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Library image of a Supermarine Spitfire

Site history

Once the site of an all-important Rolls-Royce engine testing operation, Hucknall Aerodrome has been the scene of remarkable history-changing interventions.

Hucknall Aerodrome dates back to 1916 when it housed a training division of the Royal Flying Corps, which became the Royal Air Force. The aerodrome was sold to a local farmer in 1926 and the newly formed Nottingham Aero Club agreed to operate from hangars on the north of the site.

During the latter part of 1927, Hucknall was identified for expansion into an RAF station and was bought by the Air Ministry, reopening as RAF Hucknall in 1928.

Rolls-Royce needed an area of open land for the test and validation of new engine designs and modifications in the 1930s. The Air Ministry agreed to share its land for engine development and test-flying in 1934.

A new Rolls-Royce engine was developed at Hucknall – the Merlin – which would become synonymous with the 1940 Battle of Britain when propelling Hawker Hurricanes, Supermarine Spitfires and American Mustang fighters to an all-important victory.

In 1942, Rolls-Royce started tests on a new invention designed by Sir Frank Whittle. The flying test bed, a Vickers Wellington, was modified and became the world’s first jet engine, subsequently produced by Rolls-Royce and known as the Welland.

Post-war, Rolls-Royce’s flight test establishment continued tests and development of engines including the Avon, Dart and Trent models.

During the early 1950s, infrastructure was improved at the site and its hard runway was constructed. In July 1953, Rolls-Royce achieved the world’s first jet vertical take-off and landing in Hucknall with the Nene powered Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig, also known as the Flying Bedstead.

On 1 March 2015, the airfield finally closed and the Merlin Flying Club relocated.

The road within Griffon Fields has been named Harker Close after Ronald Harker, a test pilot based at Hucknall in World War II.

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