Heston Aerodrome

Heston Aerodrome

Heston Aerodrome, in the west of London, UK, was operational between 1929 and 1946. Remains of the airport can still be found on the border of the Heston and Cranford areas of Hounslow. In 1938, the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, flew from Heston to Munich for talks with Adolf Hitler, and returned to Heston where he made his famous "peace in our time" speech.


The Airwork Company, directed by Sir Nigel Norman (later Air Commodore) opened Heston aerodrome for flying clubs and private aeroplane owners in 1929, with some charter flying. In the 1930s, with new companies springing up to compete with Imperial Airways, Heston was in a good position to take advantage. Spartan Airways was the first airline to use Heston, with a twice-daily service to Cowes in the Isle of Wight. Other services and airlines followed, including from 1938, British Airways Ltd. who wanted an alternative to the waterlogged Gatwick.

It is often claimed that the central building was the first purpose-built airport control tower, on which all modern control towers are based..cite news
last = anon
title = Control Tower, Heston Airport, 1930
publisher = photoLondon
url = http://www.photolondon.org.uk/assoc_pages/gunnersbury/gunnpics2.htm
accessdate = 2006-09-27

In 1937, the airport was bought by the Air Ministry and developed to become almost as large as Croydon Airport, making it London's second airport at that time. The area of the landing field was 3,540 feet by 2,700 feet. With the outbreak of World War II, civil flying was suspended at Heston.

Woodason Model Makers

The Heston Aerodrome was the site of Victor Woodason's shop during much of the 1930s and in the immediate post-war period. The company was founded by Victor Woodason (1904-1964). Victor Woodason was a British model-maker who created miniature aircraft models for the aviation industry, airlines, movies, the Air Ministry and other government agencies, merchandisers, advertising, aircraft owners, and collectors.The airport was a hotbed of private aviation activity in the pre-WW2 era and became home base to a variety of military aviation operations during the war; the Woodason shop had to vacate the airport during the military phase.(More details see Woodason link at the bottom of this page).

Expansion plans

During the late 1930s, the British government had been studying the future of air transport and airports in the London area. It had been decided that London would be served by 4 airports - Croydon, Heston and new airfields at Fairlop in Essex and Lullingstone, Kent. To this end, improvements and extensions had already begun at Heston with the intention of bringing it up to the most modern standards of airports elsewhere in Europe. New drainage was put in and trees near the flight path removed. Runway lighting and radio aids to landing were installed. Land and buildings around the site were bought up for expansion, including St Mary's Boys Orphanage in North Hyde which was demolished. cite news
title = "Child"
publisher = Catholic Children's Society
date = summer 2005
url = http://www.catholicchildrenssociety.org.uk/admin/includes/file_upload/ccs_images/Child%20summer%202005%20for%20web.pdf#search=%22%22Heston%20airport%22%22
accessdate = 2006-09-27

An act of parliament - Air Ministry (Heston and Kenley) Act 1939 - authorised the compulsory purchase of land and road closures needed. The work was planned to take three years, partly because it was intended to keep the existing facilities in uninterrupted use, and partly to allow the new ground to be prepared and substantial new buildings to be constructed.

The plans did not meet with universal approval including the Heston Aircraft Co Ltd, which had a production facility on the site that would have to come down in December 1939.


The Air Ministry had intended to take over the site from Airwork Ltd in September, but the outbreak of war intervened and the plans were never implemented. Heston ceased to be a civil airport in mid 1940 and most of its services still operating were transferred to Gatwick.

During the second world war, RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes flew from Heston airport, followed by US Air Force Flying Fortress bombers.

After the war

With the war over, the old plans for 4 London airports were scrapped. Heathrow was by then chosen as the main London Airport, and its proximity would have made flying from Heston impossible,

Car racing was carried out for a short time after the airfield had closed using the old perimeter track (Citation needed regarding dates etc)


Much of what used to be Heston Airport is now built on, but many of the roads in the area have aviation-related names, such as Brabazon Road and Bleriot Road. Until very recently, an old Fairey Aviation hangar was still visible. The original tree-lined approach drive still exists, and radiating from it, the original "Aircraft" plan-form of the buildings (placed to resemble an arrow pointing to true magnetic North), two of which are still there, altered over time, is still recognisable.cite news
title = West London airfields
publisher =
date = 2004-11-09
url = http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?t=151003
accessdate = 2006-09-27

Parts of the airport land were still owned by the government when the M4 motorway was proposed and a site was needed for a motorway service area - the Heston Services.

External links

* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/77/a5550077.shtml Memories of a girl who lived near Heston airfield during the war]
* [http://www.pfabristol.flyer.co.uk/strutter/november01.htm Memoir of a worker at Heston who witnessed Chamberlain's return]
* [http://www.commercemarketplace.com/home/CollectAir/woodason.html Woodason Models based at Heston and in-depth history]
* [http://www.airteamimages.com/63221.html Heston in the 1939 looking south-east across the airfield]
* [http://www.scienceandsociety.co.uk Various images here - just type Heston in the search field]

Notes and references

"See also:"
* M A C HORNE, FCIT [http://www.metadyne.co.uk/AIRPORT2.pdf#search=%22%22Heston%20airport%22%22 "The London Airports with particular reference to their transport links with London"] (working draft) 18/6/2003

* Tim SHERWOOD "Coming in to Land: A Short History of Hounslow, Hanworth and Heston Aerodromes 1911-1946" Heritage Publications (1999) ISBN 1-899144-30-7

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