CLUB VISITS. Gatwick–and the Surrey Aero Club.
THE progress which the past decade has brought about in aviation is not confined solely to the machines we fly. One finds changes for the better, an advance in practically every factor associated with flying.
Take aerodromes for example. In the old days, which were not really so very long ago, the average ‘drome was exceeded in cheerlessness, discomfort, and an atmosphere of inhospitability only by a rural railway station on a wet night. Whether one arrived by air or by road, one grew to expect the same indifferent welcome flavoured or mingled with mud, dampness and soggy cinderpaths. If it was cold or wet, one chose either the draughty shelter of a canvas hangar or the fugginess of a wooden flight office. Even a telephone and a cup of tea were luxuries. Only the hard-boiled enthusiast can recollect such barbarism, and sigh, “Happy days ! ” Times and things have changed. The people who are responsible for the various civilian aerodromes, or if you like, air parks about the country now realise that the flying sportsman asks for something more than that the ground shall be flat and smooth and that he shall find some sort of shelter for his machine for
the night. And his demands, considering that this is 1931, for comfort, service and other normal amenities are not unreasonable. Certainly, he will find his requirements well attended to at Gatwick where one of the most recent aerodromes and clubs are established. The aerodrome itself is owned by the Home Counties Aircraft Services, Ltd., and adjoins the well-known racecourse, being situated midway between London and Brighton. The London-Brighton railway line lies along the eastern boundary, and because of this it is one of the easiest aerodromes to find from the air. The approaches on all sides are good, and being some miles south of the Downs, and in flat open country, low-flying clouds and ground mists seldom envelop it. In fact, many pilots agree that Gatwick for this reason is far more convenient as an emergency landing ground in bad weather for machines on the
LondonParis “corridor” than the official ground at Pens hurst, which is established for that purpose For those who wish to reach it by road, it is equally accessible since it lies but 500 yards from the main road at Lowfield Heath. The aerodrome was officially opened last August ; before it was purchased by The Home Counties Aircraft Services it comprised a collection of fields, but after the necessary amount of work had been done in the way of retnoving he dges, trees, etc., and levelling, it has now been converted into a most excellent flying ground. Hangars have been erected, petrol storage tanks
and pumps installed, and efforts are being continued to make it thoroughly up-to-date in every respect.
Turning to the social side of Gatwick it must be said that the Surrey Aero Club is unique. One of the principal attractions is the club’s quarters. This consists of a magnificent 16th century manor house which remains in a remarkable state of preservation with its old oak beams and quaint floors and windows.
At the same time the premises have been fitted up with every modern convenience, while sleeping accommodation is available, and a well-equipped bar is included.
The house is surrounded by well-kept gardens in conjunction with lawns and an orchard. Additional attractions are to be found in a nine-hole golf course on the east side of the aerodrome, hard courts, and a swimming pool, which is now in course of construction. The efficiency and thoroughness with which the social side of the club has been thus treated has been carried through the whole organisation at Gatwick. On the aerodrome there is a keenness which is very pleasing to meet, and proof that this is of practical form is to be found in the fact that although Home Counties Aircraft Services, Ltd., only started at Gatwick at the end of last summer, 16 pupils have already successfully passed their “A ” Licence tests, while all but four of the ” B” licence pilots turned out during 1930 were “Gatwick-trained.” There is hangar accommodation for six aeroplanes and a number of private lock-up hangars are now being erected. Aeroplanes belonging to three pri vate ;owners
a r t there. .There is a large stock of new and second hand Moth spares, and o,v .e rh a ul work of engines and aircraft is done by fully qualified Ground Engineers. During a certain period the concern is prepared to offer free housing and servicing for one year, to all purchasers of new aeroplanes. Plying tu
ition is in the hands of Mr. R. B. Waters, managing director of the Company, and Flying Officer L. van Oppen, both of whom have had a wide experience as instructors on 504 Avros and D.H. “Moths.” The course of training does not comprise merely the ordinary sort of flying necessary for the gaining of the ” A ” licence, but embraces Aerial Navigation, Meteorology, Rigging and Engines, and the methods used are carefully systemized and based on Service procedure, so that anyone desirous of doing so, and with the necessary ability may qualify for the Commercial Pilot’s or “B certificate.
It is not surprising that Gatwick, as it becomes more and more widely known, is steadily gaining in popularity as a venue and place of call for owner-pilots and others whose interests are centred on the sport of flying. Certainly the welcome which one receives there is an encouragement for one to call again.
There are three forms of membership available in the Surrey Aero Club—flying membership (for those who wish to have full use of the organisation’s aircraft for tuition or to fly themselves), associate flying membership (for owners of aeroplanes who are afforded service and housing facilities) and non-flying members (for those who do not, for the time being, wish to aviate, but who are interested in flying. The annual subscriptions are as follow :—Flying member subscription, £5 5s. ; associate member, £3 3s. ; non-flying member, £2 2s. The entry fee in each case is gl is. A”repeat order ” has been received by The de Havilland Aircraft Company for the supply of two further Puss Moth cabin aeroplanes to Mr. Thomas Bata, “the uncrowned shoe-king of Europe,” who virtually owns the town of Zlin, Czecho-Slovakia, where his gigantic factory turns: out 100,000 pairs of boots and:shoes every day. Until last year, Mr. Bata operated a fleet of out-of-date German
machines, which he now proposes to replace entirely with British aircraft. His two new Puss Moths are to be provided with navigation lighting and flare equipment, which suggests that night flying is to be indulged in to enable his executives to cover his big market.
Mr.aBata’s heart is very much in civil flying, and he states that his.:own use of the fast and economical type of ‘plane is doing much to encourage private ownership.