This little outcrop sticking out of the Bristol Channel, about half a mile wide and less than three miles long, seems to have been quite busy, aeronautically speaking, during various times past.
IN MY LOCAL pub, attached to a pillar, is a brass plaque which announces: On this spot, on 14 February, 1793, nothing much happened. I had rather imagined that the aviation history of Lundy Island would be much the same, but it seems that I was wrong. This little outcrop sticking out of the Bristol Channel, about half a mile wide and less than three miles long, seems to have been quite busy, aeronautically speaking, during various times past.
The first arrivals were British military aircraft that made forced landings during the first world war. After the war, with the growth of commercial flying during the 1930s, a scheduled service was set up between Heanton Court Aerodrome at Barnstaple, destined to become RAF Chivenor, and the island. They started with a de Havilland Dragon and that aircraft’s short history tells you much about the carefree days of commercial flying in 1934. On the inaugural flight around Devon, the Dragon ran short of fuel and landed on a golf course. There was only slight damage and no bones broken so that was all right then. The first trip out to Lundy carried a ministry official who pronounced Lundy airport fit for service. On the following day the Dragon wiped its wheels off on the stone wall at the threshold. The ministry then asked for improvements and as the improved airfield offers only 400 metres you wonder what the original was like.
A thriving operation grew up around a General Aircraft Monospar ST 4 twin with four seats plus the pilot’s. This was soon supplemented by a Short Scion a high wing twin with five passenger seats. Business was satisfactorily brisk at 80p for the return flight until the second world war brought it all to an end. This war produced its own crop of emergency arrivals in the shape of two Heinkels. Sad to say, a Whitley flew straight into the cliffs in fog, killing the crew instantly.
After the war, a service based around a de Havilland Rapide foundered financially after two short years and was followed by a charter service based upon two Austers operated by Barnstaple Flying Club. Three years of single engine operations culminated in 1955 with an engine failure, ditching, rescue by a passing ship and the imposition by the CAA of a 6,000 foot minimum single engined operating height. This killed off the operation.
In 1981, a new service began, based on two Bell JetRanger helicopters. All went well until a BA Sikorsky S.61 flew into a glassy sea off the Isles of Scilly in 1985. The new regulations which this occasioned made the Lundy operation impossible and there has been nothing since. However, if anyone should have a spare Islander or Twin Otter with nothing to do…
It’s a simple tale, simply told, and embellished with many interesting period photographs. I found the book engaging and was sufficiently stimulated to resolve to fly myself out to Lundy before the summer is out. Nigel Everett.