Come fly with me

Come fly with me

Does the name Portlethen Airport have an attractive ring to it? The fact is that Portlethen very nearly did have its own airport or aerodrome in the 1970’s as plans were made to develop a landing strip at Haremoss, near Causeyport, to the west of Portlethen. Not only were plans made to build and develop a landing strip here but were approved on principal by National Air Traffic Services in London.

So what would we have ended up getting had this plan been followed through and an airstrip built? Unfortunately we wouldn’t have been looking at a second Aberdeen airport and an alternative to Dyce, we wouldn’t have been getting direct flights from Portlethen to Malaga or the Canary Islands, it was unlikely that the “Easyjets” of the day were waiting to move in and I doubt very much if the British Airports Authority was looking to increase it’s stranglehold on Scottish Airports.

Instead we had a tentative request to the Civil Aviation Authority by Aberdeen Light Aircraft Club asking about the possibility of establishing new headquarters for recreational light aircraft. They had done their homework well and identified a site near Portlethen which would have included a strip of 700 metres length and 30 metres width that would have been built on part of a reclaimed moss. Their main concern about an airport being built in this area was that it was within the “Aberdeen Special Rules Zone” which meant that aircraft landing and taking off at Portlethen may have influenced aircraft using Aberdeen Airport.

The Civil Aviation Authority’s concerns were whether the aerodrome would require a license which is needed for the following categories; 1. Flying Training, 2. Public Transport of Passenger Scheduled Flights, 3. Flights for the Public Transport of Passengers which take off and land at the same aerodrome, 4. Public Transport of Passenger Flights by aircraft over 2750 Kgs and 5. All Public Transport of Passenger Flights at Night. It was quickly established that although the planned aerodrome was within Aberdeen Special Rules Zone the volume of air traffic likely to have been generated by the new airstrip would not cause any problems for the main airport at Aberdeen.

Aberdeen Light Aircraft Club was already established at Aberdeen Airport so what made them so keen to establish new headquarters elsewhere? It appears that it came down to cost and one of the main reasons for them wanting to move was “the unbearably high charges imposed by the British Airport Authority at Aberdeen”. The new airfield was being planned so that the recreational aircraft currently based at Aberdeen Airport would relocate to Portlethen, and as a result there would have been no additional air traffic to contend with locally, only the displacement of existing aircraft from Aberdeen to Portlethen.

What sort of volume of air traffic were we looking at with this new venture? Aberdeen Light Aircraft Club were anticipating six group-owned light aircraft flying for recreational and sporting purposes with about six movements a day during the week and perhaps more activity at the weekends with aircraft maybe moving twice a day, a maximum of twelve take offs and landings on a Saturday and Sunday. The club were also looking at potentially developing the air strip in the future and licensing the aerodrome for training and instructional purposes. All aircraft movements to and from the new air strip would have been monitored and routed in consultation with Aberdeen Air Traffic Control.

On 16th August 1976 the National Air Traffic Services had no objection in proceeding with this plan and notified Aberdeen Light Aircraft Club and Kincardine and Deeside District Council of their decision. The green light was given and we should have been on our way to having an airfield established in our locale.

So what happened next? The answer is nothing happened at all! Maybe some local residents objected, maybe Kincardine and Deeside District Council decided not to proceed with the plans, maybe the expense to develop the site was going to be too expensive, or just maybe Aberdeen Light Aircraft Club called the British Airport Authority’s bluff by taking things so far with a threatened exodus from Aberdeen Airport that the high costs that were previously being charged were suddenly reduced.

Whatever the reason for not going ahead with an airstrip at Haremoss, Portlethen’s dalliance with becoming a centre for aviation was more fleeting than the aircraft that were being planned to fly in and out of there. Today Aberdeen Airport is still the principal airport in the north east of Scotland for recreational aircraft.