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Fascinating video, I thought it was wonderful. I was born in Salford and have been mad on aviation since I visited Barton aerodrome when I was seven. I went to an airshow at Woodford in the 80s and went on to fly on Nimrods. So, there was a lot in the video that I identified with.

When I was eleven, and already obsessed with aviation, I flew for the very first time from Manchester; back then, as Ollie says in the video, it was generally known as Ringway.

I am fascinated by the very obvious fact that everything there ever was which had a name and everything there ever will be which will have a name has to have that name created for it by a human being. Every person, every place, every idea, every single thing from a quark to the universe has a name which someone just made up. Nothing actually has a name; I think that’s something we don’t stop to wonder about often enough. More than just names, every word is just made up, every single word you’re reading here and every single word you know was just made up by someone, including Ringway.

The name seems to come from the Anglo-Saxon Hringhæg meaning a circular enclosure. Perhaps it was simply an Anglo-Saxon circular enclosure or maybe it went back to the Iron Age or even the Bronze Age, many centuries before. Maybe it was more than just a farm or hamlet as there was a castle here, known as Ullersford or Ullerwood Castle, by the early twelfth century. There’s nothing to see today, but where the A583 Wilmslow Road goes under Runway 05 Left, the area is still shown on maps as Castle Hill and there are three farms here: Castle Hill Farm; Castle-Hill Farm and Castle Mill Farm, which can’t cause any problems for the postman.

The parish of Ringway now sits at the very southern edge of the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester, the only civil parish there is in the county. Greater Manchester was only created in 1974; prior to this Ringway was in Cheshire. Maybe it’s always been an important point because the boundary between Greater Manchester and Cheshire runs between the hyphenated and non-hyphenated farms, along the River Bollin, before heading off northeast through the airport.

Work on the airport began in late 1935 and part of it was opened in June of 1937 for use by Fairey Aviation for flight testing of their aeroplanes. The Fairey Battle light bomber was built at Heaton Chapel, just six miles or so north-east of the aerodrome, and test flown from Ringway. Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War the aerodrome became RAF Ringway. It was also the Royal Air Force’s No. 1 Parachute School and trained all allied paratroopers and agents of the Special Operations Executive. The SOE was a top secret unit set up by the British in the summer of 1940 to operate in occupied Europe. They carried out surveillance and sabotage behind enemy lines. Eventually around thirteen thousand people, including more than three thousand women, were part of the SOE.

Aircraft manufacturers were based at Ringway: Avro developed the Avro Manchester here which led, in 1941, to the first prototype of the famous Avro Lancaster. Fairey Fulmar and Barracuda dive bombers continued to be built and test flown here, as were many hundreds of Bristol Beaufighters and Handley Page Halifaxes, built by Fairey under licence. In all, Avro and Fairey built and test flew well over 4,000 aircraft here during the war. After hostilities ended, Fairey developed their Firefly and Gannet naval aircraft and were subcontracted to build deHavilland Vampire and Venom jet fighters. Production at Heaton Chapel and test flying at Ringway ended in 1960.

Civilian use of the airport, which had started in 1938 but been stopped by hostilities, started up again soon after the war was over, with pleasure flights in the Austers, Dragon Rapides and Fox Moths of Airviews Limited. Who, for five bob, took you sightseeing around Wythenshawe – still not worth twenty-five pence in today’s money. By 1947, 34,000 passengers a year were flying from Ringway and on 28th October 1953 the first non-stop transatlantic service was started by Sabena airlines using Douglas DC-6s to link Ringway with New York’s Idlewild airport. How incredible and glamorous must it have been to fly from here direct to the Big Apple in 1953? It would have been all trilbies and fur coats and cigarettes and silver service meals served by Sabena hostesses. The Societé Anonyme Belge d'Exploitation de la Navigation Aérienne started business in 1923 and, even though it no longer exists, Brussels Airlines still has the airline flight code SN which it inherited from Sabena. They still fly from Manchester International Airport today.

As a nineteen-year-old I would also fly from the airport to Paris with my mate Dave, who did things like hiring rowing boats on schooldays. He would also do things like flying to Paris without a plan or so much as a hotel booking. I did things like that only if my mate Dave was leading the way. He, therefore, gave me some moments that I would remember forever; moments that I sometimes forgot to collect for myself. At that time the airport was run by Sir Gil Thompson who oversaw the expansion of Ringway from a regional airport into a major international hub. He also has my admiration for banning the sale of chewing gum at the airport. I loathe chewing gum; it makes people look like cows, only not so bright. Sir Gil had a fearsome reputation for getting his own way, shortly after the first Gulf war a journalist let it slip that he was known by local environmentalists opposed to the airport's expansion, as the Irish Saddam Hussein. He put them right: "That's not correct, I'm much worse than him."

In case I haven't mentioned it for a while, I go on about stuff like this at
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By BobD
FLYER Club Member  FLYER Club Member
Fantastic video, reminded me of a visit to an airshow at Woodford in the early 80's when we livid in Bury. We took my first daughter as a baby, and she promptly threw up all over me as the first low pass of a jet flew down the runway. Happy Days !
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