- RAF Nutts Corner
RAF Nutts Corner was a
Royal Air Forcestation in County Antrimnear Belfast. It was originally a civil airfield, then a military base and subsequently Northern Ireland's main civil airport until the 1960s.
World War IIit was an important Coastal Commandstation and was also used as a transport hub for aircraft arriving from the United States. No. 120 Squadron operated B-24 Liberatormaritime patrol bombers from the base from 1941.
Northern Ireland civil flights began around 1920 from Aldergrove, what is now
Belfast International Airport, approximately 10km away from Nutts Corner. The province's first London service began from Nutts Corner in 1934.
Civil operations were largely abandoned at both Nutts Corner and
RAF Aldergroveduring the Second World War.
In 1946 civil air operations were transferred from Belfast Harbour Airport (now the
George Best Belfast City Airport) to RAF Nutts Corner due to the longer runways available at that airfield. Other reasons included the limited space available at Belfast for expansion and the danger associated with the obstacles present around Belfast harbour, for example cranes. Other sites were studied as possible alternative civil airports, for example RAF Long Kesh, Lisburn. The advantage of choosing Nutts Corner was the large amount of existing hardstanding which was necessary for civil aircraft movements. The former RAF station then became known as Belfast-Nutts Corner Airport.
Nutts Corner was the site of the worst air disaster in Northern Ireland. On
5 January 1953a BEA Vickers VikingG-AJDL crashed after striking landing lights and then a building at the airfield, killing 27 people out of 35 on board. [http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19530105-0&lang=en Aviation Safety Network]
23 October 1957a BEA Vickers ViscountG-AOJA crashed at the airport, killing all seven on board. [http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19571023-0&lang=en Aviation Safety Network]
By the end of the 1950s the steep approach necessary for aircraft flying to Nutts Corner was deemed unsuitable. This was due to the location of the airport, close to the Belfast mountains and the obstacles located there, particularly transmitters and aerials. Another factor was the fact that of Nutts Corner's three runways, only one was suitable for modern aircraft. Aldergrove's two runways set at 90 degrees to each other made operations possible even if conditions (particularly wind) changed dramatically. The decision to restore civil flights to Aldergrove was taken in July 1959. The move was made official in September 1963 and a month later the present terminal was opened.
The site was used from 1984 to 2004 for events such as the Irish Superbike Championships and Rallycross, but it was restricted due to noise complaints from local residents. A small section of the circuit continues to be used by the Northern Ireland Carting Club (NICA) and the Ulster Karting Club. The site is also used for a weekly market.
List of RAF stations
*ASN|001|Belfast-Nutts Corner Airport
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