Bicester Aerodrome Company to manage historic airfield

The Bicester Aerodrome Company has been launched to manage future aviation operations at the Oxfordshire airfield. The company replaces Bicester Gliding Club – formerly Windrushers – which has moved out after failing to agree an ongoing deal.

The former RAF airfield, one of England’s oldest and best preserved, is being developed by Bicester Motion, itself a development of Bicester Heritage which created a classic car industry hub in the restored ex-RAF buildings.

“Our intention is to ensure a viable, dynamic and accessible future for our historic airfield,” said Dan Geoghegan, managing director of Bicester Motion.

“We will maintain glider and powered flight whilst aligning with Bicester Motion’s vision to sustain the operation of past, present and future aviation technology.

“RAF Bicester was a state of the art airfield in its day, and we hope to continue with that pioneering spirit firmly in mind.”

Bicester Motion
Some of the team at Bicester Motion which plans to continue aviation at the historic airfield

Bicester Motion insists the gliding club could have stayed.

“We suggested a flexible approach to allow them to remain at the airfield and build a sustainable business model. The club never entered into any formal engagement, instead making a swift and resolute decision to not take up our offer to continue its activities, which was a sad result,” said Bicester Motion in a statement.

“We are committed to maintaining flying at Bicester Motion and look forward to welcoming gliders and powered aircraft to the skies from today, now that The Bicester Aerodrome Company is in charge of air operations.”

Bicester Aerodrome
Bicester Aerodrome is the best preserved WWII bomber station left in the UK but many of its buildings were in poor state before Bicester Heritage took over. It’s now a centre of excellence for historic motoring. Photos: Bicester Motion

Bicester Heritage has transformed more than 50 historic buildings on the site, creating a centre of excellence for classic motoring with technical services, car restoration and supplies. It is also the new home of Motorsport UK, the governing body of motor sport in the UK.

The airfield dates back to 1916 when it was known as RFC Bicester, then became RAF Bicester. It is the best-preserved WWII bomber airfield of its kind in the UK.

“The aerodrome is a crucial component of the larger project that is Bicester Motion, a tourism destination that celebrates the innovation, culture, and technology surrounding mobility,” continued Geoghegan.

Bicester Motion hopes to encourage companies exploring new aviation technology, all-electric passenger flights and the use of drones, along with the more traditional forms of air travel, to use the airfield. This future would safeguard flying as part of the masterplan to regenerate the 444-acre site.

Bicester Aerodrome Company

Comments

  1. This Is not what happened to Bicester Gliding Club , The Truth is that Bicester Motions plan is to make the prefered runway ,taking off over bicester motions south gate on skimish lane , straight over the northern housing estates at 100 foot ,if you have an engine problem in a glider tug or warbird you will crash into the houses killing many bicester people.
    The longest runway runs north to south has open fields at each end. BM intend to concrete over the north half of this, In the Gliding club we have many Airline pilots who fly Gliders, a wealth of knowledge ,we objected to BM plan because it is dangerous , so BM with drew are lease,
    I have nothing personal against the BM team, I only wish they listened to are directors
    advice and let us work together to achieve their goals and allow safe Gliding at Bicester, Having been Gliding for 41 years, 10 years at Bicester ,I had a lot of respect for the airfield (i was always picking up litter) , The Heritage of Bicester is Glider Training, for the last 56 years.

  2. The article says that “Bicester Motion insists the gliding club could have stayed.”.

    Bicester Motion cancelled the lease giving the club 6 months to leave. The subsequent offer of conditions to stay was totaly unviable to maintain an active cross country & competeion comunity to support one of the laregest youth glider training clubs in the country and still be able to pay the rent. The club sent 12 under 16s solo last year and were also hosted Oxford University Gliding Club.

  3. It’s a crying shame that such a historic gliding centre has been lost. Whilst what Bicester Motion has done with the old domestic site is little short of miraculous, it had become increasingly clear that their focus is on cars, not aircraft.

    Whatever spin they try to put on it, the Bicester Motion offer to the gliding centre was not workable. If it had been, the centre would clearly still be there! Some of Bicester Motion’s recent statements have been disingenuous – one even trying to blame Covid19 for the gliding centre’s departure!

    I do hope Bicester Motion manages to create a viable GA facility. However, in the short term it will not be attractive. Many of the interesting old aircraft that were based there have now gone and there is no fuel available and no airfield cafe: so why fly in there?

  4. I think Gareth means the Technical site. The domestic site went for ‘housing development‘ years ago. I agree the Tech site refurbishment is brilliant and all their early achievements are to be applauded.

    However, I also agree that some of the anti- club bias coming out of the tech site over the past 3 months is misleading at best. Is it all fake news? Unlikely I guess. Whether it is intentional or not, I couldn’t possibly comment. Whatever, it seems the standard of spin put on their recent statements is worthy of a BlairCummings Coalition.

    As someone who was privileged to have gone through the gliding training mill at Bicester years ago (and benefited hugely from it) I am gutted that local youngsters appear to have been deprived of a realistic chance of affordable flying training. Aviation is the big loser here. Sad times.

  5. I do think this article needs the author to contact the gliding club representatives rather than JUST the Bicester Motion people, let’s have the full situation shown rather than the company who want the change to be viewed as positively as possible for them.
    As already mentioned, BM have done a fine job with the buildings but the view in this article is plain wrong and rather one sided. The plan given to the club had a tarmac track with a cut through of the airfield which removed two of the available runs.

  6. In my opinion, this article is missing most of the facts and has been written to paint Bicester Heritage, Bicester Motion, or the Bicester Aerodrome company in a much more positive light than they deserve. Over the last two to three years BH (Bicester Heritage) moved BGC (Bicester Gliding Centre) from their original home to a new, smaller, hangar on-site, whilst continuously reassuring the club that its future was secure at the site. Subsequently, the club spent a large sum of money taking a bare hangar and ancillary rooms and turning them into the required club facilities to support the operation and membership. Then, without any warning, BH terminated the clubs’ lease in December 2019 without presenting the club with any new terms or options for continued operations. In subsequent meetings, BH presented plans which BGC addressed with concerns for safety and a plan for minimal operational requirements for the club to survive whilst being able to meet the drastically increase rent BH had previously imposed on the club. With no common ground being found the club asked for an extension to allow the operation to continue past the June 30th lease end date and BH responded that this would only be possible if BGC removed it’s objections to BH’s planning applications, which the club had made on safety grounds. In final attempts to reach a common operational agreement, BH informed the club that they would simply need to book days to use the airfield like everyone else, which, when combined with the UK weather norm, was simply not a viable option for the club. This combined with the fact the BH’s plan for the field would not allow the club to operate safely, which was confirmed by an independent review of the plan, forced the club to decide to leave. Attempts were made to move the club to another airfield and unfortunately, these feel through resulting in the club, which was one of the largest junior development and university operations, closing down, moving assets and members to other clubs, and not being able to deliver flights to hundreds of customers who had brought trial lessons for themselves friends, or loved ones. BH has allowed a few individual private glider owners to remain onsite, which I guess allows them to state gliding will continue. It is clear, however, based on their documented plans for the site, that they are extremely automotive in focus, which will see large parts of the airfield developed for car usage, whilst keeping a minimal airfield component to allow visitors to fly in, or perhaps bring in aircraft for maintenance, this is my speculation of course.

  7. I started flying with Windrushers Gliding Club (WGC) 6 years ago, when I was 14. In that time, I have flown as a cadet, junior and most recently as Captain of Oxford University Gliding Club (which operated within WGC for many years). In common with many other youngsters, the club gave me unwavering support enabling affordable access and progression in flying. In fact, many of my fellow cadets went on to pursue careers in aviation precisely because of the gliding club.

    In light of the above, I find the rhetoric of ‘maintaining’ and ‘safeguarding’ flying distinctly hollow. The termination of the gliding club’s lease has left young members desperately searching for ways to continue flying within their financial means. It is clear that many will not be able to do so. The small scale, aerotow-only gliding operation envisaged by this article is completely inconsistent with the realities of gliding as a young person. So, rather than preserving aviation, the actions of Bicester Motion have severed its lifeblood, casting adrift dozens of aspiring young pilots.

    1. In reply to Francesca, Shenington Gliding Club is a CASC organisation which offers an affordable gliding membership option as part of that CASC status. We would welcome any or all of the young pilots she refers to as being cast adrift!

  8. In addition to being in complete agreement with the comments already expressed I find it rather ironic that the picture used at the beginning of the article shows a picture of a Tiger Moth takin off from Bicester Airfield as this perfectly illustrates the gliding club’s concerns over safety.

    The Moth is shown taking off from the north west run, 31. After Bicester Motion’s plan for a race track and other buildings are implemented this will be impossible and the only take-off direction remaining will be the much shorter 24/06.

    A departure on 24 involves a low climb out directly over the houses shown in the background of the picture. The significance of this will, I’m sure be apparent to the Flyer readership, yet Bicester Motion still chooses to ignore it.

    I wish Bicester Motion (or whatever they choose to call themselves these days) the best of luck in there new venture and once they return home from laughing all the way to the bank they are able to sleep soundly in their beds.

  9. Bicester Motion seem very keen to push their message that the demise of the gliding club was entirely its own fault (they’ve reiterated this on social media). But saying it over and over doesn’t make it true. BM renewed a 5 year lease, the successful and financially viable gliding club invested heavily in a facilities refurbishment, only for the lease to be terminated after a year with 6 months notice and a take-it-or-leave it “offer” of completely unworkable Ts&Cs. BM have destroyed 65 years of gliding heritage in their narrow-minded greed for a short-term gain. They were not worthy of having the word “Heritage” in their name, maybe that’s why they changed it? BM are the worst thing that could have happened to that airfield and the local residents.

  10. I, like many others, flew from Bicester in the RAFGSA time, I spent many happy weeks there relief instructing.
    We were, in general restricted to the southern half of the airfield, with power using the north and it seemed that much of the time we used 06/24. Aerotowing off 24 was character building, you always hoped that the rope would not break as the only possible crash scene was the playground of the school, you just had to hope it was lesson time. It was not a question of if you were going to crash, just where and how badly. With the advent of the Skylaunch winch if 24 was the only run we winch launched.
    Anyone with half a brain would realise how unsuitable 24 was for aerotow so you have to believe that what was done, in making 24 the only run, was deliberate and is typical of unscrupulous landlords.

  11. One of Bicester Motion’s big long-running claims was “the gliding club wants exclusive use of the airfield”

    The club has never had exclusive use, it shared the airfield with:
    The powered aircraft in the hangar
    Some microlights
    The tiger moth commercial flying group
    The fishing club for access to their pond
    The model flyers club
    The military vehicle driving experience group who drive round the peritrack
    Film companies using it for flying scenes and other things – the site is recognisable in Stardust in a horse and carriage scene, among others.
    Kite surfers (they moved to a coastal site eventually, however)
    Dog walkers – who were eventually banned by BM
    BM’s own big events – new car model launches, auctions, rallies, that sort of thing
    BM’s Sunday scrambles

    A more recent claim was that the club was struggling with Covid-19 problems making the trial flights difficult to deliver and had to close.

    Except the lease was cancelled at the end of 2019, with six months notice. Before covid-19 was properly recognised, before it even had a name, before the danger was understood.

    Then there’s BM’s “commitment to aviation” – which involves putting buildings everywhere around the airfield for car storage, manufacturers displays, building a hotel, building a track that uses the top third of the airfield and reducing the number of runways.

    And BM also says they took over a disused airfield – that will be the place where gliding has taken place since 1956, seven days a week when the weather cooperated, for the last 64 years…

    They were so rigid in their plan that when covid-19 restrictions made it tricky to get members out to the club to move equipment away, they wouldn’t extend the deadline!

    And if you criticise them on their facebook page they just delete the comments, rather than discuss things. This is one of the few places critical comments don’t get deleted. Let’s hope it stays that way.

  12. Given all of the well reasoned views here do the Flyer team think that, perhaps, a review of the article and the circumstances may be in order? Be interesting to hear from the author what his feelings about this are.

  13. I’ve noticed BH keep removing any posts from their social media that point out the realities and fact behind the move.

    One I found in particularly powerful was one gentleman who was holding them to account following the detailed aviation and gliding history that has taken place there for nearly 70 years. And his dad was the commanding officer. Even his post was removed..so much for Heritage..

    It’s all propaganda.

  14. Mario said: It’s all propaganda.

    Damn right!

    Bicester Motion is first and foremost a property development business. Its primary focus is automotive, mainly a display business open to the general public, aviation is a convenient add on.

    The gliding club takes up the prime real estate and is unable to generate the returns the touring public can provide.

    Bicester Motion’s actions and promises to the gliding club have at best been disingenuous. On the other hand they have not hidden their intentions, just google Bicester Motion/Heritage it’s all there plain to see. We can fault their motives but not their business acumen.

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