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The History of Errol Aerodrome

Preston Watson

Preston WatsonIt was Preston Watson who first put Errol on the aviation map with what was claimed to be the first powered flight in July 1903 and ahead of the Wright Brothers (17th December 1903).  However, historians have been quick to point out that Preston’s first aircraft was no more than a glider and not ‘powered’ with the type of engine which was apparently used not being in production at the time of the recorded flight.  These claims are however, contrary to various eye witness accounts in July 1903 – who claim that the plane was indeed powered by an engine.

Preston went on to build another three aeroplanes in 1909, 1910 and 1913 – with only the latter two understood to have got airborne under their own power. There is no doubt he was a Scottish aviation pioneer and arguably the first true aviator.  He died prematurely in 1915 at the age of 35 whilst training with Royal Naval Air Service with his plane exploding above Eastbourne.  A street in Errol was recently named after him.Preston Watson before take off

World War 2

In 1939 The Ministry of Defense requisitioned the land from the local farmers required to build the airfield.  The airfield opened in January 1943. Errol housed No. 305 Ferry Training Unit as a special air training/conversion unit for the Soviet crews receiving deliveries of Armstrong Whitworth Albemarles (British twin engine planes). This joint operation continued until April 1944, despite cancellation of Albemarle deliveries in September, 1943. The military role of Errol airfield ended in 1948, shortly after the end of World War 2.

The Ministry of Defence then approached the original owners of the farmland and offered them the opportunity to buy it back.  A number of them took up the offer.  The airfield and its buildings are spread over six properties. The airfield features three runways arranged in an ‘A’ shape – which was a common RAF airfield design.   Many of the original hangers and sheds are still in situ and have been adapted for modern commercial use.  The original control tower has recently been converted into a house retaining its original structure and features.

Control Tower pre conversion
The Control Tower – Pre Conversion
The Control Tower - Post Conversion
The Control Tower – Post Conversion (2014)

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