Book brings history of airport up to date

Harold Piffard and his Type-D Hydro biplane in 1911
Harold Piffard and his Type-D Hydro biplane in 1911

A NEW book detailing the history of Shoreham Airport has been published by Amberley.

The book, Shoreham Airport An Illustrated History, is written by aviation historian Peter C. Brown.

Pictures covering a period of more than 100 years help to illustrate the story of the oldest licensed airport in the United Kingdom.

The 200-acre site is actually in Lancing and once had its own railway station on the West Coastway line.

Aviator Harold Piffard first flew at Shoreham in 1910 and the aerodrome was officially opened the following year, on June 20, 1911.

Mr Brown writes in the introduction: “In the days of early aviation, flying machines were made of wood, canvas and wire, and were usually propelled by underpowered engines.

“If the wind was not too strong, they could leave the ground at under 40mph with a top speed of about 50mph, so there was a 10mph margin.

“Flying above that speed often resulted in the engine overheating, or the stresses causing the wires or wood within the aircraft to snap; flying below that speed caused the machine to stall or spin.”

He explains that Shoreham boasted several aviation pioneers, including Oscar Morison and Grahame Gilmour, and was the base for the Pashley and Miles brothers’ businesses.

The Grade II* listed art deco terminal building, a popular location for film makers, dates back to 1936. But it was not until 1982 that a hard runway was opened, heralding an immediate increase in flying movements. Until then, there had been only grass landing strips.

Chapters take the reader from the early days through both world wars, when the airport was used as a miliary airfield.

In 1914, the first flight of British military aircraft left from Shoreham to join the fighting in France and during the Second World War, the airfield came under attack several times.

Mr Brown then explains how the Beagle M218, the first British light aircraft to show competitive promise, helped the aircraft industry recover after the war years.

The book continues through the years to bring the airport’s story right up to date and it includes a special chapter on the Shoreham Airport Rescue and Firefighting Service, which has been in operation for more than 90 years.

The publishing company said the book was ‘a must-have for anyone interested in the past of this fascinating historic airport’.

Mr Brown, who lives in Essex, has previously written about Southend Airport and Edinburgh Airport for Amberley Publishing.

This 160-page book featuring 178 illustrations is the latest in the company’s extensive aviation series. It is priced £15.99 and available in paperback.