LEEDS-BRADFORD: Originally a civil aerodrome before becoming a regional airport. Originally known as YEADON AERODROME, later known as LEEDS/BRADFORD AIRPORT. In 1990 LEEDS & BRADFORD AIRPORT, 2005 LEEDS/BRADFORD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT)
Note: Pictures by the author unless specified.
ICAO code: EGNM IATA code: LBA
Operated by: 1933: National Flying Services Ltd on behalf of Leeds Corporation
1959: Leeds and Bradford Joint Airport Committee
1990s/2000s: Leeds Bradford Airport Ltd
British airline users: Pre 1939: Blackpool and West Coast Air Services, Isle of Man Air Services, London - Scottish & Provincial Airways, North Eastern Airways, Railway Air Services, United Airways
Post 1945: Air 2000, Air Anglia, Air Southwest, Airtours International, Air UK, B.K.S. Air Transport, Britannia Airways, British Island Airways, British Midland Airways, City-Flyer Express, Dan-Air, Eastern Airways, Emerald Airways, Flybe, Gill Aviation, Jersey European Airways, Jet 2, Lancashire Aircraft Corporation, Manx Airlines, Manx2, Monarch Airlines, Northeast, Thomson fly, Yorkshire European
Note: In the 1957 edition of The Aeroplane directory, B.K.S. Air Transport were listed as having a fleet of five Douglas C-47 Dakotas, four Vickers Vikings, one Airspeed Consul and one Avro Anson. Apart from here, their other two main bases were SOUTHEND and NEWCASTLE.
Foreign airline users: Post 1945: Aer Lingus, Air Europa, Air Malta, Balkan-Bulgarian Airlines, Ryanair
Charter/air taxi: Post 1945: British Airways (Concorde flights), British Westpoint Airlines
Flying club/schools: Pre 1940: Some claim that from 1931 to 1935 this airfield was only used for ‘Club’ flying, presumably by the Yorkshire Aeroplane Club?
Post 1945: Leeds Flying School, Multiflight, Yeadon Aero Club, Yorkshire Aeroplane Club
Note: In the 1957 The Aeroplane directory, the Yeadon Aero Club were listed as operating: Five Austers, two d Havilland DH82A Tiger Moths and one Miles M.65 Gemini.
1959 ‘snapshot’: Leeds/Bradford Air Centre, Yorkshire Territorial Flying Group
Helicopter ops: Multiflight
Manufacturing: WW2: A.V.Roe & Co Ltd (Avro Anson & Avro Manchesters)
Location: E of A658, 6nm NW of Leeds
Period of operation: 1931 to present day
Runways: 1935: E/W 914 grass N/S 640 grass
WW2. 10/28 1200x37 hard 14/32 2700x46 hard
18/36 1100x30 hard
To be honest I cannot now remember where I obtained this WW2 runway info from, but it now seems certain it is rubbish to some extent? Apparently the 14/32 hard runway wasn’t built until around 1965.
Another example published in an 1959 Ian Allan Guide British Airports gives the headings and dimensions of the two runways as:
00/26 1195x46 hard (this is now 10/28) 16/34 1067x46 hard
In 1965 it is reported that a new runway 14/32 of 1646 metres was finished. So presumably runway 18/36 became disused after 1965?
Note: This map is reproduced with the kind permission of Pooleys Flight Equipment Ltd. Copyright Robert Pooley 2014.
1990/2000: 10/28 1100x37 hard 14/32 2250x46 hard
A MIKE CHARLTON GALLERY
These delightful pictures from postcards were kindly sent by Mike Charlton who has an amazing collection. See, www.aviationpostcard.co.uk
First picture: This picture, captioned 'Yeadon Aerodrome' was taken fairly early on after the aerodrome opened. The de Havilland DH80A Puss Moth G-ABDF, in the foreground was based by a private owner at WOODFORD in Cheshire from the 3rd March 1932 until the 1st February 1946. It kept flying until 'destroyed' in 1956. And it appears, it somehow escaped being impressed into military service during WW2.
The de Havilland DH60G Gipsy Moth G-AAFK was privately owned and based at YEADON from the 26th November 1931 until February 1933. It was then sold to India as VT-AEZ. So, it appears this picture was taken between March 1932 and February 1933.
Second picture:I think the aircraft on the left hand side is the de Havilland DH80A Puss Moth G-ABDG? If so, this was privately owned and based at HATFIELD from the 19th September 1935 until the 3rd August 1939. The picture is so over-exposed that the top wing of the de Havilland DH60 Moth type in the foreground cannot be seen!
Third picture: Taken from pretty much the same viewpoint as the first picture and postmarked the 3rd July 1939, this picture shows the de Havilland DH80A Puss Moth G-ABKG. This was registered to the North of Ireland Aero Club at Ards Airport (Newtownards) from the 19th August 1938 until the 2nd June 1939. It then went to Airwork, HESTON, from the 13th June 1939 until the 2nd January 1940, when presumably it was impressed into military service.
Given the postmark date it seems clear that this picture was taken between August 1938 and June 1939. Note that the hangar in this picture is now not marked N.F.S., so perhaps it was the Yorkshire Aeroplane Club hangar? Three hangars were erected by National Flying Services.
Fourth picture: What an evocative image. Four Douglas C-47 Dakotas on the southern apron. Mike Charlton thinks these are probably BKS examples.
Sixth picture: Seen taxying in is what looks to me like an Aer Lingus Vickers Viscount - probably a 700 Series. This colour scheme was worn from 1954 until 1965.
Seventh picture: The first visit by Concorde was made in 1987, which is when I suspect this picture was taken? Other visits followed, including just one (I think?) by an Air France example. The last visit was, (again I think?) in 2003 not so long before it was retired from service.
Eighth picture: British Midland introduced the Douglas DC-9 in 1982, so presumably this picture dates from the 1980s. The Saab 340 is an Aer Lingus Commuter.
NOTES: It would seem that LEEDS & BRADFORD Municipal Aerodrome officially opened on the 17th October 1931, and was known as YEADON and used initially for ‘Club’ flying for the next three to four years by which time three hangars had been erected. This was before regional airline users, serving for example Blackpool and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with scheduled services started in 1935. I now believe it was likely that some form of regular services might have occurred before 1935 but for east-west routes it appears there was little demand.
United Airways started a service to STANLEY PARK (Blackpool – LANCASHIRE) in early 1935 connecting to, for example, the Isle of Man (RONALDSWAY), Carlisle (KINGSTOWN), Glasgow (RENFREW) and out to Arran, CAMPBELTOWN and Islay. The lack of demand was such it became an “on request” service from October 1935 “subject to aircraft availabity”. In the language of the time an United Airways timetable refers to ‘Blackpool – Leeds’ being an “Air Ferry Service”.
I suppose that it must be borne in mind that during these times the concept of ‘market research’ hadn’t even begun. It was largely a guessing business on the part of the company directors. But, these people were neither stupid or ill-informed (there are exceptions) being very aware that the potential for an air service often existed when railway and/or ferry links were time consuming and awkward to use. Or, a direct flight could beat the railways and ferries by a substantial margin – not only within the UK but especially links into Europe. We do need to remember that the majority of passengers using the airlines in those days would very probably be only the customer class using “Corporate Class” helicopters, executive jets or travelling only “First Class” on airlines today. And, considering the very primitive aircraft used by regional airlines; only those having a pressing need for a speedy voyage presumably formed the bulk of potential customers?
Against this, and it still exists today, flying somewhere in a light aircraft (and most regional airliners in those days are now classified as ‘light aircraft’) still has, for the majority of people, a major ‘treat’ element entirely separate from travelling on an airliner. Surely this element of flying must have appealed to the more adventurous? Perhaps a thrill akin to those who go bungee jumping or parachuting today?
FLYING CIRCUS VISITS
60th venue, (18th June 1932), for Alan Cobham’s National Aviation Day UK Display Tour which began on the 12th April at Hanworth? The next year (5th August 1933) the Alan Cobham’s No.2 Tour paid a visit?
In early WW2 at least it seems A.V.Roe &Co were producing the Albemarle here and later Tornado Types. It would seem neither type were actually completed here although Anson production did do better having been transferred from NEWTON HEATH and WOODFORD. It seems according to some that Avro produced about 4500 aircraft here?
One respected source claims the Anson (3,400), Lancaster (608), York (77) and Lincoln (6) types. I’m not very good at arithmetic but I make this a total of 4091, a shortfall of 400. How can this be? Considering how much a large or even largish aircraft costs, wasn’t anybody tasked to keep some records? I’d have thought the companies producing these aircraft would keep decent records - or were these figures being fudged perhaps? If so this would certainly explain any discrepencies at the stroke of the pen.
This is one aspect of aviation history that, if anything, causes me ever more increasing amounts of confusion and perplexity - and this is; The debates which go on about the numbers of aircraft built. We all know that government ministries and our armed forces contain a massive amount of utterly incompetent people even at senior levels, the sort of people who could probably never get a job on a supermarket checkout but responsible for budgets worth many millions of pounds.
For example, in his book British Built Aircraft Vol.5 Ron Smith calmly announces thatregarding the Anson, “Production is often quoted as 11,020, but is believed actually to have been 10,096. ”How the hell do you lose, or gain, nigh on a thousand aircraft? Something is clearly seriously adrift here and I will much welcome any advice on just how such very serious discrepencies could possibly arise. When starting out in business some forty years ago I was once advised to always go for government contracts, these being a license to print money. I didn’t understand why this should be at the time but today I now think I’m beginning to understand why this advice was given?
A SERVICING CENTRE
It appears that YEADON was also a major servicing centre for Whitley, Wellington and Halifax bombers. Despite this profusion of operational military types on the airfield it does seem certain it was never a military operational aerodrome in WW2. It is also claimed that YEADON was the largest Avro factory, partially below ground level and “was very cleverly camouflaged with dummy cattle, farm walls, ponds etc” on the factory roof. From a couple of aerial photographs I have seen I would rather doubt this would have been very effective, mainly because fields don’t cast large shadows!
POST WAR AIRLINE SERVICES
It seems that after WW2 commercial services at YEADON were thin on the ground to say the least. Lancashire Aircraft Corporation operated a service to NORTHOLT (LONDON) from May 1949 to February 1953 using Dragon Rapides and Airspeed Consuls. It then seems that BKS were the next airline starting with a thrice weekly DC-3 service in May 1955 from SOUTHEND which then went on to Belfast, probably NUTTS CORNER. From August 1955 BKS started international services from YEADON initially to Paris, later Dusseldorf and Ostend. They landed at SOUTHEND to clear Customs before YEADON had its own Customs facility in May 1956.
Paris is an obvious destination for both business and holiday users, Ostend was also a very popular holiday destination for Brits in the 1950s - but Dusseldorf? I suppose the answer is business users involved in industry, especially the chemical and/or petro-chemical industries and manufacturing? This raises an interesting question as to who was benefitting from whom? Or was it very much a two-way flow? After WW2 it is plainly obvious that the restoration of major industry in the Ruhr region was a main objective to establishing Germany, (then West Germany), as the powerhouse of industrial regeneration within Europe and the major economic force within the fledgling EU. You only have to drive and/or fly at low level across the region, as I have done, to see just how successful this policy has been. Whilst this was taking place the British government, aided and abetted by the Trade Unions, made certain that the demise of British industry was assured. Why?
By 1959 operations had expanded yet again with BKS, North-South Airlines and Silver City being the principal operators now offering services to Basle, Belfast (NUTTS CORNER), Bournemouth (HURN), Dublin, Exeter, Isle of Man (RONALDSWAY), Isle of Wight(SANDOWN probably or perhaps BEMBRIDGE?), Jersey and Rotterdam. As well as Dusseldorf and Ostend, although perhaps oddly, Paris isn’t mentioned. In addition it was claimed some 27 light planes were based here, most which were owned by members of The Yorkshire Aeroplane Club. Also in 1959, it is was claimed that YEADON (LEEDS/BRADFORD) was the only civil airport in YORKSHIRE.
THE BKS FLEET
In 1959 the BKS Air Transport fleet comprised:
Airspeed Ambassador (ex BEA Elizabethan) G-ALZT, G-ALZW and G-AMAD
(Who today would accept the registration G-AMAD?)
Airspeed Consul G-AIXG
Douglas Dakota G-AMSH, G-AMVC
HOW MANY AIRCRAFT ARE PRODUCED
I suppose it might as well be here that I should confess to the dashing of childhood conceptions about the purity of aircraft manufacture and all the other related activities concerning aircraft operation. As a youngster growing up very close to HEATHROW I had a very simplistic vision. I really did think that, (as is still the case with most vehicle production, sales and servicing today), that the ‘named’ producer more of less ran the whole affair. Discovering the truth came as a bit of a shock in many ways. To learn that, (especially during WW1 and WW2), aircraft were often if not mainly built by companies as diverse as car to furniture manufacturing took a big readjustment to the learning curve. I’d always seen aircraft as being really rather beautiful entities, symbols of excellence in most ways - and had assumed that just one big factory or two, (be it AVRO, BRISTOL, De HAVILLAND etc), produced these wonderful machines.
As the realisation slowly dawned that only a surprisingly small amount in complex modern aircraft, (even after WW1 to some extent), was produced from scratch, even in the few factories actually owned and staffed by the big name aircraft makers. Another learning curve slowly took shape about the realities involved in the modern manufacturing process of producing aircraft and just how important the design element was! To slowly learn that not even the base elements such as the aluminium alloys used for aircraft skins and castings, let alone all the other materials used for constructing the basic airframe were produced elsewhere came as something of a surprise. Bit by bit I realised that even the rivets, nuts and bolts were produced by other companies let alone the engines, propellers, undercarriage, gun turrets, instruments etc etc. In turn of course I eventually came to realise that even the manufacturers of major components relied upon dozens if not hundreds of generally smaller companies to produce their complex list of individual components.
AN EXTRAORDINARY INCIDENT
This astonishing picture by Mr D Firman was published in the April 2018 AAIB Bulletin - the full report is: EW/G2017/08/21. It appears that shortly after taking-off the pilot lost control of the situation and made a complete circle very close to the ground and , at times with a bank angle exceeding 40º and up to 60º, narrowly avoiding buildings, including a large hangar.
PERSONAL MEMORIES AND PICTURES
On the 18th October 1992, on one sector of our round Britain tour of UK airports in the Cessna 172 G-WACL, Aussie Brown and I were delighted to see Concorde sitting on the main apron and about to depart for a supersonic ‘champagne charter’. Did Concorde visit YEADON often? We were though eight years too late to see the first Boeing 747 arrive in 1984!
Roland BrindleyThis comment was written on: 2020-06-10 23:11:18
I once read that the land Yeadon Aerodrome was built on was owned by Harrogate Corporation but can find no record of this. Have you any idea if it is true or false please ? The numbers produced at AVRoe Yeadon during and after WW2 vary depending on who you talk to. Many kits of parts were made for assembly elsewhere especially for the Anson, if included in total constructed the numbers will be significantly increased. Thanks for an interesting article.
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