Flight report on Jersey Airport in 1947

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From Flight, 20 November 1947

IN the best six months of the holiday season this year, the Channel Islands cross-Channel boats carried 232,307 visitors from the United Kingdom, such is the popularity of the Islands as a holiday centre.

That traffic is seasonal, but there are also many Islanders who are anxious to keep in close contact with the mainland, and who are constantly travelling across. Quick, efficient transport is necessary for both. The journey from Southampton by sea takes 6½ hours to Guernsey and 10½ hours to Jersey. From London to either takes 3 hours longer.

The advantage of flying

By air from Southampton the actual travelling time is only one hour, and the total time from the centre of London to St Helier is about 2½ hours. It may be said that there are few, if any, routes in the world — and certainly in the UK — with heavy passenger traffic, which show better the advantages of flying.

From April to September this year British European Airways carried 73,017 passengers to and from the Channel Islands area, and many hundreds of applicants for seats were disappointed each week, so great was the demand.

These figures, and those which will be quoted later for the traffic at various airports, illustrate the popularity of the air route, even at this time when air travel is still a comparative novelty.

Associated with this route is the important airport at Southampton, situated strategically in a commanding position as a destination and clearance airport on the south coast, on which routes from the North, the Midlands, Wales and the West Country can converge. It serves as a convenient jumping-off point to the Islands and, of course, to the Continent.

Southampton must be considered as an essential link in the connections to the Channel Islands, and will play an increasingly important role as air traffic develops.

The history of the Channel Islands air routes is probably better known than that of most others. Briefly, then, Jersey Airways was formed in 1933, and services were operated from the beaches in St Aubin's Bay. Guernsey Airways started operations about a year later.

After the war the two companies amalgamated to form Channel Island Airways, and operated the same routes to the mainland and between the Islands with Rapides and a Bristol Wayfarer hired from the manufacturers.

Nationalisation

With the nationalisation of all British scheduled airline operations and the passing of the necessary legislation for application of the Civil Aviation Act, with modifications, to the Islands, British European Airways were made responsible for scheduled air services, and the present organization constitutes an operational area, with headquarters at Jersey but responsible to the English Division.

The last Channel Islands Airways service flew on 1 April this year. The airport situation is quite different from that on the mainland since the Ministry of Civil Aviation does not own or control them.

Jersey Airport

The airfield at Jersey was opened in March, 1937. It is owned by the States of Jersey, and administered and controlled by the Harbours and Airport Committee, who are responsible for radio, meteorology, air traffic control, all ground services and airport maintenance.

Control systems and orders initiated by the Ministry of Civil Aviation are normally followed closely, but their application to local conditions and circumstances is undertaken by the States. The airport, which is at the west end of the Island, is perched at the top of the cliffs, 290ft above the sea, and five miles from St Helier.

There are no runways but the excellent grass surface is well drained and makes a good landing ground.

During the summer months, flying is frequently hindered by low stratus which forms quickly over the Islands, and while the weather is clear in the vicinity, landing and taking off presents a problem to the operators. The prevailing wind is, as may be expected, from the West, and fortunately the longest run is in the East/West direction.

Extensions were started before the war, and the Germans, when in occupation, insisted that they should be finished. The East end of the runway has consequently been extended to provide a total run of 1,250 yards, and a further 200 yards extension may be made.

The north/south direction creates the weakness in the airport, since any extension to the south would require major levelling operations to be undertaken; while to the north the demolition of buildings would be necessary. A compromise would be to extend in a north-easterly direction to provide a total run of about 1,200 yards, and landings in six directions could even be obtained by diverting a road.

The airport is now nearly up to ICAO Class E standards, and not all the previously mentioned extensions are necessary to bring it up to that standard.

Elegant buildings

The airport buildings, which contain offices for all services, passenger handling, Customs, and flying control, are elegant, well-planned and practical. A balcony runs right round the building, to which the public are permitted access free of charge, and during the summer months many visitors have watched flying activities at Jersey.

Figures for the first year of operation, from March, 1937, to February, 1938, showed that air services were already popular. 34,500 passengers were handled, and that figure was second oniy to Croydon. In 1938, passengers numbered 35,000. In the incomplete year of 1939 it was 28,200, and last year, over the same eight months, the number was 41,631. This year, from January 1st to August 31st, 75,389 passengers passed through the airport.

Once again considering only the first eight months of each year, scheduled services in and out numbered 4,907 in 1939; 7,557 in 1946; and 9,962 in 1947.

Charter company movements have increased from 145 in 1939 to 2,072 in 1946, and to 5,060 this year.

The greatest number of aircraft movements on any one day was 218 on 31 August this year, and it is rather interesting that on each Saturday for the three months during the summer there were no fewer than 200 movements. The average number of movements per day can be said to have risen from 20.8 in 1939 to 39.6 in 1946 and to 61.8 in 1947.

The passengers handled per day show a similar increase, and this year the average has been more than 300 per day.

Suitable aircraft needed

These figures surely indicate the need in the future for adequate regular services with suitable aircraft.

Radio at Jersey-includes MF/DF and HF/RT. VHF/ RT is to be installed quite soon, another frequency on MF/DF is expected at the end of the year, and SBA on the East/West landing run should be functioning in a few months. An omnidirectional beacon is to be installed 1½ miles Ssouth-west of the airfield, on an old German flak tower.

The BJLA organization under Commander J M Keene-Miller functions from Jersey. Crews are based on the Island under Flight Captain E W Jordan, and the maintenance organisation is capable of doing Cs of A on all Rapides flying on Island services.

The Corporation naturally handles its own passengers with its own staff, but the States have made a rule that all charter companies using the airport are to be represented, either by one of the resident charter companies or by the resident agency, Bellingham, who have loaders and the requisite organization. Confusion and the unpleasant experience for passengers of feeling uncared for has consequently disappeared.

Island Air Charters and Air Transport (Charter) (CI) Ltd are resident charter companies, the latter having three Dakotas and three Rapides. They hope soon to have their own workshop at Jersey suitable for servicing Rapides, and later to have a hangar for Dakota maintenance.

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