In operation for just under a century, Hucknall Aerodrome was an airbase which had just as much importance to our country as it did to aviation enthusiasts in Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands.
It played a vital function in both World Wars, from its founding in 1916 during World War I, when it was a base for the No. 15 Training Depot of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and their fleet of Curtiss Jenny JN-4 fighter bi-planes.
Several RAF Squadrons were formed at Hucknall from 1918 onwards, and at one point during WWI it was also a detachment and aircraft repair base for the USAAF. It lay dormant again at the end of that war, being handed back to a local farmer by the Air Ministry.
Said same farmer, George Elkington, agreed to the opening of the Nottingham Aero Club on the northerly quarter of the airbase in 1926. It became the finishing point for the King’s Cup Air Race in 1927, and under the RAF it underwent a period of upgrade and expansion work in this time.
It became known as RAF Hucknall from the spring of 1928 onwards, which was home to the No. 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron, operating a number of Avro bomber aeroplanes. During the 1930s, they hosted an annual Empire Air Day, where the resident squadrons gave aerobatic and air attack displays for the public.
With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, these were halted, and under the Army Home Defence Scheme, all planes and airfield buildings were ordered to be camouflaged or upgraded to help with the Battle of Britain effort.
A wooden flight hut and several Stanton air-raid shelters were installed around this time, with the Royal Air Force Regiment becoming the primary defence here from 1940 onwards. At Christmas of that same year, a visiting Dutch pilot - who claimed to be Captain van Lott, force landed on RAF Hucknall in a Wellington bomber.
He stated that he was a member of a special squadron and needed to borrow an aircraft in order to return to his base at RAF Dyce near Aberdeen in Scotland. He subsequently turned out to actually be Franz von Werra, an escaped convict from the prisoner of war camp at Swanick in Derbyshire.
RAF’s presence continued with numerous squadrons until long after the end of the war in 1945, finally vacating the premises in 1957. Once they left, Rolls Royce, who had used the airbase as a flight testing ground on and off from the 1930s onwards, took up the large bulk of the aerodrome’s activities.
They were still in operation there until as recently as 2007. In 1962, the Merlin Flying Club was founded at Hucknall Aerodrome, which bought the arrival of civil aviation and pleasure flights, with numerous aircraft including Cessnas, Bristols and Hawkers all having their home on site.
Airshows every June and August were a regular attraction on the Aerodrome, which were run by the flying club, and from 2010 onwards the RAF even returned on an annual basis for a public open day every September run by the 1803 (Hucknall) Squadron of the Air Training Corps.
Flying Days and Experiences Near Hucknall Aerodrome
Following a planning application to the local council in 2013, Hucknall Aerodrome closed for good to make way for a housing and industrial estate in 2015. The Merlin Flying Club have subsequently moved to Tatenhill Airfield in Staffordshire.
There are, however, still some fantastic venues on offer in the East Midlands to book our range of flying days and experiences from here on FlyDays.
This includes Sheffield Aero Club in South Yorkshire, and Humberside Airport and Wickenby Aerodrome in Lincolnshire. Head to our dedicated East Midlands page to view all of our available FlyDays venues and experiences in this region.