RAF Wyton marks a century of flying with the opening of a grass runway
By CambridgeNews | Posted: May 14, 2016 By Julian Makey
Pilots at RAF Wyton have turned the clock back a century to the dawn of flying at the station – by building a new grass runway.
The inaugural flight from the new runway was made to mark the 100th anniversary of aviation which began at the then Wyton Aerodrome in the middle of the First World War.
Wing Commander Andy March, who made the last flight from the station’s paved runway in March this year, carried out the first take-off on the grass strip.
“I had a lump in my throat as I took off,” he said. “To think that 100 years ago those early aviation pioneers who joined the Royal Flying Corps were taking off from a grass strip that is just a stone’s throw from where I was. Amazing.”
Wing Commander March, an RAF aerosystems engineering officer, said: “In March this year I had the proud honour to be the last pilot to take off from RAF Wyton’s paved runway, one that has witnessed some of the most impressive and iconic aircraft ever to have worn the RAF roundel.
“It is now up to the Pathfinder Flying Club to uphold the station’s proud flying tradition and our new grass runway will ensure the club can continue to operate from RAF Wyton.”
Wyton’s paved runways were formally decommissioned in March meaning they could not be used for flying.
But the Pathfinder Flying Club, which had been using them, already had plans in hand to build a grass runway and the bulk of the ground work was carried out last year.
Roy Twigg, a retired RAF engineering officer who is now the club’s chief engineer, said the runway was self-funded but that they had been given a great deal of support by the Wyton-based 42 Engineer Regiment (Geographic) which surveyed the site and Rebecca Rayner, from Glebe Farm, who provided machinery hire, soil and grass seed.
Mr Twigg said: “The ground work needed to properly prepare the new runway required a great deal of support from club members and it was a real team effort making this project work.”
He said that in addition to levelling the site, a further 60 tonnes of top soil was added, along with 40 kilos of grass seed.
The club also had to draw up new procedures before the grass strip became operational.
Pathfinder Flying Club provides flying training for regular and reserve service personnel and civil service staff employed by the RAF, together with a small number of civilian members.
It is named after the Pathfinder Force which operated from RAF Wyton during the Second World War.
The first flight at Wyton Aerodrome was by a Royal Flying Corps Nieuport 12 on April 19 1916 and the site became RAF Wyton in 1918 on the formation of the Royal Air Force. Military flying ended just short of the centenary.
The first RAF operations of the Second World War were flown from RAF Wyton and Canberras operated from the station for many years.