“ Address: Hall Farm / Sywell / Northamptonshire / NN6 0BN „
Northampton - unofficially - is the biggest town in Western Europe, unawarded city status as it is a serious airport, our rapidly expanding town ideal for offering a shuttle service to Poland and back. We have a massive Eastern European population now and the National Express service very busy from Warsaw and Gdansk, the demolition of our dreadful hanger style bus station (that would be more at home at the aerodrome) now offering the town the chance to create Polski Air! We like our Poles as they are hard working and don't beg for council houses and benefits like others seem to do and it would be nice to give them something back. It's not going to happen, of course, as trying to expand runways at airports in Nimbi Britain is harder than getting Israel and Palestine to go to a Yom Kippur together! But the airport would have potential if it was bigger. A train ticket to Manchester from Northampton can cost over £80 at peak times yet you could cram six people in a little twin engine and split the cost and get their for half the price, and in style and see the days weather before it happens.
The airport opened in 1928 and served as a military base in the war for Tiger Moth training and later on, Wellington bomber repairs. Many of the aerial shots for the film The Battle of Britain were shot over Sywell. Only recently did the main runway get upgraded to landing light and tarmac and now able to take heavy twin engine props and the occasional jet fighter at air shows, as well as winter arrivals and so more revenue. But that's about it; as yet no Easyjet 737's taking on the 1200m strip. There are smaller grass strips for the little planes full of tubby red nosed businessmen from Birmingham and Oxford to bounce and hop down on weekends and a heliport and sleepy grass meadow glider area.
The airport is about 6 miles out of town and dominated by the beautiful metallic silver art deco main building and departure lounge/restaurant, worthy of dressing a James Bond movie it's that stylish! In fact I wrote to the Cubby Broccoli Estate to have it included in one of their movies at it looks so cool and retro. They didn't write back. It's worth popping in just to see it. It has a great rooftop bar and a nice spot in the summer to chill out after work, an art deco hotel also on the airfield. Yes, they do have plane spotters up there. The bar and entertainment area used to do singles nights in the good old days and notorious for men pretending to be pilots trying to pick up women, the grass taxiway flatter than it was the day after.
Its lovely airport to fly into if you have been pottering around in a little one engine prop on a crisp sunny April day, aviator shades, a leather jacket and a pretty girl in the jump-seat a must. But beware. If a gust of wind does blow your approach off line there is clay pigeon shoot nearby and your Piper Cherokee may end up in a haystack ass end up. In 2009, Sywell was awarded the Best General Aviation Airport!
Ever wondered how an airport makes its money, part from overpriced chips and beer?
Microlights £8 / £10
Single Engine (1 or 2 seater) £12
Single Engine (3+ seats) £15
Turbine Single/Twin >2500kgs £30
Turbine Single/Twin 2501-3500kgs £50
Turbine Single/Twin 3501-5000kgs £125
Twins 5001-7500kgs £150
".......In the interests of good relations with the local community, Sywell Aerodrome ask Pilots when taking off from runway 21R, 21L and 23 to please make a normal climb out straight ahead to 500 feet before making a turn. This should ensure that you are clear of Sywell primary school............."
It has a flying school for both prop and helicopters and the prices surprisingly reasonable for the teaser lessons, as little as £30 an hour if you know the right people. They also do gliding, microlight - and parachuting now and then. The Pilots mess just below the control tower is open to all but very pricey and a burger and chips can cost more than a lesson although it has a cool balcony overlooking the strip. It's glamorous as far as Northampton goes.
Microlight from £99.07 Fly Light School
Fixed wing from £150 Brooklands School
Helicopter from £264 Sloane Helicopters
The museum isn't great, a rusty old Hawker Hunter the highlight, but proudly details the history of the airport during wartime and there is also a home guard presentation with vintage vehicles and ground trucks. Its anniversary year for the counties American war aerodromes as 1943 saw the USAF base at nearby Kingscliffe open and so some classic American fighters and bombers are booked to display this year, including the P51 Mustang, the muscle car of the skies! In the old days with the grass strip at Sywell it was weather permitting with these guys but now the Liberators and Warhawks have no problems getting in. The museum people do interesting talks and exhibiting in the evenings through the summer season.
They do an air show with the Red Arrows and the Lancaster fly-past and the like and the airport also a centre for aerial acrobatics with a team based there. It's a tenner or so to see the air show and just about worth it although you can park up nearby and see it for free. Otherwise the only reason to visit is for the Art Deco buildings.