In the beginning


What in later years would be called 'air-mindedness' was sweeping the nation in the early 1930's. Alan Cobham and his Flying Circus were making regular stops at towns around the UK.
Small airfields were springing up in all directions, not all of them particularly suitable for the task required and most being what would nowadays be called 'farm-strips'.
Chilworth Aerodrome was one such field, situated along what is now the north side of Junction 8 of the M40 and being no longer than 500m in any one direction.
Having run the airfield for a few months John Coxon started looking for a new site for a better airfield, one which would allow him to take advantage of the new mood and expand into bigger things.

Being the largest town in the area he approached the Aylebury District Council and proposed a new airfield on land that was available just outside the small village of Haddenham. Getting some encouragement he proposed the name Aylesbury Airport and formed a new company with the same name to acquire the land from a Mr R.T. Green.

Bounded on the west side by the Great Western Railway, to the north by the Aylesbury to Thame road and to the south by the small village of Haddenham, the area purchased consisted of numerous fields amounting to about 80 acres in all.

Looking north-west this photo taken in 1936 from 2000ft shows the proposed area of the new Aylesbury Airport.
Note the small size of the village.

John Coxon's plans were very comprehensive and Hunters of Chester started work straight away to clear hedges and level the ground as best as possible. The plans included a control tower, hangars and even floodlights for night flying. Another idea was for an aircraft factory to be built next to the railway line and have it's own stop (almost exactly where the modern railway station is now).




With large hangars, a proper control tower and other 'modern' amenities, Aylesbury Airport would have been a major feature in the local area. It certainly would have been the largest civilian airfield for some distance.

However all did not go as planned and Mr Coxon's grand ideas went unfinished. I can only presume a lack of money halted proceedings and it is certain that he expected some funds to come from Aylesbury District Council. So, in 1937 with no licence applied for from the Ministry of Aviation, the land was put up for sale.
The land lay fallow for a year and was never actually used as an airfield, although local aircraft, including RAF machines, were known to make dummy approaches. The resident of Yolsum House, Col. Sedgwick, situated on the edge of the airfield complained on several occasions to local authorities about the noise.

The Civil Air Guard Scheme was a Government initiative to help increase the number of trained pilots in Britain at a time when there were increasing tensions on mainland Europe and the likelihood of war was growing every day. By 1939 there were 22,000 people on the waiting list in the London area alone, all looking to learn to fly.
Good friends Thomas Cholmondeley Tapper and Dennis Fox decided to take advantage of the Scheme by setting up their own Civil Air Guard School on their own airfield so they began looking for some land. Dennis was the pilot and Thomas would look after the engineering side.
(Thomas Cholmondeley Tapper had been a well-known and fairly successful amateur racing driver in the early '30's driving a Bugatti at various venues around Europe. He authored a book 'Amateur Racing Driver' chronicling his exploits).
It didn't take the friends long to find the abandoned land at Haddenham and so they proceeded to buy. A further 23 acres was purchased from Mr. T.P. Roberts to make a total of 141 acres.
The Bucks & North London Flying Club was set up to run the airfield and it was hoped to charge 5 shillings an hour for instruction - a total of 10 hours being the average to gain an  'A' licence.
In an article in the Bucks Herald for 18th August 1939, Thomas Cholmondely Tapper said "The Haddenham Aerodrome will fill up the gap in the aerodrome ring round London. There is at present nothing much between London and Oxford".


The first order of business was to order six Piper Cub’s to start the training with. The version chosen was the J-4 Cub Coupe which had two seats side-by-side instead of the more familiar tandem arrangement of the famous J-3. The Cub’s were chosen in favour of the obvious types from the De Havilland stable such as the Gypsy Moth because they were much cheaper to buy and run and also had an enclosed cockpit, the latter being in the forefront of the mind of any instructor working in the British climate!
The land purchase was finally completed early in 1939 but it was to be some time before things could get going, in fact Thomas Cholmondeley Tapper spent the early part of 1939 in the Alps as part of the British Ski Team. CTF Aviation was incorporated on 1st June 1939 with the intention of opening in September/October 1939.
The first Cub was put on the British register on 28th of August 1939 and was hangared in a small building situated on the north side of the airfield, just about where John Coxon's Control Tower would have been. There were three more waiting at Hanworth to be collected.
G-AFXS was one of 24 J-4’s delivered to Britain that year, however certain events on the Continent were conspiring against CTF Aviation and so very little flying was done.

All civilian flying was 'officially' stopped in Britain on August 31st 1939 and the airfield was requisitioned by the Air Ministry in November.

Dennis Fox, being a member of the Volunteer Reserve, was called up and went into Bomber Command. Thomas Cholmondeley Tapper went into the Air Transport Auxiliary. (See the chapter on Airtech Ltd for more information on their wartime service).

For those interested in the aircraft themselves, G-AFXS was impressed soon after war broke out and went to Larkhill on Salisbury Plain in 1941 to the first Air Observation Post unit namely ‘D’ Flight. After an accident in December 1942 it was transferred to No 10 Group Communications Flight based at RAF Bolt Head in Devon where on the 19th October 1943 it was blown over on landing. After it had been to Taylorcrafts at Leicester for repair it languished at No 5 Maintenance Unit for the rest of the war.
It did not return to CTF in 1945 but had a couple of British owners until in 1953 it was sold to Soren Berner & Co. in Finland and registered OH-CPF. It ended its days on 2nd November 1956 when it crashed at Vampula killing its two occupants


In The Beginning




Glider Training




Ferry Pilots


Closing Down


Airtech Ltd


Motorcycle Racing


Arms Smuggling etc


Upward Bound

Acknowledgements, Bibliography, Links, Files Etc


©Copyright Peter Chamberlain, 2009, 2010, 2011