Tonight the club hosted a social evening, with a presentation from Jacqui Mills who is Bristol Airport’s Public Relations and Community Manager. She was very enthusiastic and talked at length about the history of Bristol’s municipal airport.
It started, she said, with the formation of the Bristol and Wessex Aeroplane Club (that’s the club I fly with) in 1927, whose members initially flew out of Bristol Filton Aerodrome. A few years later Bristol City built an airport in the Whitchurch district, to the south of the city centre. It opened in 1930 and the club moved its operations there that same year.
A lot of the history of Bristol (Whitchurch) Airport is excellently chronicled in Ken Wakefield’s book, Somewhere in the West Country. The book’s title was chosen because during the Second World War, VIPs were flown to the airport; but instead of specifying the airport, their destination was described simply as ‘somewhere in the West Country’ so as to conceal the precise movements of individuals.
In the 1950s, housing estates were built near the airfield. This limited runway extension, so in 1957 Bristol City bought the former RAF Lulsgate Bottom airfield and made this the city’s municipal airport. That same year, the flying club moved there and has been there ever since.
Jacqui explained that the airport at Lulsgate wasn’t created as a bad weather training airfield (as many, including me, thought) but as an alternative airfield. Interestingly, because of its height above mean sea level (it’s over 600 feet high) and proximity to the Bristol Channel, it was likely to have poor weather in warm front conditions, when Colerne, St. Athan and even Filton were usually clear. And when those sites were covered in fog, Lulsgate was likely to be clear.
Finally, we were told about the future of Bristol Airport. How they hope to grow passenger numbers. How the airport can handle the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 XWB airframes and how these will open up possibilities for transcontinental travel from Bristol. As well as reassurances that general aviation will continue to be a part of Bristol Airport’s future.