Monday, May 05, 2008

My Town Monday - Panshanger Airfield.

Panshanger 1941.

This is a really local land mark for me, I live on an estate called Panshanger which has a long history, although its now quite a modern part of town!!

The Airfield was built as a decoy to lure bombers, now a thriving GA airfield.Many of Britain’s airfields date from World War II and many played an important role in that conflict. Some have made it through to the 21st century. Panshanger Aerodrome is one of the few that’s survived but only after a determined effort by the current operator and owner of the flying club based there, Israeli pilot Haim Merkado.When Haim took over in 1993, as an out-of-work commercial pilot, it was the height of a UK recession, not perfect timing for a new venture. What’s more, the airfield was in a state of disrepair, full of debris and with an illegal gypsy camp. Determination and the help of club members meant that Haim managed to overcome these problems and nowadays Panshanger is a thriving recreational airfield.

Above is a shot of the totally derelict control tower before the whole airfield was renovated.

In 1993, there was just one resident aircraft, 13 years later there are 35. A lot more has changed as well. The grass runway has been relaid at a cost of £25,000. A ramshackle collection of WWII buildings has been converted into a modern clubhouse with cafĂ©, BBQ and outside seating. The clubhouse is full of training and flight aids including an Elite Pro Panel flight sim. Maintenance is now available on site – run by former Hatfield engineer Stuart Reeves.What hasn’t really changed is Haim. Anyone who has met him knows that you either get on with him famously, or not at all. He’s a big character, extrovert, direct and often a bit abrupt. He can seem overbearing at first. But the members of Panshanger’s club, North London Flying School , are incredibly loyal to Haim – to the point of piling in with their specialist skills to help develop and renovate the facilities.

Today the Airfield is a thriving venture with a cafe area and garden.Every Sunday we are constantly disturbed by pilots practicing airobatics, it always concerns me when I hear them stalling the engines as part of their routines, I think it happens far too close to my home!


debra said...

What an interesting post, Lyzzydee. My mother-in-law was an English war bride from Chester and has lots of wartime stories to tell.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Okay, Lyzzydee, so I was having the best time reading your post and singing along to UB40 sing Red Red Wine, on your side bar, and then I flipped to comments and lost the music and couldn't get it back. (But found other nice songs.)

The fun thing is that out of the blue a couple of days ago I started singing Red Red Wine while I was doing some chores, and I wondered where it came from since I hadn't played it for a very long time. (Couple of years, at least.) and here it is on your blog's play list. Now I'll have to dig it out and play it!! how coincidental are we on two sides of the same ocean.

Great post. I love everything historical and Panshanger never stops being history. Nice choice.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I had never heard of this wartime tactic.

Travis Erwin said...

I very nearly posted about an airfield myself this week. Nice post.

WordVixen said...

Wow. I'm often upset by the waste of once thriving businesses, or other "places of interest" that are allowed to decay, so hearing about someone reviving such a place makes me very happy. I'm glad there are people like Haim in the world, who won't let history go to waste.

Debbielou said...

Amazing - I never knew any of that at all - really interesting.

Barbara Martin said...

Very interesting post. It reminded me of when I lived in London seven years ago and I visited a friend who lived in Kentish Town in London, and she told me about people staying in the tube station there to avoid the bombing raids during WWII. She said there had been a munitions plant there too.

David sugg said...

As a kid in the 1970s I used to play in and around the air field
Some thing on its history does not make sense if it was a decoy
Air field why did it have real defenses such as the steel rolling
Gun turrets the hidden bunkers the air raid shelters in the woods
And parts for spitfires we used to play with I watched part of the
Film the battle of Britain being filmed there in the 1970s any one
Have any information?