Postcards from Slough
Postcards from Slough

Langley Airfield

Langley Airfield

Built on Parlaunt Farm in 1938 for Hawker Aircraft Ltd, Langley Airfield had a grass airstrip. With the proximity of the expanding Heathrow airport ruling out any upgrading of the airfield Hawkers eventually moved to Dunsfold in 1951. Other than the Hawkers operations the airfield was used as a maintenance base by a number of fledgling airlines as well as being used to build a limited number of powered gliders. Please note that some of the aircraft illustrated here may not have visited Langley Airfield but they do reflect the era when the site was operational.

General Aircraft Hamilcar X

The General Aircraft Hamilcar Mk X was constructed at Langley Airfield. It was a propeller-powered version of the Hamilcar I assault glider that was used during the Normandy landings by the Allied forces in World War Two. It was designed to extend the range of the glider so that it could be deployed in the Pacific War. The war against Japan ended before the Hamilcar was needed.

 

Initially, two Hamilcar Mark Is were converted to Mark X for trials with eight more conversions and ten built new. The power came from two 965hp Bristol Mercury 31 radial engines which necessitated extra controls. The gliders still had to be towed by aircraft such as the Halifax or Stirling but the engines extended the range and could allow for take-off from the destination once unloaded.

 

The Hamilcar had been designed to transport a single light tank, typically a Tetrarch, or two Universal Carriers, commonly known as Bren Carriers, or one Universal Carrier and an anti-tank gun. Because of the lack of space, tank crews would travel to the destination in their vehicles.

The Hamilcar X had a range of 1,675 miles and a maximum speed under its own power of 145mph.

Airwork Limited

Another company involved in aircraft activity, Airwork Services, moved its headquarters to Langley Airfield in 1947 from Gatwick.

 

The company was originally formed at the new Heston Aerodrome in 1928 and before moving to Langley, the company had been responsible for setting up the national airlines United Arab Airlines, Indian Airlines and Central African Airways.

Vickers Viking I G-AIXR

 

The Vickers Viking carried 36 passengers and was powered by two 1,690hp Bristol Hercules 634 radial engines giving a cruising speed of 210mph (top speed 263mph) and a range of 1,700 miles. 163 were built and flew with airlines around the world. In the post-war era, Airwork operated the following aircraft types:

 

  • Airspeed Consul
  • Douglas DC-3/C-47A/B/Dakota C.4
  • Douglas DC-4/C-54/54A
  • Douglas DC-6A
  • Handley Page Hermes 4/4A/5
  • Vickers Viking 1B
  • Vickers Viscount 700/800 series.

Handley Page Hermes G-ALDA of Airwork London

 

Apart from the airline, the company’s activities diversified over the years as an airline, a flying training provider for the RAF, manufacture of aircraft parts such as wings for Lancaster bombers, maintenance of several aircraft types and aerial photography (Aerofilms Ltd). Apart from its maintenance base at Langley and Elementary Flying schools set up for the RAF, Airworks had operations at Blackbushe and Lasham. In summer 1959, Airwork relocated its headquarters from Langley to Hurn. The company still exists today as a wholly-owned subsidiary of VT Group.

Apart from the airline, the company’s activities diversified over the years as an airline, a flying training provider for the RAF, manufacture of aircraft parts such as wings for Lancaster bombers, maintenance of several aircraft types and aerial photography (Aerofilms Ltd). Apart from its maintenance base at Langley and Elementary Flying schools set up for the RAF, Airworks had operations at Blackbushe and Lasham. In summer 1959, Airwork relocated its headquarters from Langley to Hurn. The company still exists today as a wholly-owned subsidiary of VT Group.

Douglas DC3 Dakota G-AGYZ

 

Powered by two 1,200hp Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp radial engines, the Dakota had a cruising speed of 207mph (top speed 230mph) at 8,500ft and a range of 1,500 miles. It carried 21-32 passengers.

British South American Airways

State-owned airline British South American Airways (BSAA) was formed in January 1944 flying operations out of the new Heathrow Airport. Post-war the company used Langley Airfield by as a maintenance base.

 

The BSAA fleet included: ten Avro Lancastrian and six Avro Tudor for passengers; four converted Lancaster and seven Avro Tudor for freight; two Airspeed Consul and one Airspeed Oxford for navigation and radio training; and an Avro 19 and a Percival Proctor for company transport.

Avro Tudor G-AHNN ‘Star Leopard’ of BSAA

 

The Avro Tudor was Britain’s first pressurised airliner. It was powered by four 1,170 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin 100 engines giving a cruising speed of 283mph at 12,000ft (top speed 320 mph). The Tudor IV carried 32 passengers.

 

Two of BSAAs Avro Tudor aircraft were among the first to disappear over the area that was to become known as the Bermuda Triangle. G-AHNP Star Tiger made its last communication on 31st January 1948 and G-AGRE Star Ariel disappeared on 17th January 1949. Despite large searches being made no trace of either aircraft was ever found.

 

The maintenance operations were eventually transferred to Heathrow and the company became part of British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC).

BSAA posters from 1946, 1947 and 1948 respectively

Silver City Airways

Silver City Airways was a private British civil airline established in November 1946 at Langley Airfield. The first aircraft types were four ex-military Douglas Dakotas and three Avro Lancastrians. The airline’s first commercial flight was by Lancastrian G-AHBW which took off in late 1946 from Heathrow Airport for Sydney via Johannesburg. When Langley closed in 1947 the airline moved its headquarters to Blackbushe.

Avro Lancastrian G-AHBV City of Canberra

 

The Lancastrian had capacity for 9 passengers or 3,560kg of freight as a mail plane. Powered by four 1,250hp Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engines, could achieve a top speed of 310mph and had a range of 4,150 miles. 91 aircraft were built or converted from Lancaster bombers.

Skyways Limited

The name Skyways was first applied to a company which provided instruction in aviation, navigation and signalling.

 

In 1946 the airline Skyways was formed at Langley airfield and would soon become the largest operator of non-scheduled air services in Europe. It was particularly active in charter flights for the British military, the oil industry and specialist freight services.

The company’s first flight took place in 1946 when an Avro York carried personnel and freight for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company from Langley Airfield to Basra. In those early days of civilian airlines and the limitations of the aircraft the flight included stops at Manston in Kent (because Langley had no customs facilities), Malta, Cairo (overnight stopover) and Lydda. The route became a regular contract service with two return flights per week and each trip took 4 days to complete with 35 flying hours.

 

Skyways was a major participant in the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49 using committing three York and four Lancastrian aircraft to transport supplies into the blockaded city. In 1950 the War Office awarded contracts to the airline for the transport of troops chiefly to Singapore and the Far East. Its engineering division refurbished ex-RAF Spitfires and Hurricane fighter for the Portuguese air force. Skyways also increased its civilian charter flight operations and later added Bristol 170 car transporters to its fleet. At its height it became the largest charter airline in Europe. The aircraft fleet over time included:

 

  • Avro Lancastrian
  • Avro 685 York
  • de Havilland Dragon Rapide
  • de Havilland Dove
  • Douglas DC-3/C-47
  • Douglas DC-4/C-54
  • Fairchild Hiller FH-227
  • Handley Page HP.81 Hermes
  • Lockheed L-749A Constellation

Avro York G-AMGK

 

The York was another aircraft developed from the Lancaster bomber. Its wider fuselage had a capacity for 56 passengers or a payload of 9,100kg. It was powered by four 1,280hp Rolls-Royce Merlin engines giving a top speed of 298mph and a range of 3,000 miles. 259 were built including prototypes.

 

By November 1946 Skyways moved its main operations to Dunsfold Airfield near Guildford. At some point the airline established Samlesbury Engineering at Dunsfold to handle its maintenance needs.

Langley Airfield closure

The proximity of the developing Heathrow Airport and the fact that Langley only had a grass runway contributed to the demise of the airfield. Hawker aircraft production was shifted to Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey in 1951 although the company continued manufacturing operations here until 1958 making parts for the Sea Hawk and Hunter. Many of the airlines mentioned on this page had already moved their maintenance operations to other airfields such as Dunsfold and Blackbushe. The factory and site was taken over by Ford Commercial Vehicles.

 

The site of the airfield was being redeveloped a long time before Ford left in 1997 into an industrial area and a housing estate. All that remains of the airfield now is the 33/11kV electricity substation which I believe still bears the name Hawker Aircraft.

My name is Gary Flint. To make comments on the contents of this website please click below:

Postcards from Slough is an independently funded website. We are open to offers of sponsorship  from major companies that have any connections to the town. Please use the Comments button above to contact us.

For your information and entertainment, the site contains links to a number of YouTube videos. Whilst these links will be checked periodically, Postcards from Slough cannot accept responsibility for difficulties experienced in the use of these links.

Postcards from Slough gratefully uses images from Grace's Guide.

www.gracesguide.co.uk

 

 

Postcards from Slough contributes material to British Listed Buildings and uses the site for cross referencing purposes.

www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk

Print Print | Sitemap
© 2017 Postcards from Slough