London Biggin Hill Airport

London Biggin Hill Airport

Infobox Airport
name = London Biggin Hill Airport
nativename =
nativename-a =
nativename-r =



image-width =
caption =
IATA = BQH
ICAO = EGKB
type = Public
owner =
operator = Regional Airports Ltd.
city-served =
location = London
elevation-f = 598
elevation-m = 182
coordinates = Coord|51|19|51|N|0|01|57|E|type:airport
website =
metric-elev =
metric-rwy =
r1-number = 03/21
r1-length-f = 5,912
r1-length-m = 1,802
r1-surface = Tarmac
r2-number = 11/29
r2-length-f = 2,598
r2-length-m = 792
r2-surface = Asphalt
stat-year =
stat1-header =
stat1-data =
stat2-header =
stat2-data =
footnotes =

London Biggin Hill Airport Airport codes|BQH|EGKB is an airport at Biggin Hill on the southern edge of the United Kingdom's capital city of London. The airport was formerly the Royal Air Force station RAF Biggin Hill, and a small enclave on the airport still retains that designation.

Biggin Hill is best known for its role during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War, when it served as one of the principal fighter bases protecting London and South East England from attack by enemy bombers. Over the course of the war, fighters based at Biggin Hill claimed 1,400 enemy aircraft, at the cost of the lives of 453 Biggin Hill based aircrew.cite web | url = http://www.bigginhillairport.com/pages/battle.htm | title = London Biggin Hill Airport - Battle of Britain | publisher = Regional Airports Ltd. | accessdate = 2007-01-04] cite web | url = http://www.gnn.gov.uk/Content/Detail.asp?NewsAreaID=2&ReleaseID=213090 | title = Biggin hill - Battle of Britain RAF Mess Hall At Risk | publisher = English Heritage | accessdate = 2007-01-04]

Today the airport has a CAA Ordinary Licence (Number P804) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee (Regional Airports Limited). It specialises in general aviation, handling a spectrum of traffic from private aviation to large business jets. It currently has no scheduled airline service.cite web | url = http://www.bigginhillairport.com/ | title = London Biggin Hill Airport - Welcome | publisher = Regional Airports Ltd. | accessdate = 2007-01-04] cite web | url = http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/375/srg_asd_ordinarylicences.pdf | title = Civil Aviation Authority Aerodrome Ordinary Licences | publisher = Civil Aviation Authority | format = pdf | accessdate = 2007-01-04]

History of the airport

The airfield was originally opened by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) during the first world war. At first it was used for wireless experiments, but was then established in 1917 as part of the London Air Defence Area, responsible for defending the capital against attacks by Zeppelins and Gotha bombers. To this end, 141 Squadron of the RFC was based at Biggin Hill and equipped with Bristol Fighters.cite web | url = http://www.bigginhill.co.uk/rafstation.htm | title = R.A.F. Station Biggin Hill | publisher = Biggin Hill Productions | accessdate = 2007-01-06]

Between the wars, the airfield was used by a number of experimental units, working on instrument design, ground based anti-aircraft defenses, and night flying. The base was closed between 1929 and 1932, during which period reconstruction work took place including the building of new hangers.cite web | url = http://www.bigginhill.co.uk/rafstation.htm | title = R.A.F. Station Biggin Hill | publisher = Biggin Hill Productions | accessdate = 2007-01-06]

During the second world war the airfield was one of the commanding bases for the Battle of Britain, with both Spitfires and Hurricanes from a variety of squadrons being based there. The squadrons based at Biggin Hill claimed to have destroyed 1,400 enemy aircraft, at the cost of the lives of 453 Biggin Hill based aircrew. Because of its importance to the capital's defence, the airport itself became a target. Between August 1940 and January 1941, the airfield was attacked twelve times, the worst of which wrecked workshops, stores, barracks, WAAF quarters and a hangar, killing 39 people on the ground.cite web | url = http://www.gnn.gov.uk/Content/Detail.asp?NewsAreaID=2&ReleaseID=213090 | title = Biggin hill - Battle of Britain RAF Mess Hall At Risk | publisher = English Heritage | accessdate = 2007-01-04] cite web | url = http://www.bigginhill.co.uk/rafstation.htm | title = R.A.F. Station Biggin Hill | publisher = Biggin Hill Productions | accessdate = 2007-01-06]

After the war, Biggin Hill was briefly used by the RAF's Transport Command, and then became a base for both regular and reserve fighter squadrons, flying Spitfires, Meteors and Hunters. However in 1958 Biggin Hill ceased to be an operational RAF station, becoming the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre for the RAF. Due to the impending closure of the nearby original London Airport at Croydon, from 1956 much of the civilian light aviation from Croydon relocated to Biggin and it became a joint civilian and military airport. Croydon closed completely in 1959, at which time Biggin Hill became a mainly civilian airport with only occasional military flying taking place.cite web | url = http://www.bigginhill.co.uk/rafstation.htm | title = R.A.F. Station Biggin Hill | publisher = Biggin Hill Productions | accessdate = 2007-01-06]

Towards the end of 1963, the Orpington Urban District Council (within whose boundaries the airfield lay) was approached by the Board of Trade as to whether the Council would purchase (effectively from the RAF) Biggin Hill airfield. In 1964, on formation of the London Borough of Bromley, which absorbed Orpington, the offer to purchase was open to the new borough. Protracted negotiations were held with the Board of Trade and later the Department of Trade and Industry. At a special meeting on 15 June 1972 the Council decided to purchase the airport by a recorded vote of 41 to 9. The purchase was eventually completed in 1974.

In May 1992 the Department of Transport issued a direction to the Council under s.13 of the Airports Act 1986. The effect of this direction, which affected airports generating turnover of £1million or more (Biggin Hill just scraped into this limit), was to require the Council to set up a new company for the purpose of operating the airport as an independent commercial undertaking. To comply with the direction would have required the transfer of all the assets and liabilities to the company with a consequential loss of Council control over airport activities. In the circumstances, the Council decided that the granting of a 125 year lease would enable more control to be retained than an outright disposal of the freehold or by a transfer to a local authority company with an uncertain future. In May 1994, the airport was leased to Biggin Hill Airport Limited (“BHAL”) for 125 years.cite web | url = http://www.bigginhillairport.com/pages/history.htm | title = London Biggin Hill Airport - History | publisher = Regional Airports Ltd. | accessdate = 2007-01-04] BHAL is now a subsidiary of Regional Airports Ltd.

Meanwhile, the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre moved to RAF Cranwell in 1992, marking the end of active RAF involvement.cite web | url = http://www.bigginhill.co.uk/rafstation.htm | title = R.A.F. Station Biggin Hill | publisher = Biggin Hill Productions | accessdate = 2007-01-06]

In 2001, the London Borough of Bromley as freeholder of the airport succeeded in an action in the Court of Appeal. The court ruling prohibits the airport operators from allowing tickets to be sold for flights into and out of the airport, thus preventing its use for scheduled or holiday charter flights, but allowing business aviation and corporate shuttles.cite web | url = http://www.bigginhillairport.com/pages/passenger_flights.htm | title = London Biggin Hill Airport - Passenger Flights | publisher = Regional Airports Ltd. | accessdate = 2007-01-04]

The airport today

The airport is located on a hill top, just to the east of the Bromley to Westerham road (A233) and about convert|1|mi|km to the north of the town of Biggin Hill. The small village of Leaves Green lies adjacent to the north-western perimeter of the airport.Ordnance Survey (2007). "OS Explorer Map 147 – Sevenoaks & Tonbridge". ISBN 0-319-23927-8.]

The airport has two runways, aligned roughly north-south and east-west, which intersect at their respective southern and western ends, forming an L shaped configuration. The longer north-south oriented runway (03/21) is 1,802 metres in length, is usable by aircraft up to Boeing 737/Airbus A320 size, and has an Instrument Landing System. Radar Air traffic control (ATC) services are provided by Thames Radar at the London Terminal Control Centre, while procedural approach and VFR ATC services are provided by the airport itself.cite web | url = http://www.bigginhillairport.com/32KB0201_Plan%5B1%5D.pdf | title = London Biggin Hill Airport - Airport Plan | publisher = Regional Airports Ltd. | format = pdf | accessdate = 2007-01-06] cite web | url = http://www.bigginhillairport.com/pages/max_aircraft_size.htm | title = London Biggin Hill Airport - Maximum Aircraft Size | publisher = Regional Airports Ltd. | accessdate = 2007-01-04] cite web | url = http://www.bigginhillairport.com/pages/services_handling_maintenance.htm | title = London Biggin Hill Airport - Aircraft Services, Handling and Maintenance | publisher = Regional Airports Ltd. | accessdate = 2007-01-04]

Despite the effective ban on scheduled services, Biggin Hill is used by a large number of business flights, using business jets and similar sized aircraft. The airport has a passenger terminal, located on the A233 road just south of Leaves Green, which provides facilities for such flights, including departure lounges, licensed café bar, and customs and immigration facilities.cite web | url = http://www.bigginhillairport.com/pages/executive.htm | title = London Biggin Hill Airport - Executive Handling | publisher = Regional Airports Ltd. | accessdate = 2007-01-07]

The current RAF Biggin Hill is a small enclave on the western boundary of the airport to the south of the passenger terminal, and contains the headquarters of 2427 Squadron of the Air Training Corps. Next to this is St George’s Chapel of Remembrance. This brick built chapel was built in 1951, to replace an earlier chapel destroyed by fire, and now serves as a memorial to all the aircrew who died flying from the Biggin Hill Sector. It is surrounded by a garden of remembrance and has gate guardians in the form of full-sized replicas of a Hurricane and a Spitfire, representing the aircraft that flew from the former airfield during the Battle of Britain. The replicas replaced genuine aircraft which formerly served as the guardians.cite web | url = http://www.bigginhill.co.uk/rafstation.htm | title = R.A.F. Station Biggin Hill | publisher = Biggin Hill Productions | accessdate = 2007-01-06] cite web | url = http://www.2427online.com/ | title = 2427 (Biggin Hill) Squadron, Air Training Corps | publisher = 2427 (Biggin Hill) Squadron, Air Training Corps | accessdate = 2006-12-16] cite web | url = http://www.bigginhillairport.com/pages/RAF_chapel.htm | title = London Biggin Hill Airport - RAF Chapel | publisher = Regional Airports Ltd. | accessdate = 2007-01-04]

Besides the passenger terminal and RAF enclave, other former RAF buildings still exist in the 'North Camp' to the west of the main runway, including the Sergeant's Mess of 1932, the Airmen's Institute of circa 1926, the former Station Headquarters building of 1931 and several barrack blocks. The buildings are in a redbrick neo-Georgian style which is typical of military airfields of the inter-war period and are Grade II listed buildings. They have been vacant since the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre departed in 1992 and were added to English Heritage's list of buildings at risk in 2006.cite web | url = http://www.gnn.gov.uk/Content/Detail.asp?NewsAreaID=2&ReleaseID=213090 | title = Biggin hill - Battle of Britain RAF Mess Hall At Risk | publisher = English Heritage | accessdate = 2007-01-04]

The 'South Camp', situated to the south of runway 11/29, was transferred to civil usage in the 1950s and now consists of a utilitarian collection of hangers and sheds, together with a modern office park. It now contains many aviation related businesses, flying clubs and flying schools. Many private light aircraft are based on the airport. Biggin Hill is also the location of a major annual airshow, usually on the first weekend in June.

Biggin Hill is the location of one of the four "stacks" for aircraft landing at Heathrow Airport, and is used by aircraft approaching from the south east. It uses a VOR navigational beacon with the codename "BIG".

Incidents and accidents

* On September 21, 1980, a Douglas B-26 Invader (registered N3710G) crashed during an air display. The aircraft was attempting to carry out a climbing roll in front of the crowd when the nose dropped sharply, and the aircraft continued rolling until it dropped vertically into a valley. The pilot and seven passengers were killed. The Civil Aviation Authority subsequently introduced rules preventing passengers from being carried during air displays. [cite web|title=B-26 crash at Biggin Hill|url=http://napoleon130.tripod.com/id250.html |title=Bad day at Biggin| publisher= Martin J Simpson| accessdate=2008-09-16]

*On 2 June 2001 a vintage de Havilland Vampire jet crashed during an air display, killing both pilots on board. The Vampire had been flying a display in tandem with a de Havilland Sea Vixen aircraft, and the likely cause of the accident was that the Vampire's flight path had been disrupted by wake turbulence from the larger aircraft. [cite web | title = AAIB report into 2 June 2001 accident at Biggin Hill | url = http://www.aaib.gov.uk/cms_resources/dft_avsafety_pdf_507791.pdf | format = pdf | accessdate = 2008-04-03 ]

*On 3 June 2001 a 1944 Bell P63 Kingcobra crashed during a display, killing the pilot. The American Second World War fighter aircraft had been flying an unplanned sequence, when the pilot lost control at the top of a climbing manoeuvre and was unable to recover from the resulting dive. The aircraft impacted the ground to the west of the runway in a steep nose down attitude [cite web | title = AAIB report into 3 June 2001 accident at Biggin Hill | url = http://www.aaib.gov.uk/cms_resources/dft_avsafety_pdf_500062.pdf | format = pdf | accessdate = 2008-06-09 ]

* On 22 October 2005 a two-seat Piper Tomahawk aircraft on a training flight crashed shortly after take-off from Biggin Hill, killing the flight instructor and his student. The aircraft came down in a residential street, Victoria Gardens, but there were no casualties on the ground. The cause of the accident was found to be a worn fuel filler cap that had allowed water to seep into the fuel tank. [cite web | title = AAIB report into 22 October 2005 accident at Biggin Hill | url = http://www.aaib.gov.uk/cms_resources/Piper%20PA-38-11%202%20Tomahawk,%20G-BYLE%2011-06.pdf | format = pdf | accessdate = 2008-04-03 ]

* On 30 March 2008, a Cessna Citation 501 aircraft crashed into a row of houses in Romsey Close, Farnborough. It is reported that five people were aboard the aircraft. There were no survivors in the aircraft, but no casualties on the ground. The aircraft had taken off from Biggin Hill and the pilot had issued a Mayday. The aircraft was attempting to return to Biggin Hill when it crashed. An investigation has been launched by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7321589.stm|title=Private plane crashes into homes|publisher=BBC News|date=2008-03-30|accessdate=2008-03-30] cite web | url = http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30100-1311171,00.html| publisher = Sky News| title = Homes Destroyed In Kent Plane Crash| accessdate = 2008-03-30] Amongst those killed were Eurosport commentator and former Touring Car driver David Leslie and ex Le Mans driver Richard Lloyd.cite news | url = http://www.planetlemans.com/2008/03/30/david-leslie-and-richard-lloyd-killed-in-plane-accident/| publisher = Planet Le Mans| title = David Leslie and Richard Lloyd killed in plane accident| date = 2008-03-30 | accessdate = 2008-03-31] seealso|2008 Farnborough plane crash

In popular culture

The airport is the scene of the landing of Sir Leigh Teabing's private jet in the bestselling book, "The Da Vinci Code" by author Dan Brown. One of the runways also appears on the back cover of Pink Floyd's 1969 album "Ummagumma".

References

Further reading

*United Kingdom AIP
*Bruce Barrymore Halpenny "Action Stations: Military Airfields of Greater London v. 8" (ISBN 978-0850595857)

External links

* [http://www.bigginhillairport.com/ Biggin Hill Airport official web site]
*WAD|EGKB
* [http://www.airdisplaysint.co.uk/ Biggin Hill airshow web site]


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