Pengam Airport

Aviation came to Cardiff in the inter-war period with the official opening of Splott Aerodrome on Pengam Moor in September 1931 (although it had been operational from the previous year), later changing its name to Cardiff Municipal Airport. This resulted in dramatic landscape changes, although the early facilities comprised only a few wooden huts with a sea-wall being erected to protect the grass strip from inundation from the Severn Estuary.  A considerable fillip to its prestige was when the Prince of Wales arrived for official visits to the city in May and June 1930, and a few years later he agreed to become patron of the Cardiff Aeroplane Club.

A number of services were introduced, such as the British Air Navigation Co. Ltd to Bristol in 1932, a GWR Air Service to Little Haldon and Plymouth in 1933, Western Airways to Weston-super-Mare and (later) Bournemouth in 1933, Railway Air Service Co. to Plymouth and Liverpool in 1934, and Western Airways to Le Touquet and Paris in 1935.

Edward, Prince of Wales, is greeted by the Earl of Plymouth, Mr O Temple Morris and Alderman R G Hill Snook on alighting from his plane at Cardiff Airport (Pengam) – May 16, 1933

A decision was made to build a Royal Auxiliary Air Force Station at Pengam in August 1936, additional land being requisitioned and buildings being completed by 1938.  In June of that year No. 614 Squadron RAF was formed.  It was during this period that a notice to quit was served on the last occupier of Pengam Farm (1 February 1937), the tenant vacating the property on 24 May 1937.  The farmhouse was subsequently demolished and the majority of the moor given over to the airfield.

During the war Pengam, like most municipal airports, was requisitioned by the R.A.F. to become the first war station for 614 Squadron and became known as RAF Pengam Moors.  February 1940 saw the opening of No. 43 Maintenance Unit, which served as a packing depot for aircraft being shipped overseas.  Aircraft which arrived for packing included Tiger Moths, Harts, Lysanders, Hurricanes, Gladiators and Hinds.  By May 1941 the airport was known as RAF Cardiff.  

The preparations for D-Day involved the storage of vast quantities of aviation fuel in jerry-cans on the airfield. The number of aircraft being packed (mainly Seafires) slowly dwindled through 1945, and the M.U. closed on 31 October 1945. Its last few Spitfires were despatched the same day, bringing to an end an unspectacular but invaluable contribution to the war effort.

The Maintenance Unit closed in October 1945, after which the airport was used variously by Ansons and Tiger Moths of 3 Reserve Flying School, British European Airways, Cambrian Air Services and Western Airways. In the 1950s the airport had achieved the third highest aircraft movement rate in Britain.

Unfortunately, the short runway, cramped position and lack of night flying facilities proved its downfall.  On 1 April 1954 all civil flying was transferred to Rhoose, and the airport later became an industrial site after a period housing the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation’s fire-fighting school before it moved to Stansted in 1960.  Several of the airport’s former hangars, however, are still in use as workshops and factories in Seawall Road.

The airfield became redundant when civilian flying was transferred to Rhoose on 1 April 1954.  The site, which covered 176 acres, was subsequently developed: in particular the Rover car parts factory, which opened in 1964 (it closed in 1985), Tremorfa Park (opened. 1963), Willows High School (opened 1967) and Pengam Green (developed from the early 1990s) and in more recent years Tesco Extra supermarket.  Several of the airport’s former hangars are still in use as workshops and factories in Seawall Road, while local streets are testimony to the past’s aerial history, for example, Avro Close, Handley Road and Runway Road, as well as the former Old Airport public house (now closed).