Bristol Aero Club flies out to its new home near Cirencester after Filton Airfield closure
A FLYING club formed almost 20 years ago so employees at Filton Airfield could take to the skies has moved to a new home.
Bristol Aero Club, formed in 1994 and run by volunteers, has moved 30 miles north east to Cotswold Airport in Cirencester since the closure of the Filton Airfield in December.
On December 21, employees and club members witnessed for the last time aircraft taking off from the historic airfield. Among the last to depart were two – G-BBXW and G-BASJ – operated by Bristol Aero Club.
At its peak the club had 130 members and three aircraft which operated seven days a week.
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One success story to come out of the club was in 1997 when teenage waiter John Pearce became one of the youngest qualified pilots in Britain.
The 17-year-old from Sea Mills trained in Piper Cherokees and other single-engined planes.
As well as training Filton Airfield employees the club expanded its membership by accepting Associate Members and is affiliated to BAWA (Bristol Aerospace Welfare Association). It also accepts students awarded with flying scholarships by Airbus and those awarded by Flying Scholarships for Disabled People.
The decision to close the airfield at weekends hindered the club's progress before the news of the airfield's closure came as the final body blow.
Membership Secretary John Ferguson, from Henleaze, worked at Filton Airfield for 45 years and was a founding member of the club.
He said: "On that final day there was about 30 of us and it was very sad. We had several planes coming in because people wanted to fly in to Filton on the last day it was operational.
"Quite a few of us were in tears to be honest – it was a big body blow."
Now the club has moved to Cirencester Mr Ferguson said it was inevitable members would be lost but it was hoped new ones would join.
"For some of our members it will be too far and we will definitely lose some who are local to Filton but we hope we will gain some new members from the new area," he said.
"We hope to retain around 60 per cent and will of course be still taking members from Airbus and Rolls Royce. Although it has been a dreadful body blow losing Filton, one of the advantages of Cirencester is that it is open seven days a week."
The club offers members the chance to learn to fly and hire aircraft on a non-profit basis. Visit www.bristolaeroclub.co.uk.