Dunsfold Aerodrome

Dunsfold Aerodrome

Coordinates: 51°06′58″N 0°31′59″W / 51.116°N 0.533°W / 51.116; -0.533

Dunsfold Aerodrome (ICAO code EGTD) in Surrey, England, near the village of Cranleigh, was built by the Canadian Army and civilian contractors as a Class A Bomber Airfield for Army Co-operation Command. It was commanded by the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1942-1944 and was known as Royal Canadian Air Force Station Dunsfold.


Second World War

The first squadrons based at the aerodrome were 400, 414 and 430 Squadrons, RCAF, equipped with P-40 Tomahawks and P-51 Mustangs. They were followed by the North American B-25 Mitchell Mk II medium bombers of 139 Wing, RAF, consisting of 98 and 180 Squadrons RAF, and 320 Squadron, formed by Dutch Naval Aviation Service personnel. When 139 Wing departed for the continent in the autumn of 1944, 83 Group Support Unit (later 83 Group Disbandment Centre) arrived with Spitfires, Typhoons and Tempests. After the war the airfield was used by the RAF to repatriate prisoners of war.

Dunsfold was declared inactive by the RAF in 1946 but was then used by Skyways Ltd, with York, Lancastrian, Skymaster, Rapide and Dove aircraft. Skyways's operations included support of the Berlin Airlift. Skyways also refurbished ex-RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes for the Portuguese Air Force.

Hawker Aircraft Company

In 1950 The Hawker Aircraft Company acquired the lease of the site. Dunsfold became internationally known for development of the Hunter jet fighter, limited numbers of Sea Hawks were also produced and Sea Furies were refurbished. Airwork Ltd leased two hangars from 1953-58 for the refurbishment of F-86 Sabres and Supermarine Attackers.

In October 1960 the then Hawker Siddeley flight tested its Hawker P.1127 prototype, the development aircraft that led to the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, the first VTOL jet fighter bomber. Folland Gnat test flying and production moved to Dunsfold from Chilbolton, Hants, in 1961. Final assembly of the Harrier and the Hawk trainer aircraft was at Dunsfold.

British Aerospace

Hawker Siddeley became part of British Aerospace in 1977. On 2 July 1986 British Aerospace's deputy chief test pilot Jim Hawkins was killed at Dunsfold when his developmental Hawk 200 crashed. On 24 June 1999 British Aerospace announced the closure of Dunsfold as part of a restructuring; Hawk final assembly had been transferred to Warton in 1988, the Sea Harrier production finished in 1998 and the Harrier 2+ production was moved to Brough in 2000. The gate-guardian aircraft - Hawker P.1127 XP984 - was moved to Brooklands Museum on long term loan.

Post-British Aerospace

In 2002 BAE Systems (British Aerospace's successor) sold Dunsfold Aerodrome to The Rutland Group who formed Dunsfold Park Ltd. Today the BBC motoring show Top Gear is recorded at the park using a former hangar as a studio and parts of the runways and taxiways of the aerodrome as a test track.

The Young Drivers Track

Some of the track (The Young Drivers Track) is now used by many driving schools and instructors to enable under seventeen year olds to learn to drive. Hundreds of youngsters have now had their first driving experience at the Top Gear location before going out on to the road.

Since June 2007 Dunsfold Park has been home of the Surrey Air Ambulance Service. Dunsfold Park is also home to Wings and Wheels, an annual air and motor show that is typically held in late August. The airshow attracted over 25,000 visitors and raised over £80,000 for charities including Help for Heroes and the Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance in 2009. Increasing popularity has meant the event is now a two-day show.

Dunsfold Park Ltd also organise a Drive-In Cinema, Dunsfold Drive-In [1], over the Easter bank holiday as well as a popular and classical concert, Strings & Wings [2], on the first weekend in June, and the annual "Dad's Day Out" motoring event, held in aid of The Children's Trust, Tadworth.

Hawker Siddeley HS.125 accident

On 20 November 1975 a test flight of a Hawker Siddeley HS.125 G-BCUX was taking off on runway 07 when, just as aircraft became airborne, the flight was struck by birds. The pilots tried to land back onto the runway but the aircraft overran the runway and struck a passing car on the A281 road. The aircraft stopped in a field and was destoyed by fire. All six people inside the car died and one crew member out of nine passengers and crew was injured.[1]


A memorial, funded by public subscription, was raised outside the nearby Alfold Barn pub (on the A281 road between Guildford and Horsham) with the permission of Alfold Parish Council. Dunsfold Parish Council declined to host the memorial.

The memorial and its unveiling on 20 July 1992, exactly 50 years to the day after the first aircraft (an RCAF Tiger Moth) landed at Dunsfold, was organised by the Dunsfold Society of Mssrs Alan Barrett, Paul McCue, Gareth Morgan, Peter Robinson and Brian Spencer. A Tiger Moth and Lockheed P-3 Orion (of present-day 320 Sqn RDNAS) performed fly-pasts.

Hawker Hunter G-HHUN accident

On 5th June 1998 a Hawker Hunter G-HHUN crashed at Dunsfold prior to that weekend's airshow. The pilot, John Davis, was killed.[2]


A museum is maintained on site (open on Wednesdays to the public) by Reg Day who served with 98 Sqn RAF at Dunsfold in 1943-44.

Film work

A Boeing 747-200 which served with British Airways until 2002 as City of Birmingham, G-BDXJ, was purchased by Aces High Limited, a company specialising in supplying aircraft for television and film work, and transferred to Dunsfold.

It was modified and used for filming for the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale. Some of the scenes set at Miami International Airport were filmed at Dunsfold.

Modifications to the aircraft include the removal of the normal Rolls Royce engines in separate nacelles and replacement with a single nacelle on each wing with two engines, similar to those fitted to aircraft such as the B-52 Stratofortress. Dummy drop tanks have been fitted where the outer engines would normally be fitted. The aircraft is not flyable at the present moment.

The aircraft has also appeared in the background of numerous Science in Action and Top Gear episodes and directly in an episode where it is towed by a JCB Fastrac tractor.

It was also towed by a Volkswagen Touareg in a 2006 Fifth Gear episode, the same year that the modified aircraft and Dunsfold Airfield were featured in a television advertisement filmed for the Volkswagen Touareg, demonstrating the vehicle's towing ability.

In 2008 it featured in an episode of Scrapheap Challenge in which contestants created machines to tow the aircraft.

In 2009 for major parts of Episode 4 of ITV Series Primeval featuring a Giganotosaurus, Dunsfold Airfield was used as the location for an unspecified London Airport.

On 10 April 2011 it was the hosting spot for the first time for Cobham Bus Museum's yearly event.

The future

In 2006, the owners of Dunsfold Aerodrome proposed the construction of a new settlement with 2,600 homes on the site, a school, health services, public transport and road links to the A281, and an expanded business district. The project was designed to be an example of green and sustainable living. It was opposed by local residents, Surrey County Council, four borough councils and thirteen parish councils as well as the South East England Regional Assembly and the South East England Development Agency but received support from some environmentalists, including Friends of the Earth, for its innovative approach. It was refused planning permission by the local borough council and in 2009 rejected on appeal by the then Secretary of State John Denham.

Although the owners say they still hope to persuade the authorities that eco-settlement remains the best long term future for the site they are now concentrating on expanding and promoting the underlying aviation potential of the aerodrome which is still in operational use.

In April 2011, Dunsfold Park claimed that a 60 year old planning consent allows the entirely unrestricted use of the aerodrome. The claim led to objections from parties such as all the local Parish Councils and bodies such as the Council to Protect Rural England and concern was been expressed by local Members of Parliament.

Interested parties claimed that by suggesting freedom from restriction on "noise, air quality other emissions and environmental effects", Dunsfold Park has shown inconsistency with its eco-friendly approach as well as a disregard for the local community.

In June 2011, Waverley District Council refused Dunsfold Park's application for a certificate of lawful use as an aerodrome, effectively reminding all parties that the site is industrial with aviation facilities. Dunsfold Park Ltd are hence left in a situation where their planned expansion into further aviation is stymied and, while at the time of writing they still have the opportunity to appeal, a study of the refusal suggests Waverley have reached a sustainable conclusion.

In late 2007, Dunsfold Park Ltd. applied to have their plans for the new town selected as one of Gordon Brown's proposed "eco-towns". On 3 April 2008 Dunsfold Park was denied Eco-town status by the Housing Minister Caroline Flint. According to the Government's press release Dunsfold Park was rejected "for being undeliverable or not ambitious enough to meet the high environmental and affordability standards set by Government."

Details of the application can be found here:

Dunsfold Park Ltd set of financial accounts (source: Companies House) are as follows:

DIRECTORS’ REPORT The directors have pleasure in presenting their report and the audited financial statements for the year to 31 December 2009. The company retained a loss for the year of £706,223 (2008 – Loss £1,256,749) Shareholders’ deficit as at 31/12/09 was (£1,003,482) Shareholders’ deficit as at 31/12/08 was (£297,259)


External links

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