sparks.

Sad to hear about Elizabeth Overbury- remember her voice on Ambassadors and and then BAC One Elevens and the reponse of an ATCO - (corr!) can't remember his name bit no doubt Vintage ATCO will - he went on I think to fly 125s for Mc Alpine (the oh so pretty G-AYRY)

Luton seems to have more than its fair share of nostalgia - it seemd to have a very strong enthusiats movement back in the 60's and 70's

Happy days!

22nd Jun 2010, 23:18
excellent thread, if it helps I found a web site of Luton through the years.

Some of the pictures also show the grass runways.

Luton Today: News, Sport, Jobs, Property, Cars, Entertainments & More (http://www.lutontoday.co.uk/CustomPages/CustomPage.aspx?pageid=%2074152)

Sultan Ismail
23rd Jun 2010, 01:11
It seems to have gone unnoticed that the aircraft shown is G-ALYP which disappeared into the Mediterranean on 10 January 1954 after inflight breakup.
This tragic event set in motion an intensive aviation research project on high altitude pressurisation and metal fatigue.

23rd Dec 2010, 18:38
AAhh, Luton Flying Club inthe 50's. I took my Flying Scholoarship PPL there in August 1958, the first cadet to do so under their new 30-hour approval. CFI was Dave Campbell with Barry Radley, the Hunting T.P., assisting with instruction. Went solo on G-AOGS (Miss 'obbs - oh, the beautiful Bernice) in mid-August.
Liz overbury checked me out on an Auster, G-AIJI, later when I'd not flown at Luton for a while. As you say, a charming lady and a good instructor.
Fred Pinchin was club owner at that time and Frank Loos was Chief Engineer with Steve Mentzalis as his assistant. Steve had a supercharged pre-war Austin Seven ally-bodied special in which we used to go to the White Horse at Tea Green.
When I was a member of a group which owned a Magister, G-AKPG, we kept it there for a while before moving it to Denham.
I remember the Scorpion rocket-engined Canberra taking off on the grass with Scorpions burning and that there was a bit of a row as it burned two strips in the grass!
So many characters there in those days. Happy days.

26th Dec 2010, 12:53
GliFly: We might almost have met. I saw Miss 'Obbs at Luton on 6 August 1958 when I was on my cross country qualifier from Cambridge in one of their Tiger Moths!


Lon More
26th Dec 2010, 14:49
I did my RAF Flying Scholarship at the Club in 1966. Dave Campbell had moved on by then, as had Liz Overbury; Howard (?) was CFI then (drove an Alvis). Other instructors I remember were John Middleton, Phil Jeffrey, and Deli Grey-Fisk. There was another who was also one of the Controllers. Although most of the trainees "Lived in", I only lived a couple of miles away so cycled in. Our first job in the morning was to move the NCB Dove GARUM (?) out of the hangar. This later lead to my first and only bit of fame when my photo appeared on the front page of the Times. Admittedly I was in the background when a photo was taken of the Minister flying off to attend the Aberfan Enquiry\I also remember sweeping out the hangars before Airline Engineering moved in. They'd been empty for a couple of years and were knee deep in pigeon crap.

I remember the wreck at the side of the Autair hangar but always thought it was a Piston Provost. Spent a few happy evenings in its shade with the then Girlfriend.

I had no idea there had been an airfield at Barton (overshoots must have been interesting) until the subject was bought up at my Hamble interview a couple of months later.

27th Dec 2010, 11:47
I flew in G-ANZH, the other LFC Tiger, that day according to my original log book.
G-AOGS was named by Steve Mantzales for the 17-year old Bernice Hobbs who, I believed worked at Napier Engines. She was indeed a gorgeous young lady, even when she got lost on her final cross country for her PPL and when trying to land at Horsham St. Faith in the Tiger she hit a runway lamp and the aircraft turned over. I think she was 'entertained' in the Officers Mess until Fred Pinchin arrived in an Auster to 'rescue' her.

vintage ATCO
27th Dec 2010, 15:59
This is G-AOGS along with Turbi G-AOTK, snapped by me with my Brownie 127 around 1960.


The other Luton Flying Club Tiger was G-AOZH which is still around and comes to deHMC events (it's yellow mil now). G-AOGS was sold to the US in 1971 as N82TM.

Howard Brunt was the then CFI. The controller instructor then would have been Malcolm Lewis ('Lew'). Another controller who became an instructor and then went to fly for McAlpines (and later Monarch) is John Turner whom I still hear from occasionally.

G-ARUM was indeed the Coal Board Dove, pilot was Basil Allum. Nice bloke.

27th Dec 2010, 18:25
I learned to fly at LFC,starting in Feb`60,soloed in July 60,after about 7hrs,and got my PPL in July `61.The reason it took so long was that I was an Apprentice at Halton,and not all weekends were free,pay was about 3-4 /week,to buy polish,blanco and Tizer in the NAAFI; so ,it was a case of hitch-hiking/walking to Luton every couple of weeks for about 30-40 mins. in an Auster,with DC,or the lovely Elizabeth(God help you if she was within earshot,and you called her Liz !).After about 20 hours I converted to the Tiger(AOZH/AOGS),and then a bit later the Chipmunk (APAC),as it was a bit easier/comfortable doing the X-country phase. Did the FHT with DC in `AOGS`.One used to be able to climb up to about 5-6000`,about 1-2 miles S of the runway and do aeros and spinning,then back `overhead` for PFLs and circuits...all non radio,except the Chippie,just expecting Lew to flash the appropriate `colours`.One also spent a lot of time refuelling,starting engines,pushing a/c into/out of the hangar,but worth it as one got offered extra rides with other owners/club members,such as a trip in the Turbi with Nick Mitton.I think it took about 20 mins. to climb up and do a circuit...
The `FLEET`; AusterJ/1N; -AIJI,AIGT,AGXH .;Autocar.-AOHZ..
Tiger Moth, AOGS,AOZH;later,-ANLR,AISR
Hornet Moth, -ADKL.
Chipmunk, APAC, later`62-AMXL; `63 -AMMA.
Prices/hr appx,Auster 3.7/s6d; Tiger, 3.12s.6d; Chippy 5.5s(guinea)

Other names at the time, Don Mayne,`Jock` Taylor,B.Bulpitt,S.Chew,H.Brunt,T.Olney,D.Baker.W.Myson, Dizzy Addicott,drafted to Hunting for J-P testing as a result of Elizabeth`s husband`s death,Ken Cartwright,Napier`s Lincoln T-P..
There were many other `characters`,including FP,the Manager; Sunday lunch time,the Bar was always full,then a gaggle would get airborne to raid Panshanger,or Sywell,or Stapleford and checkout their Bars,,,,
It was a great place to learn,not only about flying ,but of the wider world...Wouldn`t have missed it for the world..

27th Dec 2010, 19:37
Other names from the early 70s from memory, refreshed where necessary from the log book - (the late) Brian Matthews, Martin McMinn, Colin Stevens ("if I ever get my IR, I'll shave my beard off"; later of Colton Aviation, Lt Staughton, I think), the late, great Dave Hughes (and dog, called Gemma?), Bob Pickernell, Johnnie Johnson (engine failure over Harpenden "we'd better have a bit of a Mayday..."), Danny Duffin (a Court Line FE. Remember them? FEs that is, as well as Court Line...).

Seemingly endless circuits at Leavesden.

Anyone remember the Christmas Revues? Instructors dressed as aeroplanes doing formation stuff on a stage in the bar.

ATC procedures "cleared to land 18, in the event of a missed approach remain north of the main..."

A happy place. Anyone got any pics?

27th Dec 2010, 20:36
The coal board Dove G-ARUM at Macs gave me a full blown course at DH Engines at Leavesden and airframe at Hatfield . Aircraft looked after by Mc's in the 50/60's consisted of Helio Couriers G-ARLD, G-ARLM .Piaggio166's G-ASWY, G-ASPJ,. Doves,G-AMXW (Rolls Electromatic), pilot "Dinger Bell". G-AKSW(Enfield Rolling Mills) pilot Lord Verulanium,Mc's DH Rapide, Colin Chapman's aircraft, Jim Clarks also. The list is endless .
Basel Allum of the Coalboard Dove, once regailed a story of his fleet Air Arm Days when he was on approach in an Attacker or Sea Hawk the wings started to fold and he was lucky to land it safely.
Mention the Flying Club and we went to the aid of a Cessna that landed, lost his nosewheel and the leg stuck in but the A/C did not flip over .
The names mentioned by others all click my memory bank.

almost professional
29th Dec 2010, 17:58
ATC procedures "cleared to land 18, in the event of a missed approach remain north of the main..."

Not a procedure we would get away with now!
That takes me back-my 10 years as Assistant and Controller at Luton set me up for the rest of my ATC career, did manage circuits on all three runways at once on one occasion, think Phill Petitt (now B747 FO) was flying one of them-never did it again! such tricks of the trade passed on by VA and his compatriots have stood me in good stead though

Level bust
30th Dec 2010, 08:20
Ah, they were the days, parallel landings on 24 and 26. Mind you, I should never had cleared a C152 to take off on 24 with a B737-200 holding at what is now B2. As the BY captain came up to the TWR to remind me!!

The spot landing competition was always fun on 18, especially when someone tried to do a touch and go with full flap still selected.

30th Dec 2010, 11:32
My first ever flight was from Luton grass on August 5th 1953 with my father as the pilot of the Auster. He doesn't record the registration in his RAF log book. Pity. At the time he was on an engineering course at RAF Henlow.

It made a suitable impression, and I continue to fly to this day.

almost professional
30th Dec 2010, 11:51
I remember that afternoon Level Bust
All stood in tower watching the A/C in question scrape over the hedge and wondering if a vacancy was about to arise in ATC!

30th Dec 2010, 15:54
GliFly: so we were not far apart that day in 1958, you in NZH and me in LTW from Marshalls.
Recalling various crashes when Luton was full of (more interesting?) types than these days, does anyone remember when a Socata Horizon landed, I think wheels up, and blocked the runway for some hours? I think it was in 1972, but I am not sure. I was just passing through.


Level bust
30th Dec 2010, 16:36
I have a vague recollection of a Horizon doing a wheels up (I was still at school at the time!). I think it was probably GASJY the Court Line 'hack'.

30th Dec 2010, 16:51
Would that have been 1972, maybe July?


30th Dec 2010, 19:42
Someone mentioned the time John 'Cats eyes' Cunningham landed a 125 'wheels up'. There were 2 amusing things that came from this. JC said to a friend of mine who was a senior Hatfield person, "You know, Frank, the thing I found most strange after the aircraft stopped was how tall the fireman seemed as they looked into the cockpit. The other thing was Pat Fillingham, another Hatfield TP who never really got along with JC, said nothing about it - he just wore a black tie to work for a couple of days!

vintage ATCO
30th Dec 2010, 21:41
Ah, they were the days, parallel landings on 24 and 26.

Ah yes . . . . I once had Dave Hughes final for 24 grass and a B737 final for 26. I said to Dave 'in the event of a missed approach, can you remain north of the main?' 'Yes' he said (naturally) so I cleared the B737 to land on 26 with traffic info on the 24 traffic. 'Just like Heathrow then' he said. Er, yes, sort of. :ooh::=

Statute of limitations apply . . . . ? :O

18th Nov 2011, 15:58
I'd like a general LTN nosaligia thread -

But in the absence of that I will post here.

I have a Sudflug DC7 scale model on order, as a result of remembering them lumbering overhead our Welwyn garden on (I think) 1967 Sunday afternoons.

Can anyone remember what schedules these aircraft operated; were they bringing in German tourists or operating British ITs from Luton to the resorts?

18th Nov 2011, 17:11
I did my RAF Flying Scholarship at Luton in 1977 - which unlike the summers of 75 and 76 was was wet and horrible for weeks.

FIs in my logbook are Johnson (CFI), Bulpitt (a large lad at the time), Maxwell (ex RN surface fleet officer hour-building for a CPL) and Hawkins, who I don't recall at all.

Happy memories of early evening flights on the rare nice days landing on 24 watching the rabbits scurry away, and the first time I took off from 26 in the middle of a sunny and very convective day and hitting the updraught from the Vauxhall roofs and it lifting the port wing right up as the starboard dropped right away ...

Roy H Pinchin Sr
5th Aug 2012, 03:34
I was there, a young boy threw a rock at the rudder which swung the plane around and nosed into the bar causing a large hole in the wall. My two brothers Fred, Bernard, Fred's Wife Moria and my mother were tending bar at the time. Needless to say they were quite shocked at the event.

Buster the Bear
10th Oct 2013, 20:27
A bit before my time.

Went out to Libya in 1966 whilst being operated by Autair from 1966 to 67.


Buster the Bear
10th Oct 2013, 20:31


Buster the Bear
10th Oct 2013, 20:39

Buster the Bear
10th Oct 2013, 20:46
9th September 1966

Became G-ATZX with Autair.


Buster the Bear
10th Oct 2013, 20:51

Operated by the Luton Flying Club from 1953 to 1966


Buster the Bear
10th Oct 2013, 20:55
Last of the night


19th Nov 2013, 19:45
Buster -

The Mitchell above (N4852V) was the camera ship for the Battle of Britain film (filmed 1968 or 69).

22/04 -

The 1967 (I think) schedule for foreign charters was:

Friday early evening: Condor Flug Viscount 800 (they had 4)
Saturday early morning: Balair DC-6
Sunday afternoon: 2 x Sudflug DC-7s

Not sure who the charterer was in any of these cases, but I guess that in those days, the flights were from/to the country of origin.

19th Nov 2013, 21:17
The "Mitchell" in the top picture is an A26 (Invader), rgds, PH.

vintage ATCO
20th Nov 2013, 08:12
This was the B-25 used to film BoB



20th Nov 2013, 09:25