Hendon Aerodrome


Hendon Aerodrome

Hendon Aerodrome was an aerodrome in Hendon, north London, England and between 1908 and 1968 was an important centre for aviation.

It was situated in Colindale, seven miles (11.3 km) north west of Charing Cross. It nearly became "the Charing Cross of the UK's international air routes", but for the actions of RAF after the First World War. It was famous as a place of pioneering experiments which included the first airmail, the first parachute descent from a powered aircraft, the first night flights, and the first aerial defence of a city.

Beginnings

Henry Coxwell and James Glaisher were the first to fly from Hendon in a balloon called the Mammoth in 1862, and ballooning at the Brent Reservoir was a very popular spectacle for the crowds gathered on bank holidays late in the 19th century. The first powered flight from Hendon was in an convert|88|ft|m|sing=on long non-rigid airship built by Spencer Brothers of Highbury. It took off from the Welsh Harp in 1909 and was piloted by Henry Spencer. Its only passenger was the Australian suffragette Muriel Matters. The first attempt at aeroplane flight was by two men called H.P. Martin and G.H. Handasyde again at the Welsh Harp. They constructed a monoplane with four engines in the ballroom of the hotel, but were never able to get the result airborne.

Inspired by Louis Bleriot’s flight across the Channel, Everett, Edgecumbe and Co began to experiment with a plane to be built at the works at Colindale, Hendon, erecting a small barn like hangar to house the aircraft. Between 1908 and 1910 their “Grasshopper” as the plane was called, taxied about, hopped, but refused to get truly airborne, albeit attracting quite a crowd.In 1910 the Daily Mail newspaper challenged aviators to fly from London to Manchester, with a prize of £10,000. Louis Paulhan, a Frenchman, who flew the first successful aeroplane flight from the Everett and Edgecumbe hangar at Colindale, succeeded in winning the competition.

London Aerodrome

Claude Grahame White created a new company, the Grahame-White Aviation Company, taking control of more than convert|200|acre|km2 of Colindale and converting it into what could be recognised as a proper modern airfield. It was from Hendon, as part of the George V coronation celebrations, that the first ever “official” airmail was carried in September 1911. The first aerial derby was held here in 1912, which it was said was watched by 500,000 people, and became as important as Ascot and Epsom during the London SeasonFact|date=February 2007. The first fatality at Hendon, reported in The Times in May 1911, was Bernard Benson (aged 23). He fell convert|100|ft|m from a Valkyrie Machine.

Claude Grahame White and other members of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) mounted a night defence of London in 1915, constituting the very first aerial defence of London. In November 1916 the War Office commandeered the flying schools at Hendon, after which the aerodrome trained 490 pilots. The first RAF “Pageant” was held in 1920, and it soon became a regular event which for a brief period was called the "Empire Air Day". Hendon was briefly active during the Battle of Britain, but for most of World War II the Aerodrome was mainly used for transport activities, and flying dignitaries to and from London.

Manufacturing at Hendon

Production of aeroplanes was one of the features of the aerodrome's activities under Grahame White. During the First World War production increased rapidly. To facilitate the transportation of the 3500 workers and materials, The Midland Railway built a spur from the embanked main line with a platform close to the main line and a loop around the airfield to the plant. It had been Claude Grahame White’s conviction that Hendon would become the “the Charing Cross of our international air routes”, but the Air Ministry took over in 1922, which led to a protracted and ugly legal action lasting until 1925 with Grahame White leaving the site. Aircraft manufacture went into decline between the wars.

The End of Aviation at Hendon

Hendon Aerodrome was under pressure even before the war, with the possibility that RAF Hendon would become a target for enemy bombing raids. After the war the base was increasingly unsuitable, particularly because the runways were too short, and the close proximity of suburban houses made matters worse. The RAF argued the military importance of the complex into the 1950s in case future developments in aviation technology might render the base suitable again, but eventually Hendon Borough Council and the London County Council were able to argue that houses were needed more than the aerodrome. The last flying unit, the Metropolitan Communications Squadron, left Hendon in 1957. Late in 1968 a Blackburn Beverley, flown in to be an exhibit at the new RAF Museum, was the last aircraft to land in Hendon. The RAF base finally closed altogether in 1987. The area of the aerodrome is now the site of the Grahame Park Housing Estate, and Hendon Police College. The RAF Museum now situated on the site.

Hendon Today

Today Hendon houses the London branch of the Royal Air Force museum, which focuses on the role of the Royal Air Force in the development of aviation and avionics in the United Kingdom. The museum consists of several buildings containing a range of permanent exhibitions including "Our Finest Hour" in the Battle Of Britain Hall, the award winning "Milestones of Flight" which details the major developments in flight technology from 1903 to 2003, two buildings containing various aircraft and helicopters, plus the Grahame White Factory which contains many examples of original craft from World War One and the early days of aviation. Parking and Admission to the museum are free;and the museum runs a programme of free events throughout the year suitable for children and young adults as well as a 3D cinema, located in "Milestones of Flight", plus exploration Gallery "Aeronauts Interactive". For further details visit [http://www.rafmuseum.org The Museum's Website] .


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