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History Aircraft Aerospace & Airfields

Ryde Airport

REF NR: 352

Ryde Airport began operations on 27th June 1932. It occupied 823 acres of land, purchased from Barnsley Farm by the newly formed Wight Aviation Ltd which was later renamed to Isle of Wight Aviation Ltd. The grass runway itself was very short (approximately 670 yards) and thus the size of aircraft it could handle was restricted from the outset.


Pictured: Wessex G-ABVB


A modified Wessex G-ABVB now with nine passenger seats fitted was the first arrival from the Portsmouth & Southsea airfield just across the Solent. A single was 6/- and a return ticket 10/-, which may not seem like much but when adjusted for inflation would be £16.05 for the single and £26.75 for the return. Hence the passengers who used the service tended to be those that preferred a short luxury quick hop and had deep pockets.




Pictured: Original Airport Position (No Runways Yet Established)


The airport tower and buildings were erected and although the official name of the aerodrome was 'The Isle of Wight Air Port', its hording (thumbnail image above) clearly shows it with RYDE AIRPORT profile.  It should be noted that Wight Aviation also operated the airfield at Apse Heath near Sandown.


Pictured: Ryde Airport Of 1936 Painting By Ivan Berryman


Between 1933 and 1939 various aircraft and services were operated from the Ryde Airport. One aircraft that is still flying today is that of the De Havilland DH 82 Dragon Rapide (called 'The City of Birmingham'), which flew with a pilot and radio officer and approximately five to eight passengers. This was very dependent on weight and the flying conditions, as the airport often suffered bad crosswinds which could make landing and take-off rather tricky. Pilots therefore had to carefully balance the craft before attempting take-off in rough weather. Another well known aircraft seen over Ryde skies at the time was that of the well-loved Gypsy-engined Moth - G-ACCA. This was actually PSIWA’s training aircraft both for flying lessons and aerobatics. 


When war broke out in 1939, the airfield was not of great use and thus was obstructed in order to stop it being used by the Luftwaffe as a possible landing site for an invasion.


After the war, the ministry and various governments placed far greater restrictions on the operation of private airfields and services. They deemed it crucial that the state-owned service not have too much competition, in order to survive and grow. This had the effect of Ryde Airport remaining unused for several years. Locally the Ryde Town Council saw a different route forward for the airfield and drew up plans to extend and add various runways so making the airport far more viable in all weather conditions and also able to service larger aircraft.

 

Pictured: Ryde Airport Plan (1950s) - Proposed By Town Council

 

Due to the government’s stance on private airfields, plans were quietly dropped and it was not until 6th May 1950 that private flying and charter flights re-started. This effort stalled fairly soon after opening, as the field was not a viable enterprise and was soon sold to the Ball family who owned Westridge Construction.


The land was gradually broken up into various packets. The terminal became a nightclub called the Babalu and appeared in the film 'That’ll Be the Day' (1973). The space  is now behind a McDonald’s, roughly on the site of the meeting hall for Jehovah's Witnesses.

 

There is very little left of the old airport itself, as the land is now covered with a mixture of commercial and residential dwellings along with a Tesco.
 

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