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Airship Sheds
United Kingdom: Leavesden


Country: United Kingdom
Location:
Leavesden - Hertfordshire

Located in the northern suburbs of London, north of Watford, the site of Leavesden bounded now between the M1 and M25 motorways, Leaveden has been a home to many heavier than air companies, but it's also connected with lighter than air craft.

 

 

Ships Operated
 
 

Leavesden Aerodrome was establised shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, in 1940. It's runway being suitable for heavy bombers and aircraft hangars available.

 

 

Photo Gallery
Goodyear - 1973

The site was used by the local De Havilland company from nearby Hatfield. After the war this was later used as their gas turbine production plant, and through a series of aquistions withing the British aircraft industry, the site came under the control of Rolls Royce.

In 1973 it became temporary home to the Goodyear "Europa". The Goodyear airship had been constructed in Akron, Ohio, but flown to the UK, and assembled and inflated at Cardington.

Goodyear Euopa launching from Leavesden in 1973  
Having spent a year at Cardington, in 1973 it was decided that a base closer to London was required for promotional fligths and also coverage of sporting events and races.

Leaveden Areodrome was chosen due to it's proximity to London, and also availablity as an airfield. During June 1973, a series of promotional flights were made as part of it's European tour.

Being able to carry six passengers, the ship could often be seen over major sporting events, as she provided a stable camera platform for filming. Europa was also equipt with over 7,500 coloured light bulbs for night-time advertising and displaying messages.

The time at Leaveden was short, as there was no real infratructue for airships to be permanantly based there, however the ship used the Leaveden base for it's London tours.

There are many memories of the Goodyear Europa flying over the suburbs of north London? Do you remember seeing the ship?

Video of the Europa flying from Leaveden 1973
Airship Industries - 1986

Airship Industries had always looked to use skyships as a multi role aircraft, and that included it's evaluation as passenger transport, and were able to obtain a Civil Aviation Authority approval for licensing the Skyship 500, and later the Skyship 600 model airship, not only as flying billboards, but to offer passenger flights.

This would be a very lucrative revenue stream for the company, along with further confidence from the general public as to the safe return of airships for passenger carrying trips.

Cardington had been Airship Industries base for since the late 1970's and had been use exstensivly as the home of the airship for flight testing and developement. Promotional and advertising flights had been operated out of the Cardington base for a number of years, but now with passenger certification of the Skyship 500, a trail base nearer to London was required for sightseeing.

 

Hay being baled at the end of the summerseason at Leavesden  

Leavesdon had been pointed out as a potential base by Operations Manager, Martin Hull, who had known that Goodyear had used the airfield sight in the early 1970's for it's Europa flights over London.

A trial operation was carried out in early 1986 with the use of a Skyship 500 SK 500-02 (G-B1HN), which operated a series of short flights from Leavseden. The Skyship 500 was now the only airship in the world which was legally permitted to carry fare paying passengers.

The Skyship was flown down to Leaveden from Cardington, where a temporary portacabin reception area had been errected on the side of the airfield. A mobile mast had also been driven down to the airfield for mooring the ship.

Over flying the airfiled showing the main aircraft hangars and taxiway The planned schedule was for four 1 1/2 flights over London, on six days a week and tickets costing £100 per passenger.
   

 

A programme of flights over London's scenic landmarks took place scheduled from 23rd April to 28th June 1986.

Under the initial sponsorship of British Caledonian which had recently launched a business class chauffer service "door to door", the company's logo was emblazoned on the Skyship.

One of the prestigious passengers was the then current aviation minister, Michael Spicer, and he was joined by the then managing director Alan Birchmore, and techincal director of Airship Industries and founder Roger Munk, along with Sir Peter Masefield, the chairmand of the British Airports Authority 1965-1971, and later became president of the Airship Heritage Trust.

Celebrating the lauch of the first airship passenger service, with the first passengers. April 28th 1986

Despite the press coverage, flight attendents dressed in British Caledonia uniforms, and British Caledonian Airways sending their fifteen peice bagpiper band, , unfortunatley the first flight didn't reach central London due to adverse weather conditions of low clound and winds gusting at 20 knots. The flight was cut short and returned 45 minutes later, it was nevertheless enjoyed by all on board and a good view of the central London could be seen.

G-B1HN takes to the sikes on the first trips from Leavsden - April 1986

 

 

 

During the trial flight period, the ship was aiming to make 4 scheduled flights a day, with over 1,000 people on the waiting list. Passengers paid £100 per ticket (about £220 in 2022) and an added attraction was the opportunity to get a bird eye view of the BBC Eastenders set at nearby Elstree Studios.

Take off - the tail of the shp in British Caledonian sponsorship livery.
 

 

 

Despite the publicitiy and support, there were a few unhappy local residents and Watford Borough Council recieved fourty-five complaints about noise and invasion of privacy due to the low flying latitude of the flights.

However the local complaints didn't dampen the popularity for the Skyship flights

.Flights routed down the Lea Valley to Tower Bridge the up and down the Thames giving passengers a grandstand view of the major landmarks over the City of London and beyond.

The popularity of the trial meant that all flights were booked and the scheduled services ran till 28th June flying some 760 passengers, after which the airship was then contracted for a tour of the UK for Fuji Film.

 

The inaugural flight on 23rd April 1986 ushered in a new era with the trial of a passenger service over London
SK 500-2 was then flown back to Cardington for it's new banner and livery to be attached in Fuji Film coulour, and could be seen over cities across the country.
 
 

The trial season was only agreed with the local council as a 10 week period from Leaveden, it given the company a great experience in running a scheduled service, and the logistical requirements needed. It had shown that the confidence in the return of a passenger carrying airship for sightseeing popularity had grown, and Airship Industries ended the short season with a waiting list of passengers of some 3,500.

With this demand for flights, and with the concept of expansion, ease of public access, and less disruption to local residents from noise, Airship Industries decided to look for a more suitable base of operations, and aiming to get a larger ship, which was capable of taking more passengers, for the 1987 season, moved their operations to Radlett Areodrome.

 

The mobile mast used to moor the airship.

Did you fly from Leavesden in an airship? What was it like?

The Skycruise flights and operations were very popular and many flights were taken over London. Do you have an memories or photos you wouldl like to share and add to this page. Please contact us with details.

   

 

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