Hurn Airport (1945 – 1994)

With the end of the second world war looming, and with a new, larger, airport to replace the smaller airfield that had been used as Bournemouth Airport in the prewar years, the former RAF Hurn was now in a position to become the region’s dominant airport. With BOAC opening a base there in 1944 Hurn became the hub for all international travel in the UK until Heathrow opened in 1946.

In January 1944 BOAC a development unit at Hurn Airport, and by October when it was officially passed into the hands of the Ministry of Civil Aviation Hurn quickly became established as the main hub of international air travel in the UK. Hurn Airport actually became the only international airport in the UK in the immediate postwar period.

 

This period in the history of Hurn Airport, although brief, was vital to the future success as it cemented Bournemouth’s reputation for being a focal airport.

 

By 1949 most major international airlines had departed for Heathrow, then called London Airport, and 1949 also saw the departure of BOAC. BSAA continued to serve Hurn until 1950.

 

Hurn Airport 1948
Viscount Bournemouth

Fate, again, came to the rescue of Bournemouth Airport and with the departure of BOAC in 1949 Vickers established a base at Hurn and commenced production of Vickers Varsities.

 

This was followed by Vickers Viscounts, and later (under the ownership of BAC) the 1-11.

 

Total production of these three types of aircraft at Bournemouth numbered 146 Varsities, 279 Viscounts and 222 1-11’s.

 

Bournemouth quickly became renowned for aircraft production, and amongst the aircraft production a series of development also took place including some design work on the ill fated TSR2, and component manufacture for Concorde, the Panavia Tornado and Shorts Skyvan.

 

With De Havilland still occupying the ex RAF Christchurch airport 5 miles to the south, it is no surprise that Christchurch had become seen as one of the main centres of aircraft production in the UK.

Whilst the aircraft production at Bournemouth Airport had been a huge success, it had come at the expense of passenger aircraft. In the intervening two decades only a few smaller airlines served Bournemouth, until being sold to Bournemouth Corporation and Dorset County Council on the 1st April 1969.

 

This partnership continued to run Bournemouth Airport (and laterly Bournemouth International Airport) until 1995. One of the aims of the new partnership was to redevelop Hurn Airport as a commercial airport rather than industrial, and in 1980 it started to operate as a base for some charter airlines when European Aviation started to serve flights from it.

 

Perhaps it was forethought, perhaps it was luck, but the rise in charter operations almost coincided with the loss of one of Hurn Airport’s largest companies. The closure of the BAe factory at Bournemouth Airport in 1984 was the beginning of the end for the aircraft manufacturing that had kept Bournemouth Airport solvent. Cobham PLC was still a large company in the airport, as well as it’s subsidiary Flight Refuelling.

Hurn Airport
BAe 146 Bournemouth Airport

1993 saw some luck for Hurn Airport when it received its first regular air service since 1950. European Aviation Air Charter had had a base at Bournemouth since 1989 leasing BAC 1-11’s to various airlines for use as charter aircraft, but in 1993 EAC purchased 20 additional 1-11’s and used Bournemouth as its hub.

 

Palmair, who had operated charter flights from Bournemouth since 1958, formed a new airline (Palmair Flightline) and commenced operations with BAe 146 aircraft. Palmair had previously leased aircraft for the purpose.

With regular flights slowly trickling back into Hurn Airport, it changed ownership once again and was sold to the National Express Group in 1995.