Flying Training History at Sywell

Brooklands Aviation badge

THE Brooklands Aviation era of fixed-wing pilot training started at Sywell Aerodrome with the arrival of Brooklands Aviation Ltd back in 1935 to fulfil pilot training contracts for the War Department. The RAF opened 6 Elementary Flying Training School on 10th June 1935, training pilots with a fleet of 20 Tiger Moths. In 1937 the RAF Volunteer Reserve School was set up at Sywell and a further 16 training aircraft were added to the training fleet.

Tiger Moth
Chris Parker's late father Arthur
with one of Brooklands Aviation's new
Tiger Moths shortly after the opening
of the Elementary and Reserve Flying
Training School in 1935.

All the RAF schools were operated under contract by Brooklands Aviation. In 1940 after the outbreak of war the training fleet was increased to 54 aircraft and by August 1942, 126 Tiger Moths were operating from Sywell. At that time there were anything up to 235 pupils at any one time training at Sywell.

Sywell Aerodrome became so strategically important to the War Dept that the hard runway planned to be built in 1942 never was as they could not afford to close the Aerodrome for six months while construction took place. A rough calculation shows that on average the Tiger Moths were flying 301 hours per year each and given a conservative movement rate of four per hour, this equates to a staggering 150,000 ATMs per year during 1942 to 1945! Not to forget the repaired Wellington and newly built Lancaster Bombers that were test flown amongst this activity!

Tiger Moths
Tiger Moths of Brooklands Aviation operated No. 6 Elementary and Reserve
Flying School (E&RFTS) at Sywell in 1936. The aircraft are shown hangared in
what is now the refurbished Aviation Centre.

In 1945 the fleet was reduced to 70 Tiger Moths and in 1946 reduced again to 36 aircraft. In May 1947 6 EFTS finally closed having flown 235,000 hours of flying training and produced thousands of pilots for the RAF.

Even after the War, movements would still have been around 84,000 ATMS per year dropping to 44,000 in 1946, levelling off to around in 46,000 ATMs by 1951.

Very shortly after the closure of 6 EFTS in 1947, 6 RAF Reserve Flying School opened at Sywell with 16 Tiger Moths and two Oxfords operated again under contract by Brooklands Aviation just like 6 EFTS.

Then in November 1951, 4 Basic Flying Training School opened under contract by Brooklands Aviation operating 20 Chipmunks. In June 1953 a change in policy saw all pilot training being transferred to RAF stations. Therefore, both 6 RAF Reserve Flying School and 4 Basic Flying Training School were closed down, ending 18 years of intense flight training for the RAF by Brooklands Aviation Ltd. at Sywell.

Continuing 70 years of flying training...

From there on less intense private pilot training was carried out and sometime after 1971 Brooklands Aviation was appointed a Avions Robin dealer and their Flying School was re-equipped with new Robin aircraft. In 1977 Brooklands Aviation pulled out of aviation to concentrate on general engineering. The Northamptonshire School of Flying opened in 1977, using the ex-Brooklands fleet, and operated from Sywell until their departure in 2005.

Knowing that fixed-wing training would end at Sywell unless either another school moved in or Sywell Aerodrome set its own up, the decision was made to do both in that Sywell Aerodrome Ltd would set up a basic fixed-wing training operation and aircraft hire facility, the tail-wheel conversions etc. would be contracted out to other operators on the Aerodrome and advanced flight training offered by another operator and that still remains the company's policy.

The new Flying School was named the Brooklands Flying Club as it was felt appropriate given the Aerodrome's long association with Brooklands Aviation and recognising the huge amount of pilot training they carried out here. Since then the Brooklands fleet has expanded from the initial pair of AT-3s to four, with a Cessna 172 also available for training. That brings us up to date, with the continuation of pilot training at Sywell.