PORTSMOUTH AIRPORT
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GASU(till 1960,EGHP :Lat/Long 50 50N/01 03W .Grid ref .SU 670035.12 feet ASL.

RUNWAYS Grass:18/36 1061x106 m. 07/25 1041x122 m. 12/30 954x79 m.

One of the earliest aviation happenings in the area was the arrival at Southsea of the "Hydroplane " in 1910.

A page of photos taken at Portsmouth Airport ,mostly during the late 40s.To view these images CLICK HERE

Portsmouth Airport Map
Portsmouth Airport Map

Portsmouth's first plans for an airport were for a 3 part scheme of a seaplane base in Langstone,municipal airport on Farlington Marshes and an international airport on Portsea Island.This idea dated from 1924 ,and was not proceeded with.Although the idea in total was a non- starter, the marine airport was still being discussed as late as November 1937.The sketchmap below shows the planned location of the proposal as at 1936 and the arrows indicate proposed tidal barrages that would enable aircraft to operate at any state of the tide.

However ,at the end of 1930,work started on a 276 acre site on Portsea Island.This was to be a conventional airport.Within a month of work starting,the first aircraft to use the site landed.This was Avian IVM G-AAWH,piloted by Flying Officer Al Mortimer who landed there on 14 th December 1930.On July 2nd 1932 the airport was opened with a flying display attended by more than 50000 people. Portsmouth was(and would remain) a grass airfield.Landing run available was given as 1325 yds.First users were Portsmouth ,Southsea and Isle of Wight Aviation Co with services to Ryde.Other airlines soon followed including International Airlines ,Provincial Airlines and Jersey Airlines.

1930s postcards showing(Left) DH.60X Moth G-AAAG and (Right)DH.80A Puss Moth G-ABIY , both operated by PSIOWA.
1930s postcard of Airspeed Envoy 1 of the Portsmouth ,Southsea and Isle of Wight Aviation Co .
1930s postcard of DH.84 Dragon II of the Portsmouth ,Southsea and Isle of Wight Aviation Co .
1930s postcard of Portsmouth airport from the west, with Monospar ST25 G-ADVH .
Airspeed Envoy III, G-AEXX, the first aircraft purchased specifically(in May 1937) for The King's Flight .

In March 1933 Airspeed Ltd arrived from York bringing with them the prototype Courier.The Courier was followed into production by the Envoy,and later by the Oxford.During WW2 production was dominated by the Oxford and also by the Horsa glider.For full details of Airspeed production follow the link to "AVIATION in Hampshire UK 1900 to 2000" at the bottom of this page

If there were prizes awarded for the ugliest aircraft then two of Airspeed's efforts would certainly be in the running - the AS4 Ferry and the AS 39 Fleet Shadower could never be called "good looking"

In September 1936 ,Portsmouth was the starting point for the England-Johannesburg Air Race(see detailed account here).The race,in which 9 aircraft competed ,was won by C W A Scott and G Guthrie,flying a Percival Vega Gull,with a flight time of 52 hours and 56 minutes.

The photo above, taken sometinme in the thities show a lineup of de Havilland types at Portsmouth. Visible in the background is the gasometer of the now-disappeared Hilsea Gas works.(Photo from John Havers collection)

Around 1937 Airspeed aquired a licence to produce the Douglas Dc-2. The Depression, and the threat of war, kept them from commencing manufacture.

During WW2 the only military unit based was No.163 ATC Gliding School(formed 10/43 moved to Gosport Sept 1946).
The two photos below show the Airspeed factory possibly just before the war.

Postwar ,Airspeed concentrated their efforts on civilian conversion of Oxfords into Consul passenger aircraft.In 1949 Airspeed became completely merged with De Havillands and,subsequently only produced components until the factory closed early in the 60s.Portsmouth Aviation tried their hand at building an aircraft - the Portsmouth Aerocar( G-AGTG f/f June 47) but the venture was abandoned when no sales were forthcoming

The three photos below are from Lawrence Hole , all taken on 23 June 1957 and show G-AKKM Messenger 2A,G-AKFXGemini 8 and Avro Anson EI-AHO

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Dove 5 G-ASDO of Haywards Aviation - operated from Portsmouth in the late 60s.page.
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This 1973 photo of Heron 1B G-ANNO ,operated by Jersey Ferry Airlines was kindly provided by Tony Exelby. JFA operated a variety of aircraft from Portsmouth ,including Twin Pioneers.The photo of G-APHX below was taken on 25th March 1972 by Tony Merton Jones and appears here with his permission. To see other pictures from Portsmouth ,go to the Portsmouth Airport Images page.
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Portsmouth Aero Club used Auster J/1N Alpha G-AJAB in the late 60s.
Undated view of Portsmouth ...probably 50s-70s.(Nigel Must)

After the war airline operation recommenced,but the writing was on the wall for Portsmouth Airport.As aircraft became more demanding of runway length and surfaces,there were several accidents,mainly due to wet grass runways,culminating in two the same day on 15/8/67 when two Channel Airways HS.748s ran through the airfield boundary.Following these incidents,operating restrictions were imposed which inevitably led to a downturn in aircraft and passenger totals,and an eventual loss in revenue. By 1970 the City Council were wanting to close the airport.Following a 9000 loss in 1971-72 the decision was made to close the airfield and the last flight took place on 31 December 1973.Officially,the last flight was the departure of Beagle Terrier G-ASOI,but 7 weeks later,Bell 206 G-BBFB arrived bringing the Labour Party leader ,Harold Wilson to an engagement in Portsmouth.

There was one last gasp of life in 1977 when on the 10th & 11th of September a small display was held there comprising 11 aircraft and 3 hot air balloons.Some photos of the occasion below thanks to Gerald Shimbart. From the TOP: G-BBII Fiat G46-3B, next two: Cameron O-56 G-BCXZ.then G-AYSJ Bu133.T6553 Tiger Moth,Nord 1002 G-ATBG, Spitfire 1B G-AISU

During the following decade the land was gradually redeveloped for housing and industry.

Aerial view Portsmouth
Aerial View of Portsmouth before closure and subsequent development of the site.
Portsmouth now
And now !.

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