For over a century, RAF Henlow has stood proud deep in the Bedfordshire countryside, not only offering opportunities for fantastic flying days and experiences but which has also played a vital role in the defence and protection of our country over the decades.
Near the village of Henlow Camp, that was built around the airfield, and lying on the border between Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, it was first established after being chosen as an aircraft repair depot for the military towards the end of World War I in 1917.
A few years later in 1920, it became the first official parachute testing centre, in conjunction with another parachute unit that was based at RAF Northolt. Four squadrons were based at Henlow post-WWI; No. 19 Squadron RAF, No. 23 Squadron RAF, No. 43 Squadron RAF and No. 80 Squadron RAF.
Amongst those who were studying at the RAF technical college that was on site at the time was Sir Frank Whittle, who was a student here between 1932 - 1933. With the outbreak of World War II, Henlow was called upon again.
This time, a factory was established on site to assemble and build Hawker Hurricanes that were being shipped from Ontario in Canada at the Fort William Car and Foundry where they had been designed. Over 1000 of these were shipped from Canada to Henlow in total.
Interestingly, the containers that the planes were being shipped over in were also used to build the airfield’s control tower - which sadly has been replaced with a more conventional portakabin style tower, but is preserved in footage on the 1969 film The Battle of Britain.
Post-WWII, RAF Henlow was the site for the RAF Signals Engineering Establishment, which from 1980 onwards became a Radio Engineering Unit. In more recent years, it has been the base for the Joint Arms Control Implementation Group, some of the RAF’s Police division and the RAF Centre for Aviation Medicine.
Also on site is The Signals Museum, which focuses on a series of exhibitions, memorabilia and collections which chart the development of electronic communications from Henlow that were made by the RAF since World War I.
Flying near RAF Henlow Airfield
Following an announcement from the UK Defence Secretary in September 2016, RAF Henlow Airfield is now in the process of winding down operations and closing down over the next few years. Flying days and experiences have now ceased as of March 2020, and the site will close for good by 2023.
However, there are still plenty of fantastic airfields and locations within this area of the South East of England for flying days and experiences to be enjoyed and booked onto with FlyDays, including Wycombe Air Park in Buckinghamshire and Sibson Aerodrome in Cambridgeshire. Head to our dedicated South East page now to find and book your next flying experience.