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Report - RAE Thurleigh -August '10

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by mongrel, Aug 15, 2010.

  1. mongrel

    mongrel 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

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    Hi all…

    Where to go on a Sunday morning?…. Well, Thurleigh’s only 15 minutes from where I live so I thought I’d have a nose. As usual, my pictures tend to focus (excuse the pun :D) on the smaller details rather than lots of big building shots, I think they’ll give you an impression of the sorry state of the place now… I’m sure there’s loads more than I saw, but it’s a start… Unfortunately I didn’t have time to explore inside the Control tower except for the roof! There are also a couple of pics of the infamous wastage, sorry, I meant scrappage scheme storage....Thanks for looking!

    Here’s some History that I’ve borrowed from elsewhere!...

    RAF Thurleigh was built in 1941 as a new RAF Station. It was home to the 306th Bombardment Group during the Second World War, it was often touted as a possible site for the third London Airport (long before Stansted Airport took on that role). The local community was strongly opposed and many rural buildings were adorned with slogans such as "Thurleigh -NO!", "No! No! No!" and "Maplin Now".

    In 1946 Thurleigh became the site for the second Royal Aircraft Establishment site. The runway was extended in the post-war period to accommodate the Bristol Brabazon aircraft (which required a very long runway) that ultimately never went into production. One local road was dropped into a cutting so that it would not sit above the level of the runway.

    On 13 March 1961, a Hawker P.1127 (XP831), the prototype of what would become the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, took its first regular flight at RAE Bedford.

    The site supported some of the development work on Concorde's wings and was also a centre for the development of the Instrument Landing System. Local villages were being circled by airliners in the middle of the night, with planes testing the ILS; the planes would take off, circle, and re-land continually.

    The site had several reasonably large windtunnels, one supersonic and one large subsonic. It also had a 'drop tower'. The drop tower is now used as a skydiving training venue. The supersonic tunnel was dismantled by 2005 and the building which held the fans and driving motors is now used as the set for the BBC popular science programme, "Bang Goes The Theory". The subsonic tunnel is sometimes used for testing cars on a rolling road.

    In March 1967 the U-2 flew out of RAE Bedford.

    During the 1970s RAE Bedford became home to numerous flight simulators, originally using model belts and camera technology, but later utilising computers. In the early 1980s the Advanced Flight Simulator was constructed, allowing pilots to be immersed in a fully three-dimensional moving simulation.

    Also in the early eighties, RAE Bedford oversaw the development of the Short Take Off & Landing STOL system for the Sea Harrier (the most visible part of which are the up-curved ramps (ski-jumps) on the decks of Royal Navy aircraft carriers). This brought hundreds more takeoffs and landings that circled over Sharnbrook School — ironic considering that Thurleigh has one of the longest runways in Europe and was previously one of the Avro Vulcan Bomber dispersal bases.

    In April 1991 the Royal Aerospace Establishment (as the Royal Aircraft Establishment had been renamed) which operated the airfield at Bedford, was merged with several other agencies to become the Defence Research Agency (DRA). The DRA would later become the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.

    The airfield was decommissioned in February 1994 after a lengthy study determined that flight operations should be centralised at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire. Due to the cost and impracticality of relocating the Advanced Flight Simulator system the site retains some of its development work (under the banner of the privatised arm of DERA QinetiQ).
    The airfield has been divided into two parts. The southern part is now known as Thurleigh Business Park, and includes the runway, which is currently used for the mass storage of new cars, although it remains intact for possible future use. The northern part is now Bedford Autodrome which also houses Thurleigh Museum.




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    caution required…..

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    what a f#*cking waste……

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