It started out as an idea by Lee Residents Association to celebrate 100 years of flying at Lee-on-the-Solent airbase. The town, having staged D-Day 70 with huge success in 2014, decided the centenary of the airfield should not pass by unrecognised.
A bid was submitted to the local council for funding to stage an event in September 2017. Some photos from this website, see ‘Gee Whiz, This Is Great’, were contributed to help with the bid.
It snowballed from there with Lee Flying Association and the local council getting behind the event.
The airport operator Regional and City Airports Management Ltd., took on most of the event organisation.
The number of visitors was restricted to 2500, governed by limited car parking arrangements. The sell-out event was a great success.
If any nervousness was felt by all the small groups involved in participating, as to how it would all go on the day, those nerves vanished as the crowd arrived.
The sun shone and blue skies lasted until the close of the day.
One exhibitor said, “The atmosphere was good. It all went very well. A lot of interest shown in our stall, it may result in some new members.”
The static line up of aircraft was impressive, from vintage Bi-Planes to the Britten-Norman Trilander G-RLON recently retired from service.
This was taken out of service by Aurigny Air Services this year having flown between Southampton and the Channel Islands for 25 years. It passed into the ownership of Solent Sky Aviation Museum of Southampton on permanent loan and is temporarily stored at Solent Airport (Daedalus), Lee.
Close by to the B-N Trilander was the other Britten-Norman exhibit, the sleek looking Islander G-JSAT. Britten-Norman started design and production on the Isle of Wight at Bembridge.
In recent years B-N has moved much of it’s production to Lee but retains a working unit at Bembridge.
What wasn’t in the Daedalus 100 line up is the aircraft in this historic photograph (see below) sent into Solent Aviatrix by Phil Phillips who is in New Zealand. The photo is included here to accentuate the stunning success of this aircraft company around the world.
In Mr. Phillips’ own words, “I ‘Googled’ the number of Islanders built to date and came up with the staggering figure of 1280. Truly amazing and 750 are still operating today!”
Phil worked for a while at B-N before moving to New Zealand. He would like some help with naming two of the men in this photo.
“It is the flight crew of the 500th Islander built at Bembridge. The vintage picture is circa 1975/76. I have included all the names I can remember. It looks as if it was quite a milestone for the company, because we assembled the flight shed crew, the flight shed inspector, the 3 flight shed, paint shop and production foremen, also one of the test pilots, for this photo. I’m not sure how many of these guys are still around today as we were all in a similar age group.”
Can anyone name the Chief Inspector and who is the bearded man between Alfie Grimes and Clive Dove?
Back to the Lee Airshow, of the older aircraft, bi-plane enthusiasts were given a treat with this line up.
Army aircraft were resplendent.
The Royal Navy was present with their helicopters.
There was also a Float Plane.
Completing the line up and bringing the aircraft up to the present day was Pheonix Aviation who are based along side Lee Control Tower. They can be seen daily, flying in and out, over the Solent, training new pilots.
Some of the side shows included local interest stalls such as Gosport Aviation Society. This organisation holds monthly meetings in Stubbington with a different guest speaker each month.
No vintage air show would be complete without some classic cars and this one was a beauty.
My thanks to Bob Wealthy for his assistance on the day with these photographs. Bob attended the event wearing his three aviation hats – Gosport Aviation Society, Solent Sky Aviation Museum volunteer, and Britten Norman Aircraft Preservation Society Chairman.
Whilst the show was on, some aspects of the airfield continued to function with it’s normal business. Saving lives at sea can’t stop for an air show. The Maritime and Coastguard search and rescue helicopter, which is based at Lee, flew in and out several times, adding to the sights and sounds on the day.
What is often overlooked in the history of the airfield is how the town developed around it.
Houses were built around the perimeter in the style of the day, like these superb Art Deco dwellings.
They are admired and treasured now for their beauty and architectural heritage but that was not always the case.
When other houses were being built for military staff there was some local opposition.
A short lived campaign was waged against the extension of the airfield and perceived extravagance of the planned building programme for Officers’ Quarters and sports facilities. The embittered objectors deplored what they considered to be the lavish misuse of tax payers money.
It should be noted that this was about the time of the 1930’s depression. This may account for the vocal opposition from aggrieved and presumably less fortunate individuals.
A professional looking signboard proclaimed, ‘This is Lee on the Solent where the rainbow ends.’ The signboard was removed soon after it first appeared. The development went ahead.
The properties in question included Westcliff House, Officers’ Mess. See Daedalus Gems for an illustration of the interior decor – Ballroom and all. In total 21 houses were build for military use. Now, in the 21st century, that architectural legacy from those fractious days is enjoyed and admired by many. The airfield and associated built environment is what gave the town much of it’s character.
At the same time as the Daedalus 100 Air Show was on, down on the shoreline the annual Hovercraft Museum Show was in full flow for the whole weekend.
The museum is based on airfield perimeter and uses the slipway for hover rides on special days. The event drew large crowds.
On the Sunday an extraordinary vehicle arrived and parked next to me. Not the sort of thing you see every day, I had to take photographs and have a chat with the occupants.(See below).
They had driven to Lee especially for the Hovercraft Show and had gone out onto the Solent on one of the special hover trips for paying customers.
The owner of Amphicar Q499 RNV is an engineer. He designed and built this motor/craft himself. He said that most people want to take photos of the exhaust pipe and propeller which are positioned side by side.
The registration number 66558 on the side of the vehicle permits him to take it onto Lake Windemere.
He and his partner travel around Europe going afloat on fresh water courses, such as the canals of Netherlands and France, and fresh water lakes of Norway, Sweden and Finland.
On one occasion they motored across the Solent to the Isle of Wight, from Lymington to Yarmouth – for free!. The journey took about twenty minutes. As salt water rusts metal, they rarely venture out onto sea water.
Complete with a lovely Westie dog snoozing on a cushion between driver and passenger and the kettle on the boil inside their Amphicar, their hand built vehicle provides them with all the comforts of home when going on their travels. British eccentricity or engineering genius? Both. And long may inventors such as he continue to amaze us.
Then the weekend was over. The vintage aircraft flew away. The Navy helicopters returned to base.
The Solent sparkled in the warm September sun.
Solent Airport returned to normality.
Gliders graced the sky again, Portsmouth Naval Gliding Centre
providing the action.
Private flying started again.
Pilot flying school resumed with Pheonix Aviation aircraft.
And lovely Lee went back to normal business. Ice cream anyone?