RINGWAY STORIES (2)
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MEMORIES OF RINGWAY by John Moore
I am now 69 years old, in the 1950s I use to get through the fencing and play in the bullet ridden bombers and Fairey Gannets. I wish I would have been able to photograph this .
I use to sit in the turrets where they use to shoot the guns and also the main pilot chair, this now seems have been a privilege to do.
Ringway Airport has been my life from the being a child. I have lived near it since I saw the first jet plane come, an Air France Caravelle.
I also saw the first major accident when the Viscount crashed on Shadowmoss road, lived at number 43.
In later years I worked on Manchester Airport, for 44 years.
The airport is still evolving and I have so many memories.
SIXTIES MEMORIES by David Doolin
I came across your site some days ago when browsing the web and it brought back a lot of memories. I think I must have become interested in aviation around 1962/3 and spent most of my spare time (and some that shouldn't have been spare - especially at weekends when school homework should have been done!) up at the airport. I was 'tickled ' by Martin Lewsby's recollection of the entrance gate to the terraces and squeezing through the turnstiles feet first. I recall that very well. I remember it mainly at the single turnstile at the top of the stairs leading from the concourse - which was not manned by airport staff. It was possible at the main gate, near the bus stop where there were multiple turnstiles, but not if anyone was in the office at the side of the turnstiles. I also recall a period where a hack saw blade, preferably with the teeth ground off, pushed in to the coin slot activated the mechanism and let you through - just as if a coin had had been used.
Martin Leusby mentions LAAS. If I recall, that was the London Amateur Aviation Society, I don't recall many people I knew at the time that were members - it being London based. However we started something that was named MADAG - The Manchester and District Aviation Group, or was that MADAAG - the extra A being for Amateur(?). We used to run trips and if Martin went on those, or any others, to Biggin and Farnborough, then we must have travelled together.
There was also a scout hut standing in the grounds amongst the approach lights to 24. On your site there's a mention of a Geoff Ball whom I recall quite well from that period. There was also Gerald Ratcliff, who became a good friend.
At this time, Northern Executive Aviation used to sell pleasure flights on a Sunday afternoon in their, then only aircraft, Cherokee G-ARVS. Then Airviews also tried it with their Auster G-AGXN.
The most memorable machine I ever saw - and it's still the best thing ever built - was a Lockheed Super Constellation / L-1049G that I saw one evening arrive on to the International pier. I think it was operated by Aviaco /Iberia - at least I think it was Spanish. It was the most beautiful thing ever. Memories!!
RINGWAY SPECTRES II by 'A former employee'
1): The airman who wandered around Pier A in the vacinity of Gate 45 in the early hours, frightening the security staff, supposedly a chap who was killed on the parachute training tower during WW2. We often went down there in the early hours to try and spot him, but to no avail. The area upstairs in the pier, however, would often be icy cold. Odd, you walked from normal temperature into a freezing patch and back out the other side. People who did see him only saw his top half. Folklore had it that this was because was on a different level above ground during WW2.
2): There was also the farmer who haunted the ground floor of the Tower block. It had previously been his land and he didn't seem to realise that it was now an airport! There was often a strange sound like breathing close behind you as you walked down the corridors in the Tower block late at night.
3): Two catering truck drivers also had an eerie experience one night at the far end of Central road where the BA cargo hangar finished and the ACS catering building started (early-80s). It was the early hours and dark. They had loaded up at ACS ready to deliver to the first of the morning departures. The driver waited in his cab whilst his mate nipped to an outside loo at the far end of the BA Cargo hangar. When he came back to the cab, the driver asked him who was the guy in the flying jacket who went in behind him. The other guy said nobody was in there apart from him, the place was deserted. The driver had clearly seen an airman in WW2 flying jacket walk into the gents, just after his colleague had gone in.
4): One of the Laker Airways DC-10s was supposedly haunted too. The cockpit call bell would go off when the aircraft was on the ground with nobody in there, this used to absolutely spook the engineers!
RINGWAY SPECTRES by Jim Wakefield
Your readers may like the true story about the "ghost" with whom we shared Building 205. This building, and others, housed many R.A.F.pilots during World War ll, one of whom suffered something akin to shell shock and shot himself around 11.00 one morning. At that time thereafter each day, the place where he met his demise was freezing cold for around ten minutes, even when the ambient temperature was high, then returned to normal. A strange phenomenon, but I am assured it is a factual story.
RINGWAY IN THE 1950s by Tom Bancroft
Here's my rather hazy photo of the fighters outside the original Fairey Aviation hangar which stood in the north-west corner of Ringway, close to where the Romper pub is situated
In the 50s, another big draw at Ringway were the USAF Sabre jets based on the Styal Road side of the field as well as a couple of De Havilland Vampires and the odd Gloster Meteor. These were buzzing around all day on pilot training exercises. A fantastic free display as they did circuits and bumps, then climbed steeply and did various loops, rolls and steep dives. Wouldn't be allowed over a populated area nowadays, but this was just a few years after the war and aircraft and airmen were still regarded as heroes, so much more was tolerated. There was also a lot less aircraft in the skies in those days.
TWILIGHT OF THE TWINS by David McCartney
It may seem totally inconceivable when observing the present, soulless, commercial success of Manchester International Airport, that as late as 1969, traditional British built
wood-plywood-fabric constructed monoplanes and biplanes were still, occasionally, welcome visitors to Ringway Airport. Here is a story of two of the final arrivals of traditionally built British twin
engined designs that imparted their characterful presence upon the Ringway scene, before the impending, total dominance of mass produced, aluminium, American and European light aircraft
As a boy aged eleven years I was introduced by my next-door neighbour, Peter Kingsley, to the wonderful spectacle that was Ringway Airport, nobody called it by the pretentious name of Manchester International Airport. Having purchased my obligatory copy of Taylor’s Civil Aircraft Markings, I settled down into the highly satisfying hobby of aircraft spotting in March 1968, making a daily pilgrimage to the viewing terraces whenever weekends and school holidays permitted.
I immediately became aware of a complex of black hangars situated on the opposite side of the airfield to the main airport terminal. These hangers were called the “South Side”, more officially described as hangar 522, where most of Ringway’s general and light aviation was conducted. Ferranti’s Herons G-ASCX and G-APMV, plus Bell Jet Ranger G-AVSN would usually be parked outside in front of the hangar, in the company of Cessna 210 G-ATMP, Beech Travel Air G-ASZC and G-ATRC, Twin Comanches G-ASSP and G-ATWR. Other inmates, such as Bruce Martin’s Auster J/5P Autocar G-AOBV and the exotic Czech built L-200A Morava G-ASFD revealed themselves occasionally, but some stayed permanently hidden within the dark confines of 522, rarest of all being the elusive and mysterious Bensen B.7 Gyrocopter G-ASME.
On Saturday 4 May 1968 I did not attend Ringway, but Peter Kingsley arrived home from the airport with a report of a strange looking aircraft, registered G-AJOJ, that had landed early in the afternoon, and rather than visiting hangar 522, had disappeared somewhere amongst a complex of hangars situated further along the South side of the airport.
I arrived at Ringway Airport on Sunday morning. After making many fruitless enquiries I was eventually informed of a structure called “The Agencies Hangar” which was less well known and rarely visited by spotters. The Agencies Hangar had no security, but required the strenuous efforts of a five mile bicycle ride to reach its location. It looked as though a long journey would have to be endured to satisfy my curiosity !
Setting off from the airport terminal I travelled down Outwood Lane, bearing left into Thorley Lane, bearing further left into Hasty Lane, then turning left into Yewtree Lane, (which has since been totally obliterated by airport expansion,) right at the next junction into Pinfold Lane until I came to a cross roads where “The Romper” public house was situated. As “The Romper” came into view, one observed many camouflaged wartime hangars on the left and an overgrown wasteland of derelict concreted areas of ex-military hard standing on the right. ( All these structures have now disappeared, replaced by the sprawling Cargo Village and Western Maintenance Areas, although “The Romper” still remains steadfast against change.) Having reached this rural pub crossroads I turned left on what was then regarded as the main Wilmslow Road,(now existing as a totally bypassed rural lane, leading to the Aviation Viewing Park) with instructions to proceed 100 yards and look for a pair of large double gates that would enable access to the airport complex. (Approximately where hangar 4 of the present Western Maintenance Area is situated.)
As advised the gates were wide open with a total absence of security, allowing free access to the airside hangar complex! I cycled between the large black hangars, following instructions to look inside hangars situated to the left, only one of which contained aircraft, the remainder being disused. I was in luck, the doors of the active hangar were wide open, and from memory housed about five aircraft, all of which were parked neatly in a single line.
Parked nearest the door was a 1947 vintage Miles M.65 Gemini, the first example of a wooden-plywood-fabric constructed aircraft I had observed. Until this moment I had not realised that it was possible to build aircraft of such materials. This very individual looking early post-war, twin engined aircraft was painted a beautiful overall shade of red in colour, contrasted by a cream coloured cheat line running the complete length of her sleek plywood covered fuselage. The registration was displayed on her two tails, neatly framed between two cream stripes bearing the identity G-AJOJ. Her owner, Roger Pursey, had purchased the Gemini on 3 November 1952 and based OJ at Shoreham Airport for the following 16 years. Her flight from Shoreham Airport to Ringway Airport, arriving the previous day at 15.05, had covered some 270 miles at a cruising speed of 135 miles per hour; equating to a two hour flight, quite an achievement for a twenty one year old aircraft, using pre-war, 1937 designed, Cirrus Minor engines. (Bearing in mind that by 1968 the majority of produced examples of this marque had already been burnt and broken up in the totally unwarranted “glue scares” of the mid 1960’s when many perfectly sound Miles airframes were needlessly destroyed.) I departed from the hangar late on Sunday morning and cycled home. Due to my immaturity, I had failed to realise that I had observed a rare and amazing example of classic British aeronautical design. Had I waited another two hours I would have witnessed the starting of this aircraft and its subsequent return flight to Shoreham, duly departing Ringway airport at 13.35 on Sunday 5 May 1968. Sadly, this flight was to bear witness as the final arrival and departure of a Miles Gemini from Ringway airport.
I returned on a second occasion to the “Agencies Hangar” visiting one day in the week of 5th to 10th August 1968 to observe the penultimate, truly commercial visit of a De Havilland 89A Dragon Rapide, G-AHXW. I was truly amazed at the beauty of this twin engined, traditionally constructed wooden-plywood-fabric biplane, the first biplane that I had seen. The graceful design of the Rapide impressed me deeply, painted gloss black all over, with a white lightning stripe from nose to tail, incorporating the registration, boldly painted in large white letters. Her neatly cowled, six cylinder Gipsy Queen engines and trousered undercarriage, outwardly tapered wings and square section fuselage represented perfect symmetry of aeronautical design. The Rapide, although officially owned by Fairey Surveys, had been leased to another aerial survey company, namely GRM Developments, located in Worcestershire. Later, full title of ownership was to was to be transferred to their subsidiary company “Precise Surveys” on 27 July 1970. G-AHXW made a final return visit on 22 May 1969 for the purposes of aerially surveying the Romiley area of Stockport, representing the final purely commercial operation into Ringway airport of this type. (In the interest of accuracy the final Rapide flight into Ringway Airport, by G-AKOE, occurred on 1 November 1979, but I personally regard this as a British Airways publicity exercise and therefore, strictly not a truly commercial operation!)
In conclusion this was my last visit the Agencies Hangar and it is presumed that this facility finally lapsed into disuse in the early 1970’s.
Sadly the fates were not kind to Gemini G-AJOJ. The flight into Ringway may have possibly been one of the last conducted by her owner Roger Pursey, who sadly withdrew the aircraft from use on 7 September 1968. New owners Mr G. Pearce and Mr J. D’Arcy purchased the Gemini on 30 October 1968, however, her new owners displayed disgracefully scant regard for her welfare. Sadly G-AJOJ shared the fate of most Miles airframes in the mid to late 1960’s, finally suffering the ignominy of being broken up and burnt at Ford Airfield in October 1970. There is, however, a curious epitaph to this tragic story, revealed when the author visited the storage area of the Ulster Folk &Transport Museum, located at Holywood, N. Ireland, on 11 March 2005. Inside the facility, were stored, dismembered, a Miles Gemini and Messenger, together with a huge pile of cannibalised airframe spares. Amongst this jumbled mass of wreckage sat a familiar red double tail section, deep red in colour, with the registration G-AJOJ neatly framed within two cream stripes, representing the only surviving remains salvaged from the fire at Ford. I stared at this pathetic remnant of a once proud aircraft, inescapably my thoughts automatically drifted back to a May day in 1968, understandably these memories were bitter sweet !
A better fate lay in store for G-AHXW. By 1971 she resided at Booker Airfield, repainted to her initial full military RAF specification, displaying serial number NR683. Personal Plane Services subsequently completed a full overhaul of her airframe prior to her sale in the United States Of America as N683DH on 16 March 1971. I conducted a search of the FAA database on 26 June 2013, and am pleased to report that the Rapide is still currently airworthy and registered to James Bowers of Moraga, California. Further searches of the internet revealed numerous colour photographs of the Rapide in immaculate condition, restored to her civilian guise as G-AHXW, operating in these marks under the auspices of a registration exemption certificate.
Memories of Airviews by Ian McLaren
I started my long career in aviation at the tender age of 11 by helping Bruce Martin with his various Auster and DH Rapide aircraft; also he had a Fox Moth. I rustled up 5s.0d for a 15 minute pleasure flight in G-AOBV one Saturday afternoon. He had no assistance at that time and was losing potential customers by having to alternate between flying and selling tickets. So being neatly turned out and still with an unbroken voice, he asked me to sit in the kiosk and sell tickets while he concentrated on the flying. He then gave me a free flight as his last of the day, including student flying like I later had in the ATC, demonstrating effect of controls, etc. He then asked me to turn up on the Sunday morning and do the same again for the whole day. From that day on I had a free flying lesson every day, taking control over Styal Forest, outside of controlled airspace, going on to study the PPL syllabus in all examination areas, which I then taught to ATC cadets.
Sadly no photos of my own, although I went on to work for Bruce in his photo lab and flew in a Dragon Rapide on aerial photography assignments. I went on to join the RAF, then later the Royal Saudi Air Force (going from 100 kts.,to 1000 kts in Lightning Mk.53). I'm now in the process of building an SSDM Ultralight initially using a Honda C-50 engine, with a VNE of 50 kts!! and 2.5 litres/hr. So even at 68, I'm actively involved in the aviation sector.
The C-97 Stratocruiser at Ringway by Michael Blank
This photo, taken on Thursday 29th January 1974, shows one of the most exciting moments of my five years plane spotting from 1971-1976 which I still recall clearly today. Its a shot, albeit distant, of Israeli Air Force C-97 Stratocrusier 4X-FPN on the second of its two ILS approaches to Manchester that afternoon. I took it from Schools Hill in Cheadle and is distant because in those days (I was sixteen when I took the photo) I did have an SLR camera, let alone a zoom lens, although my parents had actually given me my first decent (viewfinder, a Ricoh 500) camera in late 1973, for my 16th birthday.
Anyway, I'm pretty sure I must have heard them call up Mnachester approach, realised this was something very special indeed (I had never seen either a C-97 or Stratocruiser, or an IAF aircraft), got its registration on the first approach; then, realising it was going to do another one, I had time to run out of my parents' house, onto Schools Hill, with my camera, and capture this photo as it came in again.
The C-97/Stratocruiser was an extremely rare type to visit Manchester, details of all visits as follows:
USAF C-97 1224 'Oklahoma ANG' (Sunday 10 September 1961)
USAF C-97 92589 'Oklahoma ANG' (Sunday 10 September 1961)
ISRAELI AF C-97 4X-FPY overshot @ 1130 en-route to Mildenhall (Tuesday 28 November 1972)
As it happens, this magnificent aircraft survives today, in preservation at the IAF Museum at Hatzerim AFB in Israel and I had the great pleasure of meeting up with the C-97 again, some thirty-four years after shooting it in the air, when, in March 2008, I visited the IAF Museum. Indeed, one of the main reasons I made the long trek out to Israel, was to see this fabulous aircraft again.
School lessons under the approach to Runway 24 by Richard Caville
In 1963, I entered the First Year at Moseley Hall Grammar School for Boys in Cheadle and while I can’t quite remember if I had already started getting interested in aircraft, I was soon to be caught up in a fascination with airliners, airlines & airports that has lasted 50 years!
The Village Hotel now stands on the site of the school – an old mock Elizabethan mansion house which housed the main offices, library, Headmasters office, staffroom and a few classrooms, while the rest of the school sprawled across several blocks of brick huts which were used by the Fire Service during the war. Sited amongst them was the “Quad” (or the playground – maybe it was the old parade ground!) as it was known, along with sundry other classrooms. Lying directly under the approach to runway 24 our lessons were regularly interrupted by the delights of the propliners of the day and the arrival of the new jets. The First Year block had probably the best view and there was always a scramble for the window desks! We moved from room to room for different lessons, and the view of planes from other classrooms was mixed so one had to make a beeline for best desks!
Obviously it was relatively quiet in those days and the regular flights were mainly BEA, BOAC, Cambrian, British United, Dan Air, Derby Airways/British Midland, Aer Lingus, Sabena and KLM – excuse the lack of chronology but I can't remember when various mergers and name changes took place! The delights of Carvairs (both BUA and Aer Lingus) Bristol 170’s, Danair Ambassadors, Cambrian DC3s, Sabena Convairs, Balair DC6s were among the regulars. I remember the first Trident to visit, G-ARPE i think, though i seem to remember it took off over the school from 06.
However, over time the charter flights gradually increased, and then there the diversions from London....magic to young lads who had never travelled very far from home. In that first winter my dad took me up to the airport one evening to see the several Pan Am flights that had arrived during the day, and it was a delight to see them still lined up along the International Pier!
Every winter day when we heard there was fog in London we waited in anticipation to see what might turn up – sometimes just a few British, then again it might be an East African or MEA Comet, Qantas 707s, though more often than not, European airlines. Memory evades me of what other goodies appeared ! Whether it was a divert or a charter, again I can’t remember, but one lunchtime I borrowed (without permission!) someones bike from the bike sheds to nip up to the airport with a friend as something special had landed. When we got back I was summoned to see the deputy head (I had unwittingly picked a prefect’s bike) and though I was threatened - probably with the cane - i never heard another word! It might have been that day when we saw and spoke to singers Dusty Springfield and Julie Felix who had diverted in.
Another incident was when I was skiving off from sports afternoon and waiting at the bus stop with the same friend and SE-CFE, a TorAir C46 came rumbling in. PE lessons outside in the quad or on the fields near Ladybrook were welcome as it meant we didn’t miss other special & unexpected rarities – like VP-YYR a Rhodesian Air Services DC4. Over the next few years we enjoyed the burgeoning (for the 60’s) charter market with SAM (Italy) DC6s, Sterling DC6s then Caravelles, Spantax DC7s and Coronados, Adria Airways DC6s and Aviogenex TU134s, though the latter often came in on Sundays. Both Alitalia & Iberia announced new services so we eagerly awaited the DC9s (or was it Caravelles?!) each day! (Initially Caravelles but both airlines did upgrade to DC9s - Ed)
Often spending Saturdays on the terraces we used to evade the one shilling entrance fee (both for the main terraces and each of the piers) and climb through the bars of the turnstiles....I don’t think we were ever caught out! However one time I was collecting my bike from the public car park and found I had a flat tyre, a policeman came over and accused me of nicking my own bike! In those days there was respect for the cops, though I was mad as a hatter at his bolshieness! The early radios had come out and Shorrocks was the most popular make, but was quite pricey at £36 for a youngster, though some schoolfriends had them - £599 at 2013 prices!! So it was a new thrilling experience to listen not only to the tower but also look out for flyovers – we used to write off to airlines with the dates, flight numbers etc and they would post back with the registrations – Air Canada DC8s, Loftleidir CL-44s and many others on Amber One, Red Three or Blue One airways which were the main routes. Fortunately the US charter flights used their registrations as their call-signs! We could even phone up the airport offices of the airline or Servisair agents and be given the registrations – a regular occurrence after Swissair started their evening flights.
One Sunday morning in June 1967 I was having extra tuition for my GCE O level exams and news came through of a crash – a Canadair C4 had come down in the middle of Stockport, killing 72. That was one event which I did not go to see.
The school had a thriving Aviation Enthusiasts Club with regular coach trips, slide & film shows and talks – one time i think we had a BOAC VC10 pilot who had once been a pupil. In 1964 I was able to go on my first trip to Heathrow & the Biggin Hill Air Fair. Most of the excursions used to leave at midnight, have a breakfast stopover at the Watford Gap Blue Boar services on the M1, and arrive at Heathrow at 6am before going on to the next airfield or show on our itinerary. A quick dash round the outside of the terminals to log the aircraft already in, then up to the small roof garden on Terminal 2 – it was too early for the Queen’s Building terraces to be open – and there waited for the Pan Am “Bongs” (as we called them), DC8s and other early arrivals.
After that first trip came regular excursions – Heathrow & Gatwick; sometimes smaller airfields combined with LHR & LGW; a Luton visit gave us a trio of Canadair Northstar DC4s of Overseas Airlines – probably stored after the airlines collapse. Also there was a Spanish Bristol 170. Another trip we had was to Rearsby and a tour of the Beagle production line, then Leicester East and Sywell airfields. As I write I lament over the demise of so many British companies!
In 1965, my family moved from Bramhall to Woodford, and from my bedroom window I could see the AVRO production hangars across a field and the back garden! When the hangars were opened, sometimes at night, it was time to dash across to the path that ran the length of the fence and view the 748s and Nimrods. So i usually saw the Philippine, Varig and Chilean examples before my friends saw them do touch and go’s at Ringway! One time we sneaked through a hole in the fence but were caught by the hangar doors and frogmarched out through the main gates. Dont think our parents were even notified – security was a lot more laid back in those days! By the late 60’s Vulcans, Victors & Valiants were stored across the airfield as they were taken out of service.
One of the last memories of school and aircraft was the annual 6th form trip to London for 4 days – we stayed at a hostel and the Saturday was always a free day. As several of us planned to have a day at Heathrow we wanted to be there for the early arrivals. So 2 of us hatched a cunning plan – we forged a letter from our dads to get permission to stay at the (non existant) house of a relative in London, when in reality we spent the night at the airport.....it worked and I don’t think they ever found out!
In 1970 we left school & moved on to University or work. I left home for Southampton and a career as a cartographer. The passion for airliners has stayed with me and the 70s saw many more trips – hitchhiking up to Heathrow & Gatwick for the weekend, meeting friends & sleeping in Terminal One; several visits to the Paris Air Show, including a 10 day jaunt, sleeping all but one night at Orly Airport along with many other enthusiasts, using the long-gone lockers to store our clothes and changing in the toilets! In those days access to the local airfields was still allowed, and on that trip some of us were appalled to find two of the lads had cut out and stolen a registration in fabric from a light aircraft, so we composed an apologetic letter and returned it to the airfield to show that most enthusiasts still had respect for property.
In 1974 a friend and I did an air-coach holiday to Italy in an Invicta Vanguard to Milan, down to Rome for 3 days, two of which we spent visiting Fiumicino & Ciampino – at the former we were surrounded by the police & taken down to the “cop shop” and our identities checked! Next stop was Naples and then return home from Genoa. Before getting married and taking on a family I had two more main trips – saving up for a five week tour of the USA in 1978, using the TWA Air Pass from New York to the West Coast and points in between. Miami was the best, though after walking the length of the runway and the hangar areas I found that I had put the wrong film setting on the camera, but it was too hot to do it all again, so lost some of the pictures! At Washington National I was spotting from the Exec Jet terminal when a pilot started talking to me and he took me out to his Allegheny Commuter Nord 262 – when I came out of the cockpit the passengers were already on! But after 4 weeks on my own I was glad to get back to the UK. Athens was the next holiday in 1982, staying at the Emmantina Hotel complete with bar & pool on the roof garden. Great position under approach! But now another new airport and another viewing area redundant!
Fifty years on from those early days at school, Ringway remains the best place to watch and take photos – it is such a shame that Heathrow & Gatwick have never provided new viewing areas, killing off the family days out which so many enjoyed back in the 60s & 70s. Oh, for the good old days when access was allowed to airfields and hangars! The world may have have gotten smaller but its a lot less friendly. And i must admit, a lot less exciting with mainly Boeings and Airbuses around and not the variety of types now that the propliners and Russian aircraft are disappearing. But airliners and airports still hold my fascination!