CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EDP Norfolk today CLICK HERE

Norfolk and Norwich Aero Club: pioneer flyers

PUBLISHED: 15:36 21 September 2017

The club was heavily involved with Wing Commander Ken Wallis and his wonderful autogyro. This is 'Little Nellie' at the Aero Club annual ball at the Norwood Rooms, Norwich

The club was heavily involved with Wing Commander Ken Wallis and his wonderful autogyro. This is 'Little Nellie' at the Aero Club annual ball at the Norwood Rooms, Norwich

Archant

David Hastings recalls the history of the Norfolk and Norwich Aero Club, formed in the early days of flying

The superb Rallye Commodore used by the club for touring and air displaysThe superb Rallye Commodore used by the club for touring and air displays

It was on February 25, 1927 that the vision of A.A.Rice, to form a flying club to serve the city of Norwich and the county of Norfolk became a reality. On that evening the Norfolk and Norwich Aero Club was formed. It was a cold and wet day, but this did not prevent many pilots from flying to Mousehold Aerodrome to support the inauguration.

Among those who flew in were Lady Bailey – soon to become Champion Lady Pilot of the Year – Bert Hinckler, who in the next year flew solo to Australia in 16 days and Lt. Comper, who will be remembered by older pilots as the producer of that very attractive single seat aircraft the Comper Swift.

The first clubhouse was a small wooden building which provided room for an office and pilots’ room, which could hold about a dozen enthusiasts. The first aircraft was an Avro 504 (G-EBPJ) and George Lines was the instructor as well as mechanic. Then, thanks to the many people who supported the club and with splendid co-operation of the city authorities and Boulton & Paul, a hangar was converted into a first class clubhouse including a 40ft lounge seating 50, a bar, steward’s quarters and four bedrooms.

Through the generosity of Henry Holmes and James Hardy, a Gypsy Moth (G-EBQX) was flown to Mousehold by Captain Broad, test pilot at de Havilland, and presented to the club. From then the club advanced rapidly to become one of the leading flying clubs in Britain.

The club also used the de Havilland Tiger Moth. Here an instructor briefs a student pilotThe club also used the de Havilland Tiger Moth. Here an instructor briefs a student pilot

It became an official training centre for the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, was chosen as a turning point for the King’s Cup air races and held an annual air display which would feature Royal Air Force Battles, Blenheims and Whitleys. Regular air services were operated to the midlands and the north.

Then came the Second World War and the club suspended its activities, with one of the first bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe on Norwich destroying the club buildings. At the end of the war came the bitter blow that Mousehold was no longer to be used as an airport but in 1959, thanks to support from the Royal Air Force, the club was able to re-start at Swanton Morley. The climb back began with two aircraft, a Tiger Moth and an Auster. In 1962 the bold decision was taken to purchase a very modern design of training aircraft built in France; the Rallye 880B.

Soon pilots numbered over 100 so two further Rallyes were purchased and the Auster was retired. In 1964 the club was chosen by the Air League to pioneer their highly successful junior members scheme.

Close links were established with RAF Coltishall; a Rallye Commodore was bought for foreign touring and a Miles Gemini was available for twin engine training. The club also worked closely with Wing Commander Ken Wallis and provided two trial pilots for his unique autogyro.

The club now had over 300 members with up to 50 student pilots under training and also opened a branch at the new Norwich airport, but sadly flying ceased at Swanton Morley in 1995 with the closure of the airfield.

More from Norfolk Magazine

Whatever your age, whatever your ambition, whatever your ability, Total Ensemble creates inclusive theatre with extraordinary results both on stage and off it

Read more
October 2018
Wed, 12:36

The new novel by Sarah Perry is out this month. It’s frighteningly good, writes Rowan Mantell

Read more
October 2018

Explorer, adventurer and UEA graduate Benedict Allen is set to reveal all about his controversial Papua New Guinea expedition when he appears in Norwich this month

Read more
October 2018
Wed, 12:16

“Remember remember the fifth of November!” It’s almost that time again, so break out your woolly hat and gather your loved ones up to enjoy a roaring bonfire and glittering fireworks

Read more
Wed, 10:24

Award-winning distiller Bullards has unveiled a new gin and a new look that harks back to its Norwich heritage

Read more
October 2018

We all know how to pronounce it properly. (Think win and you’re a winner, think why and you’re not.) But did you know all these winning facts about Wymondham?

Read more
October 2018
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

With unusual presents, artisan crafts and local delights in abundance, we look at Norfolk’s fairs and markets that have Christmas gift-buying all wrapped up!

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

As Norwich Ghost Walks celebrates 20 spine-tingling years we discover its latest haunts

Read more
October 2018
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Norfolk Ramblers guide us on a beautiful autumnal walk around Blickling Hall, near Aylsham

Read more
October 2018
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Peach, pear, plum, quince, jostaberry and medlar too; we take a tour of our fruitful county

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search