Airport History Airplane Logo

An aerial view of the airfield in 1941

The site was first used as an aerodrome in the late 1930’s. From the mid-sixties, the airfield was best known as the home of CSE Aviation and the Oxford Air Training School (now Oxford Aviation Academy), one of the world’s most successful professional pilot training establishments having trained well over 18,000 airline pilots for more than 80 airlines over the last 40 years.

Although originally conceived as Oxford’s ‘Municipal Airport’, with the onset of the war the airport turned to training thousands of RAF pilots. In the mid-forties there were a greater number of hangars and buildings than can be seen today with 15 acres of the original land having been sold off in the 1990s allowing the establishment of the Spires Business Park off Langford Lane. Today the airport owns some 375 acres freehold with over 335,000 sq.ft of buildings.

Oxford Airport is owned and operated by Oxford Aviation Services Limited (OASL). Since July 2007, OASL has been owned by Oxford Airport Acquisitions Limited, a subsidiary of Oxford Airport Holdings Ltd which ultimately is owned by Aldersgate Investments. Aldersgate Investments Limited is part of the Reuben Brothers Holdings and is the principle investment vehicle for both private equity and real estate transactions. The parent company has a varied portfolio of interests in property and several other diverse businesses.

Key Milestones:

  • 1932 – Editorial in the Oxford Times:
    Urged Council ‘to establish aerodrome to serve city.’ – ‘Civil aviation was developing with internal mail and air services.’ – ‘Those cities having an airport would reap direct benefits’.
  • 1933 – Council approved establishment of ‘Municipal Aerodrome’
  • 1935 – Land bought from Blenheim estate and two local farmers for £19,671
  • 1937 – Air Ministry granted 12 year lease to establish RAF Volunteer Reserve flight training school
  • 1937 – The local Cowley (Morris) factory was producing de Havilland Tiger Moths whilst also repairing damaged or crashed aircraft, including the reprocessing of wreckage of enemy Luftwaffe aircraft
  • 1938 – First Miles Magisters, Hawker Hinds and Hawker Audaxes established
  • 1939 – First Licensed for public use as Oxford (Campsfield) Civil Aerodrome though first listed as Thrupp airfield.
  • 1939 – No.2 Group Training Pool (later No. 13 Operational Training Unit) first established by the Air Ministry at Oxford
  • 1939 – Oxford Flying Club first established
  • 1940s Aerial photograph of RAF Kidlington

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    JPEG version (2.16 MB)
    1940 – No. 15 SFTS arrived from Brize Norton and had 134 Harvards and several Ansons and Oxfords based at the airport
  • 1940 – First four bombs dropped from 50ft by Junkers Ju 88 on the airfield
  • 1941 – A further (and final) 20 high explosive bombs were dropped on the airfield
  • 1941 – Lord Trenchard on visiting Kidlington in May, announced that training activity on the airfield had accumulated 6,941 flying hours in just that one month, a milestone at the time
  • 1941 – Famous aviator Amy Johnson (who flew solo in the Gypsy Moth from Croydon to Australia), disappeared on a flight from Blackpool destined for Kidlington on January 5th, ferrying an Airspeed Oxford. Believed to have crashed in the Thames estuary, neither the aircraft or Amy were ever found
  • 1941 - Sir Winston Churchill, a regular visitor to nearby Ditchley Hall during the war and born at nearby Blenheim Palace, had the Duke of Hamilton fly into Kidlington to brief him personally on the previous day's surprise arrival of a Messerschmitt Bf110 at the Duke's Scottish home. On board was the Deputy Fuhrer, Rudolf Hess, who was attempting to broker a peace deal. The wreckage of the Bf110 was briefly displayed in Oxford city, before being whisked away as a 'Top Secret'
  • 1946 – Airtraining (Oxford) Ltd, subsidiary of General Aircraft Ltd re-established after the war and merge as Universal Flying Services Limited
  • 1947 – Oxford University Air Squadron moved from Abingdon to Oxford (Kidlington)
  • 1947 – Oxford Flying Club resurrected as Oxford Aeroplane Club
  • 1949 – Scheduled services established between Oxford and Jersey for £8 return
  • 1951 – The final RAF unit at Kidlington, No.96 Maintenance Unit was disbanded
  • 1958 – An operation by Derby Aviation (now BMI Baby) flew a scheduled service from East Midlands to Oxford and on to Jersey using the Miles M60 Marathon (G-AMGW)
  • 1958 – Oxford Aeroplane Club re-established as prime operator by Goodhew Aviation
  • 1958 – Licensed hours extension granted for night operations
  • 1959 – Flights to Jersey resumed with Dakotas at £11 return fare
  • 1959 – Oxford Aviation Co. Ltd established with Rex Smith as CFI
  • 1959 – Irish Air Charter (Lord Kildare) moved from Dublin and established as Vigors Aviation Ltd. as the UK Piper distributor going on to sell 1,500 of the make in the UK
  • 1959 – The Air Ministry ceased to operate at Oxford returning airfield to full civil use
  • 1960 – Oxford Aeroplane Club concluded transition from private to professional pilot training
  • 1961 – Pressed Steel and Oxford Aviation Co. merge operations and established British Executive Air Services Limited (BEAS) selling Brantley helicopters and Beagle aircraft.
  • 1962 – First fully integrated commercial pilot’s licences and instrument rating courses began. Danny Kaye, the entertainer, was one of the first students to train for the CPL
  • 1962 – CSE Aviation founded (CSE) from former Vigors Aviation operations with Lord Kildare, Dick Hunt and Lord Waterpark as directors and owned by members of the Guinness family (Messrs Channon & Svejdar) and an American millionaire (Mr Erlanger) from whose surnames the initials CSE was derived.
  • 1963 – Oxford Air Training School founded (OAT) derived from the BEAS Flying Training Division with Rex Smith as its principal.
  • 1965 – OAT becomes the first school in the UK to be granted approval to conduct ab initio courses leading to the Commercial Pilot’s Licence and Instrument Rating
  • 1966 – Halls of residence for 140 students built at entrance to airport
  • 1967 – CSE signs 21 year lease of airport from the City Council at £7,000 pa.
  • 1967 – Oxford has the only privately operated 4-engine jet simulator in the UK
  • 1968 – Oxford was second busiest airfield in the UK with 223,270 movements after Heathrow with 247,417 movements
  • 1969 – OAT becomes first UK school to be granted approval for helicopter CPL ab initio training
  • 1971 – OAT flys over 60,000 hours training flights in one year (was up to 150,000 hours in the late 1990’s)
  • 1971 – Oxford’s CSE Aviation supplied and equipped Sheila Scott’s Piper Aztec in which she became the first pilot to fly solo over the north pole in a light aircraft having flown round the world three times, breaking over 100 records.
  • 1972 – OAT had won training contracts for 46 major airlines and government bodies representing sixty-two countries.
  • 1972 – OAT was the UK’s first educational establishment to obtain a Queens Award to Industry
  • 1975 – Asphalt runway laid over original 1097m (3,600ft) grass strip
  • 1976 – Engineering training school established
  • 1981 – The airport freehold with 577 acres was sold by the council for £1.4m to CSE Aviation Ltd.
  • 1986 – CSE Aviation Ltd was sold by the original founders to Oxford Aviation Holdings Ltd whose principle shareholder was Murray McLean, head of Robert Moss Ltd.
  • 1987 – HRH the Duchess of York became the first lady in the Royal Family to receive her PPL from Oxford
  • 1988 – Main runway lengthened to 1552m (5092ft / 0.96 miles)
  • 1989 – New operations, training and control tower building erected
  • 1990 – Airport acquired by AB Nyge Aero for under £20m
  • 1990 – Shorts 330 scheduled service established to Jersey
  • 1992 – McAlpine Helicopters are established at airport
  • 1994 – OAT pioneers the use of computer based training culminating in the award of the prestigious Flight International Aerospace Industry Award in 2002
  • 1996 – CSE Aviation becomes the first general aviation company in the UK to gain ISO 9001 quality accreditation
  • 1997 – The airfield, CSE and OAT as Oxford Aviation Services acquired by Close Brothers Group PLC for £21m
  • 2000 – Current parent – BBA Group acquired airfield, CSE and OAT as Oxford Aviation Services for £55.4m
  • 2001 – OAT established as Europe’s largest training school with over 70 aircraft and 90 instructors with over 500,000 flight hours of combined teaching experience flying over 150,000 hours a year
  • 2003 – OAT opens state-of-the-art instrument flight training centre
  • 2003 – Licensed runway length increased by 10%
  • 2004 – Airport opens dedicated business aviation terminal
  • 2004 – Oxford Airport resident, Polly Vacher MBE, completes her second round the world flight via the poles, the first woman to do so in a single engined aircraft and the first to land on all seven continents.
  • 2006 – Two new hangars built totaling 37,000 sq.ft., the first for 30 years
  • 2007 – Oxford Aviation Training launch Netjets cadet training scheme
  • 2007 – Oxford Aviation Training sold to GCAT Flight Academy for £37m
  • 2007 – Oxford Airport sold to Aldersgate Investments for £40m
  • 2007 – Polly Vacher arrives at Oxford Airport to complete her ‘Wings Around Britain’ tour to all 221 UK airports
  • 2007 – Airport completes new 1553m by 30m stronger runway
  • 2007 – Airport installs Cat 1 Instrument Landing System
  • 2008 – Airport builds new 8,000 sq.ft. executive terminal
  • 2009 – Airport builds 21,000 sq.ft. ex Easyjet 737-800 hangar
  • 2009 – Airport gains Cat 5 rescue & fire capability
  • 2009 – Jersey flights start with Air Southwest Dash-8
  • 2009 Awarded 'Best Business Airport' by Airport Operators Association
  • 2010 Airport Upgrades to Cat 6 Fire & Rescue capability (A319/737-500)
  • 2010 Largest Hangar built to date at 48,000 sq.ft.
  • 2010 Aircraft parking apron increased by 4.4 acres (17,800m2)
  • 2010 Largest aircraft lands - an Embraer Lineage (EMB-190) - 119 ft long and 55 tonnes (100 seats)
  • 2011 Runway approved as Code 3C - Take-off distances increased up to 5,223 ft
  • 2012 New primary and secondary radar installed for the first time
  • 2012 Airport's owners, Reuben Brothers, acquire the London Heliport
  • 2012 First new office block for 20 years built at entrance - 12,500 sq.ft.

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