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Nostalgia Thread

TheLocalYokel

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Gliders and Motor Racing

At the end of World War 2 the RAF pulled out and the site was given over to the Bristol Gliding Club. In 1948 and 1949 the Bristol Motorcycle and Light Car Club hosted race meetings, mainly sports car events but Formula III races were also held. The events attracted several thousand spectators and the racing circuit was along the main runway and taxiways.

The first aircraft to land

In September 1940 No 10 Elementary Flying Training School at RAF Weston-super-Mare established a Relief Landing Ground at Broadfield Down near the hamlet of Lulsgate Bottom, south of Bristol. Some defensive measures such as pillboxes and anti aircraft assets were put in but little more.

RAF Fighter Command then set up an experimental unit and in June 1941 George Wimpey and Company was contracted to construct the airfield with a main runway length of 1,200 metres (3,900 feet) which was extended to the current length in 1963. Within a month, and six months before the RAF base became operational, the field had received its first visiting aircraft - and what a shock to all involved.

At 6.20 on 24 July 1941 a Luftwaffe Junkers 88 bomber (its primary function though it was a versatile type) was returning from a raid at Birkenhead with the crew looking forward to breakfast at their base in northern France. Somehow the crew became lost (some reports say they were deliberately misled by British radio signals), assumed the Bristol Channel was the English Channel and swooped down to what they believed was a friendly airfield.

The contractor's workmen (early starts in those wartime days it seems) acted quickly and placed a vehicle across the partly constructed runway to prevent the JU 88 taking off. The aircraft captain drew a revolver and threatened the workmen but quickly thought better of it when he spied a party of soldiers based at the site to guard it approaching him armed with sub-machine guns.

The crew was taken into captivity and the British boffins had a brand new and modified JU 88 to play with. News was not made public until after the war in order not to alert the Germans of the capture of one of their latest aircraft though rumours abounded around the local villages.

Bristol Airport's predilection towards low cloud and thick encourages many people to believe the RAF deliberately chose the site in order that pilots could become thoroughly skilled in flying in such weather. I've never been able to find any confirmation of this and I believe it to be a myth.

Tragedy

On 10 April 1973 a party of 139 travellers, mainly local women, set out from BRS, or Lulsgate Airport as most people thought of it then, on a day trip to Basle in Switzerland.

The aircraft was a Vickers Vanguard of Invicta Airlines with a crew of six. The approach to Basle took place in poor weather and the two pilots misidentified two radio beacons and therefore based their approach on the wrong one with the catastrophic consequence of a collision with a snowy hillside.

108 people were killed and 55 children were left motherless as a result.

Questions were raised as to the competency of one of the pilots who had previously been suspended from the Canadian Air Force for lack of ability, and had failed his UK instrument flying rating eight times. The Swiss enquiry blamed the pilots for the accident though some believe they may have been lured into a false path by ghost beacon transmissions caused by electric power lines.

In several local churches in villages around Bristol Airport rows of graves can be found containing the remains of women with the same date of death. They are poignant reminders of that dreadful day.

Complete closure of the airport

During the winter of 2006/2007 the airport management embarked upon a multi-million pound runway resurfacing programme. The airport remained open during the day and the work was carried out at night.

The Christmas and New year period coincided with high winds and torrential rain. The airport maintained the work was done in accordance with CAA regulations but several landing incidents, including two passenger aircraft skidding off the runway, caused by surface water building up on insufficiently grooved parts of the runway led to some airlines moving operations to other airports, mainly Cardiff, from Friday 5 January 2007. Two days later the management took the decision to close the airport for a day whilst remedial work was carried out to improve aircraft braking action. The closure attracted much national and international coverage.

The subsequent AAIB report highlighted technical faults with the runway surface, and operational problems with the airlines and the airport operator.
 

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Aviador

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Whatever happened to Air Bristol?

Here's a picture taken at Bristol's sister airport up here in Leeds back in 1996

Air Bristol BAC 1-11 by White Heather hosted on Forums4airports.com
 
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The airline went into administration in 1999 with the last flight to nice in France from there London base, the CEO of the airline went onto late form a new low cost airline called fly Europa.

[ Post made via Android ]
 

TheLocalYokel

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Air Bristol had become AB Airlines before it eventually ceased to exist.

It never operated services at BRS though there was a BAC 1-11 based at Filton that operated the airline industry shuttles to Toulouse and the like, currently operated by bmiRegional.

Incidentally, it is believed that when the Filton runway closes at the end of this year the shuttle flights will be switched to BRS with a new carrier.
 

TheLocalYokel

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Charter Airlines

There was a time not so long ago when airports such as Bristol relied heavily on charter services for their passenger numbers.

With the coming of the low cost airlines the number of charter flights has decreased significantly at many UK regional airports with the likes of easyJet, Ryanair and Jet2 flying to what used to be the sole domain of the charter airlines.

As recently as 2005 BRS had around 115 weekly charter rotations in summer with 23 on Saturdays alone.

The charter scene was certainly of great interest to enthusiasts as a myriad of airlines, many of them non-UK, was used.

I've looked back over the past 30 years at BRS and have come up with this list of airlines that once operated regular charter services into the airport that no longer fly into BRS, or have been absorbed into other airlines or have simply disappeared. The list is certainly not a complete one. In no particular order:

Airworld
Flying Colours
JMC Air
Tyrolean
British European
Inter European
Palmair
UK Leisure
All Leisure
Oasis
Air Columbus
Sunway
Air Liberte
Nouvel Air
Azzuria
Islandsflug
Pegasus
Onur
Sun Express
Freebird
Transavia
Futura
Air Europe
Air Europa
Spanair
LTE
Iberworld
Iberia
Aviaco
Hispania
Helios
Aegean
Axon
Cronus
Aero Lloyd
MyTravel
Airtours
Britannia
Orion
Euro Cypria
European Aviation
Air 2000
Canada 3000
First Choice
Royal Air
Odyssey International
Karthago
Astraeus
Sun Adria
Nordic Air Link
XL
Viking
British Island
Dan Air
Airways International Cymru
Paramount
Koral Blue
JAT
Inex-Adria
Hamburg International

As said earlier this is not a definitive list and I welcome any airlines left out.

Currently having a senior moment because I can't remember the third main airline from the former Yugoslavia that operated to UK airports in the 1980s along with JAT and Inex-Adria.
 

Aviador

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Hi TheLocalYokel!

I think you will find it was Aviogenex :hatsoff:


Aviogenex Boeing 737-200 by White Heather, hosted on Forums4airports.com


Aviogenex Boeing 727-200 by White Heather, hosted on Forums4airports.com
 

TheLocalYokel

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As recently as 2005 BRS had around 115 weekly charter rotations in summer with 23 on Saturdays alone.
It's a bit quiet at the moment so I looked back at summer Saturdays in 2004 and found the following (25) charter flights arriving at BRS at the times shown.

0230 Islandsflug B 734 Corfu
0300 Britannia B 757 Ibiza
0310 First Choice A 321* Corfu
0630 MyTravel A 320 Dalaman
0730 First Choice A 321* Heraklion
0810 Futura B 734 Majorca
0955 Eurocypria B 738 Paphos
1240 Britannia B 757 Menorca
1305 MyTravel A 320 Majorca
1330 First Choice A 321* Majorca
1420 First Choice A 321* Majorca
1440 KLM Cityhopper F 100 Pisa
1615 Islandsflug B 734 Rhodes
1725 Karthago B 733 Monastir
1730 Balkan A 320 Bourgas
1825 Excel B 738 Verona
1900 Spanair A 320 Majorca
1910 SN Brussels ARJ 85 Split
1955 MyTravel A 320 Alicante
2015 Britannia B 757 Malaga
2025 British Midland E 145** Olbia
2035 First Choice A 321* Alicante
2120 European Aviation B 732 Majorca
2130 First Choice A 321* Faro
2130 KLM Cityhopper F 100 Salzburg

* probably A 321 - around this time First Choice switched to B 757s at BRS

** route was due to be operated by Duo with CRJ 200 aircraft but it went out of business on 1 May that year. The first Olbia flight was operated by Flybe with a Dash 8-400, thereafter the route alternated between British Midland E 145s and OLT Saab 2000s, using the Filton-based machine before OLT services to Germany from Bristol were switched to BRS.

In peak summer 2012 there were 12 charter arrivals on Saturdays, viz,

Thomson - Antalya, Majorca (2), Reus, Verona, Ibiza
Thomas Cook - Bodrum, Corfu, Palma, Dalaman
Balkan - Burgas
Austrian - Innsbruck

By 2004 easyJet was beginning to make its mark at BRS on traditional charter summer sun routes (Ryanair only had a Dublin route then) with double daily routes to Alicante and Malaga every day of the week, together with daily flights to both Faro and Majorca (double daily to both on Saturdays).

In 2004, BRS handled 4.6 million passengers compared with the 5.9 million in 2012.
 

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Spotters paradise I see with the list of airlines using the airport back then. I bet the number of airlines using the airport now has halved compared to what used the airport back in 2004.
 

TheLocalYokel

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Spotters paradise I see with the list of airlines using the airport back then. I bet the number of airlines using the airport now has halved compared to what used the airport back in 2004.
Indeed! The list above related only to Saturdays.

On other days in the week in summer 2004 weekly charters were also flown (often more than one rotation each week) by:

Pegasus B 737-800
Sun Express B 737-800
Air Europa B 737-800
Astraeus B 737-700
Freebird MD 83
Iberworld A 320
LTE A 320

LTE might have been Volar in 2004 but it returned to the LTE name not long afterwards.
 

TheLocalYokel

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Paramount Airways

It's a wet 'summer's day' here in the land of those who like to crunch carrots and there is not much much new to report about the region's major airport so my thoughts took me back to one of my favourite airlines: Paramount Airways - not the Indian one that also no longer exists.

Paramount commenced operations in the spring of 1987 and was the first UK airline to operate the MD 83, despite a claim by some that British Island Airways holds that distinction.

Paramount's main operational base was at Bristol Lulsgate (BRS) and the airline began with two MD 83 aircraft: G-PATA and G-PATB. Paramount was the first UK airline to be completely non-smoking - at that time all other airlines had smoking sections on board and the tobacco smell would often permeate to parts of the non-smoking sections, not to mention the recycled air finding its way into the lungs of all passengers on board.

Paramount did not just pay lip service to its policy either because there were no tobacco products in its onboard duty-free sales. I have no idea whether the owners of the airline were confirmed non-smokers.

In 1988 two more MD 83s (PATC and PATD) joined the fleet with one based at BHX and the other split between BHS and NCL.

At one point in its short life Paramount took over Amber Air with two Boeing 737-200 aircraft although only one was retained and later based at MAN. Later a Boeing 737-300 was leased to work mainly from NCL. A Boeing 727 was also leased from American Trans Air and based at LGW.

Whilst the Boeings were being added one of the MD 83s was returned to the lessor.

High summer 1989 saw serious trading issues at the airline come into public focus. Administrators were appointed and decided to let the airline continue operating until the end of that summer season. It ceased to operate at the end of October that year and all aircraft were returned to their lessors.

The company was finally wound up in 1995 after lengthy legal battles with ex-employees over pension benefits and unpaid wages.

Although the main airports used were BRS, BHX, MAN, LGW, NCL and BFS the airline also operated holiday charters from other airports such as EXT. During one winter one of the MD 83s found its way to BA for their shuttle flights.

I flew with Paramount on six occasions (three return flights) between 1987 and 1989 on inclusive tour holidays to Minorca, Tenerife and Ibiza. I believe the flights were on behalf of Intasun, a major holiday company of that time and part of the International Leusire Group (ILG) that also owned Air Europe.

As an aside, I was flying back from Palma with Thomson and their airline Britannia the day in March 1991 that ILG collapsed and can remember seeing numerous stranded ILG customers at the airport desperately trying to get home to the UK.

I enjoyed Paramount Airways. The cabin crews were exceptionally friendly and seemed to want to do the job. I remember that on one return trip the captain stood at the front of the cabin with a microphone and described the forthcomign flight from there instead of from the relative anonymity of the flight deck. I'm not sure how possible that would be these days.

My last trip with Paramount was to Ibiza in mid-October 1989, about a week before the airline ceased to operate. I can't remember being concerned prior to the flight. Perhaps in those non-Internet days (for the majority of people anyway) we weren't quite so aware of the day-to-day nitty gritty of the aviation world.
 

TheLocalYokel

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I came across this Internet blog written over 12 years ago - always interesting to have a look back at a look forward.

[textarea]Airport On The Hill

In England's West Country there is an airport where the number of passengers has increased tenfold over the past 18 years. Yet that airport is on the 'wrong' side of the city that it serves, being away from the main railway lines and motorways; it has a short, undulating runway that cannot cope with trans-Atlantic flights; it is on a constricted site; transport links are poor; it sits atop a 200 metre hill that is notorious for thick mists and fog; there is an operational airfield across the city, situated on a massive site, with a long runway, next to motorways and railways which is not allowed to be used for regular passenger flights; the nearest rival airport has benefited from substantial European and National Government monetary grants over the years yet has been left trailing in the wake of the airport on the hill.

How has this phenomenal growth against adversity occurred? Over twenty years ago a new airport manager by the name of Les Wilson arrived from Luton Airport. Les had incredible enthusiasm, numerous important contacts both in the media and air industry, and a nose for publicity. If anything happened concerning his airport Les made sure that people knew about it. Despite working under the constraints of local authority ownership Les built up the airport almost single-handedly. Tragically, he was killed in a road accident in the mid 1990s. By then the airport was on a roll and shortly afterwards passed into private ownership, first to First Group plc and then to a Spanish/Australian consortium who are the current owners.

3 million passengers are expected to travel through the airport in 2002. A measure of its stature is the fact that Go decided to set up its second operational base there after Stansted, in the face of much competition from other airports.

Furthermore, the airport has more weekly ski flights (15) than any UK airport except, Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester; more even that Stansted, Birmingham, Glasgow and Luton.

Passengers numbers are increasing in the face of the general worldwide slowdown in air travel.

The only danger to further progress is that the airport might get ahead of itself. A brand new, state of the art, terminal was opened two years ago but, such has been the progress even in that short time, it already requires expansion. A category 3 'blind landing' system has been installed but many of the aircraft using the airport are not yet equipped with complementary equipment. The weather might continue to frustrate at times. The main runway requires lengthening - 6,600 feet is not long enough. The current management is hard working but somehow lacks the killer instinct when it comes to finding that last ounce of publicity. An example is the recently revamped web site which still lags behind local rival airports in the provision of latest news about airport events.

Despite these cautionary warnings I feel strongly that the airport will continue on its meteoric rise.

Oh yes, where is the airport on the hill?

Bristol![/textarea]
 

TheLocalYokel

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Earlier today superking posted the below comment in response to a picture of the old BRS terminal featured with a current news media story about the airport.

the picture of the old terminal. brings back many thoughyts when it used to sit upstairs and look out over the apron. cant do that with new terminal. it was a cheap afternoon out with always lots going on and it was cheap as well. even car parking then cheap. how things have moved on sinse then.must stop now as will go on for hours.
one more thing now rail line open at dawlish as well. as localyokal said 14 years about to get to cornwall is good going.
If he or anyone else wants to remember life in the old terminal please feel free to do so here.

I've been using BRS as a passenger for nigh on 40 years from the time when the annual passenger throughput was no more than 250,000 a year. Flying was much more relaxed in those days, free of much of the red tape and security issues that now bedevil travelling by air.

The old terminal had an outside first floor balcony next to the waiting room that overlooked the apron where people used to gather in largish numbers, particularly at weekends, to shout their farewells to friends or relatives walking out to the aircraft, or be the first to welcome those returning from exotic trips abroad (well, Palma was so regarded by most people then).

It's perhaps hard for some people now to believe that the majority of British people had never flown in the 70s and into the 80s. Even at a tiny airport that Bristol was then there was a magic about it and those who weren't flying, and probably never had at the time, wanted a sort of vicarious piece of the action.

I used to think that pre-war Croydon Airport must have been a bit like the BRS of the 70s and early 80s with people shouting and waving to the passengers joining the afternoon flight to ............wherever it was going: probably a Costa because there weren't many flights at all.

Sometime in the early 80s BRS was able to boast the George Maggs lounge, named after the councillor who was a one-time chairman of the airport committee. It was really little more than a cafe.

The old terminal building and old control tower are still in situ. The terminal is now an admin block and I've had the privilege and pleasure to have been inside in recent years. It's much the same as it aways was with the stairs leading to first floor passageways looking down onto the open ground floor where we passengers used to check in.

When the final phase of the huge airport expansion plans finally become reality the old terminal block will be demolished to make way for more aircraft stands and walkways.

I've many pleasant memories of the place...............................
 

superking

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Before the new terminal was open the airport did a series of tours round the new terminal all behind the scenes, and was shown everything. it was a very good tour with the guide explaining every thing that was asked.it was a good insight as to what was going to happen and also thigs that they were hoping to happen.
One of the big issues he kept on about was low cost airlines starting routes, which he said would compliment the services and routes they already ran.
On a side notei used to like to hear les wilson and roger bennett on a thursday morning telling us about any thing unusal that was planned, it sure misses things like that now because it feels like getting any thing happening now or in the future is top secret. perhaps the 30 year rule kicks in with it now.Bit of a waffle but it sure likes to share things like this.
 

TheLocalYokel

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I too went on a tour of the new terminal before it opened in March 2000 and, like you, found it an extremely interesting experience.

Without Les Wilson's appearance as managing director at the airport in the very early 1980s there might not be a Bristol Airport at all now. It was city council-owned at that time of course and was a significant cost to rate payers. A growing voice within the council wanted it closed altogether. The Port of Bristol, also city council-owned then, was a similar burden on the rates. What a contrast in both facilities now that they are privately owned (the port is actually on a 150-year lease from the city council but it's privately run) with both Avonmouth/Royal Portbury and BRS being two of the most successful examples of their type in the country.

Back to Les and I'm still not sure whether his appointment was a stroke of genius by a council not normally associated with that word or a last desperate throw of the dice. He quickly became known as Mr Bristol Airport and relentlessly pushed the case for 'his' airport locally, nationally and internationally. He had a penchant for the sound bite - I don't know if that term had even been coined then - and I remember one day in the early 1990s when he announced to the local press that Bristol had carried more passengers in the year just ended than Cardiff and Exeter combined. It's now over three times as many.

Cardiff was always thought by many in the West Country to be much the busier airport although it had last carried more passenger than Bristol in 1986 and was never much ahead in terms of passenger numbers at any time. Even now some local people to whom I speak who have no direct interest in aviation assume that Cardiff is busier than Bristol in 2014.

Even with all his optimism for the airport Les would not have believed that six million would be passing through by 2008. I have some publications issued by the airport in 1993 saying how important a new terminal would be; it would be vital if the airport was to double its 1 mppa of 1992 to around 2 mppa ten years' hence. 2003 actually saw nearly 4 mppa but no-one had visualised the impact that the low-cost airline revolution would make to airports like BRS; not even Les.

Tragically, Les was killed in a road accident in 1995 and never saw the real fruits of his early hard work.

The late Roger Bennett was a superb local journalist, local radio broadcaster and jazz band clarinetist and saxophonist who learned to fly at BRS in his later years. Unlike the current crop of local radio presenters in Bristol he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the local area.

There was a time when the local BBC radio stations were allowed to organise trips abroad for their listeners. I remember one momentous occasion when they took a party to Israel and the El Al Boeing 767 for Tel Aviv attracted scores of people to Winters Lane at the west end of the airport on a rainy bank holiday Monday 27 May 1985 to witness the arrival of the first ever El Al flight into BRS - and so far as I'm aware the only one except for the return flight the following week.
 

TheLocalYokel

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Aurigny

Just been reading about some unusual movements in the LBA Nostalgia thread and it reminded me of the day (and I believe it may have happened more than once) when Aurigny must have had some sort of problem with the usual ATR 72 and replaced it on the GCI-BRS service with two BN Trislanders.

What the passengers made of it I can't imagine.

I used to visit Guernsey and Trislanders flying over the island was a frequent sight. I always thought that from the ground looking up their silhouette bore an uncanny resemblance to the German V1 'Doodlebugs', and the engine noise wasn't a million miles away from the sound of the German flying bombs either.
 

superking

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they only operated into the lulsgate site on diversions. they did the airbus shuttle from Filton. they also did boh to either gla or edi on schedule route.
the only regular route from brs was around Christmas time when Filton airport was closed till the new year.
they operated bac 111 aircraft on long term from a based airline at boh.they took most of the 111 from ba. they also operated b747 that were based in Filton.if memory is working right it was European aviation. perhaps someone can confirm this. but the air Bristol fleet was 1 aircraft.
this is all posted from memory
 
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There's this one on YouTube. First 50 seconds deals with Whitchurch but thereafter it's Lulsgate with some brief internal shots of the old terminal. I think this video was playing on a continuous loop at the airport a year or two ago. There was certainly something similar in the arrivals part of the terminal, landside.


There is also this one of a Britannia B 737-200 at Lulsgate in 1981- see link below.

Brings back memories. We used Britannia a lot from BRS in those days when our kids were young. I remember the 732s all bore names of famous Britons, mainly with an aviation connection. I recall Hon CS Rolls, Sir Henry Royce, Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, Sir John Alcock, Sir Frederick Handley Page, Viscount Trenchard, Lord Brabazon of Tara, Sir Thomas Sopwith, Earl Montgomery of Alamein, Ernest Shackleton, George Stephenson, Florence Nightingale, Jean Batten, Amy Johnson and, intriguingly, The O'Neil Hereditary Kings of Ulster.

Although I've never been a collector of aircraft registration numbers I did record the names of the 732s we flew on in my cine notes of the trips. We flew on all the above, some more than once.

My wife and I also flew on another Florence Nightingale in the 1990s, an MD-11 of KLM.

Great video, not having live in Bristol all my life its interesting to see the history of Bristol Airport and also Whitchurch Airport.
 

TheLocalYokel

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they only operated into the lulsgate site on diversions. they did the airbus shuttle from Filton. they also did boh to either gla or edi on schedule route.
the only regular route from brs was around Christmas time when Filton airport was closed till the new year.
they operated bac 111 aircraft on long term from a based airline at boh.they took most of the 111 from ba. they also operated b747 that were based in Filton.if memory is working right it was European aviation. perhaps someone can confirm this. but the air Bristol fleet was 1 aircraft.
this is all posted from memory
Many thanks for that superking. I live on the south-eastern edge of Bristol and remember seeing the Air Bristol 1-11 overhead coming in from Toulouse on the corporate shuttle to Filton's westerly runway on many occasions.

Great video, not having live in Bristol all my life its interesting to see the history of Bristol Airport and also Whitchurch Airport.
BRS has changed considerably even since the opening of the new terminal in 2000 as can be seen from the video. I noted the airport was referred to as Lulsgate Aerodrome when it was opened in 1957. In the 1950s I lived just along the A38 at Redhill and recall the gliding club that operated there prior to its becoming Bristol's airport.

At that time my parents had friends who resided in a flat over a shop at Filwood Broadway, Knowle West, and another memory is looking across at Whitchurch Airport from there to watch the few aircraft that used that airfield.
 

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