A Brief History
There is a fascinating history behind the birth of The Scottish Aero Club which came into existence in 1956 following the merger of two existing flying clubs: The Scottish Flying Club and The Strathtay Aero Club.
The Scottish Flying Club was established on 3rd November 1927. It is understood that the flying club resulted from meetings between five flying enthusiasts; Mr Donaldson an ex-RAF pilot, Mr A Dunlop ex-RAF personnel, Mr B R Millar ex-RNAS, Mr H Smith ex-RAF, and Mr G C Walker ex-RFC. The flying club was located at Moorpark near the current site of Glasgow’s International Airport. The site had been the location of an airfield since 1915.
The Strathtay Aero Club officially came into existence on 29 May 1936. It was the brainchild of three Dundee men, each of whom had also been a member of the RFC or the RAF. They were R A (Bob) Henderson, E A (Ernest) Powrie and W C (Willie) Carver. The location of their airfield was a little more complicated. They surveyed some eighteen areas before being given a tip-off that a new airfield was being constructed at Scone, Perth by Perth Council. The site, originally called Newlands, eventually became the location for the Strathtay Aero Club.
1956 the two clubs merged as a result The Scottish Aero Club came into existence. Today with over 350 members from all over Scotland, the Club is the centre for general aviation in Scotland. It has two tarmac runways and one grass runway which form a triangle meaning there are few times wind direction causes a problem.
To understand more of the history, you may wish to read James Allan’s book ‘Wings Over Scotland, A History of the Scottish Aero Club, The First 75 Years 1927 – 2002’. The book can be purchased from the Club House. Call or email us for more information.
In addition to the Aero Club, Perth Aerodrome has a surprising and very interesting history, a fraction of which is below.
Perth Municipal Aerodrome
First established in 1936 by Perth City Council, the Aerodrome was opened by the then Secretary of State for Air, Viscount Swinton, who expressed the view that Scotland would have “been incomplete without Perth Aerodrome”.
At the time, Perth was known as the centre for transport in Scotland, it, therefore, made perfect sense that an aerodrome should be located there. Perth Council established the aerodrome to encourage the development of civil aviation in Scotland. Its central location and excellent transport links made it the perfect site. Consequently, everything was done to ensure that it was one of the safest and best-equipped airfields in the country. The aerodrome was consequently fitted with the latest equipment including a direction-finding tower and wireless communication equipment.
It might be hard to believe now but regular commercial flights operated from Perth by North Eastern Airways to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Newcastle, Doncaster, Leeds and London.
Due to the lack of ‘wireless’ at Edinburgh, passengers were advised that they may find themselves in Perth if the aircraft was unable to land at Edinburgh due to adverse weather conditions. Perth Aerodrome really was state-of-the-art in those days.
The image ‘Scotland by Air’ is an advert from a then-local travel agent, D. L. Edwards.
A publication by Perth Aerodrome dated 1939, contains a foreword from the then Lord Provost, Robert Nimmo, JP, who wrote the following:
“The Town Council has been anxious to do everything possible to encourage the development of private flying. It therefore gave them great pleasure to make arrangements with Strathtay Aero Club for the establishment of a Flying Club with its headquarters at Perth Municipal Aerodrome.
With the exception of the War years when private flying at Perth was suspended, Perth Aerodrome has been in continual use by private fliers. The central site make it a perfect location for those flying in to make the most of the airfield’s excellent facilities and it’s position as ‘gateway’ to Scotland. The Club has continued to thrive and presently has around 350 members from all over Scotland, the hangar houses some 90 aircraft. Flying in Scotland is spectacular and on a good day, the line of cars heading to the airfield is probably noticeable from space!
From the beginnings of flying at Perth when the club’s aircraft consisted firstly of a B.A. Swallow 2, followed by two de Havilland Gypsy Moth aircraft to today where there is a range of just about every aircraft available, Perth has continued to be an important centre for flying in Scotland.
Private pilot training has been an important feature at Perth throughout its history and is now continued by Alba Airsports who train private pilots using the Club’s three aircraft, as set out in the Learn to Fly and Aircraft Hire pages. Alba Airsports also train pilots to fly Gyrocopters independently of the Scottish Aeroclub. To find out more visit their website HERE.
An interesting note to pilot training at Perth is that the very first female flying instructor in Scotland, and the second in the whole of the UK, Margaret Cunnison, was Strathtay Aero Club’s chief flying instructor in the years before WWII.
Margaret’s interest in flying began when she won lessons with the Scottish Flying Club after entering a competition in the Evening News. She gained her A-Licence in Scotland then travelled to Lympne, Kent, where she obtained her B-Licence. Once qualified, she became the second woman in Scotland to gain a commercial pilot’s licence. In 1940 Margaret Cunnison joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) with seven other women. The ATA flew new, repaired and damaged military aircraft between factories, assembly plants, transatlantic delivery points, maintenance units (MUs) scrapyards and active service squadrons and airfields throughout WWII. As such, they were invaluable to the war effort.
Flight Training at Perth
Alongside the training of ‘hobby and business’ pilots at the Aerodrome, commercial flight training schools have been in operation. The first being Airwork Limited who began operating in 1936 with a class of 33 trainee pilots. The School was called No 11 Elementary and Reserve Flying School. Airwork also began training navigators at Perth through No 7 Civil Air Navigation Schools (CANS).
At the outbreak of WWII, Airworks became No 11 Elementary Flying Training and CANS became No 7 Air Observers and Navigators School both part of 51 Group of the Reserve Command of the RAF. Pilots continued to be trained throughout WWII. At the end of the War, the Airworks name was reinstated and resumed training.
Around 1946, a decision by the Ministry of Civil Aviation that Errol, also in Perthshire should become the airport for Perth and Dundee, Perth Council sold the Perth Aerodrome and its outbuildings to Airworks who continued to provide training at the site until 1960 when it acquired Air Services Training (AST). AST, which was then based at Hamble in Hampshire, its staff and pupils all moved to Perth where they continued training. AST became known as Britain’s Air University and trained commercial pilots from all over the world. During the 1960 and 70s, around 120 – 150 pilots would be training at Perth alongside around 300 – 400 engineers.
World War II at Perth
Throughout WWII, pilots and navigators were trained at Perth, Airwork was renamed No 11 Elementary Flying Training School who flew de Havilland DH82A Tiger Moths.
No 6 Anti-Aircraft Cooperation Unit was active on the site from 1940, 44 Maintenance Unit based at Edzell, Angus, were using the hangars at Perth for the storage of non-operational aircraft, part No 309 Polish Fighter Reconnaissance Squadron used Perth for essential training, consisting mostly of night flying, No 5 Flying Instructors School also operated out of Perth and, as WWII neared its end, (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit courses were run at Perth and were designed to acclimatise pilots trained in Canada, Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe, the USA and elsewhere to the vagaries of flying in the British weather.