The rising popularity of using flying drones has become a source of concern for the bosses at Tatenhill Airfield they have revealed. It comes as the owners of the airfield say the venue is going from strength to strength and is quickly becoming the go-to facility for aircraft maintenance and pilot training.
The Burton Mail spoke to the airfield’s bosses, father and son team Mike and Paul Shelton. Mike serves as managing director and Paul is a director of Tatenhill Aviation Ltd. The firm took over running the venue from Allied Breweries in 1987.
Mike believes drones should be strictly monitored, warning that they could smash through any aircraft window causing a crash, and that proper research must be done to ensure that when people fly them they do it in in a safe area - and not near any aircraft or obstructions.
Tatenhill has a long history of being an airfield. The Newborough Road airfield was completed in 1941 and used as a satellite venue for RAF Lichfield where No27 Operational Training Unit, Bomber Command used Vickers Wellington and Avro Anson aircraft.
The site took on a more important role in 1944 welcoming the No21 Maintenance Unit after the explosion at nearby RAF Fauld during World War Two.
The airfield finally housed the RAF School of Explosives from 1945 until 1947. The RAF had completely moved out by 1950 and the airfield became disused.
In 1959 Tatenhill Airfield was given life again when brewer Allied Breweries of Burton used it as a suitable site for many of their visitors.
In 1987, the airfield was taken over by Tatenhill Aviation for with Mike at the helm.
He said: “I took the lease over in 1987 as a proprietorship. That continued to 1996 when Paul came as a director. Tatenhill Aviation Ltd started and we commenced training. Since then we have built that up to 10 training aircraft.
“We are also home to a disabled flying club, and we won an award for that.”
Its most famous resident, however, is Midlands Air Ambulance whose 999 paramedics have been based at the airfield for 10 years.
Mike said: “There are very well established, very popular and very active. They start at 7am until 7pm on call. They are not limited to daylight hours. We have main lights and they have helicopter lighting so they can come 24 hours a day but only really work 7am to 7pm or on call for emergencies.”
It has also welcomed many famous visitors over the years, as Mike says they have seen most members of the Royal Family use Tatenhill as a landing pad.
He said: "We had the Queen a few weeks ago, the Duke of Gloucester last week, Princess Anne has been here several times, as well as Prince Charles. William came here to open the FA centre and we have had Prince Edward.”
Over the years, it has also picked up quite a few famous aircraft including one flown around Africa by Winston Churchill’s grandson in 1960.
Mike said proudly: “He flew down the coast. We have a picture of it in jungle being refuelled.”
One of its largest aircraft to have landed is a military Hercules plane belonging to the Norwegian airforce. It is a giant four-engined plane, with a wing-span of 40 metres and weighs a huge 34 tonnes.
Many people from the area wanting to learn to fly normally go to Tatenhill and most complete 45 hours of mandatory flying to get a private pilot’s licence and can fly solo at as young as 16 in the UK.
Mike said: “We have one or two 14-years-olds here who fly but under supervision.”
However, he has raised concerns about drones, saying: “I have nothing against them providing they are flying professionally and they are qualified. They are a very advanced tool. I have seen them being used for photography and surveillance.
“But they should be monitored. I don’t think we should go using them, particularly in an airfield. They should research what they can and can’t do. You have to look up Civil Aviation Authority regulations. They can certainly go through windscreen of an aircraft, and are potentially dangerous if they are misused. Certainly flying, if it is in an airfield, should be monitored.”
Despite issues with drones, Paul says Tatenhill wants to enhance itself and to continue doing the very best work it can as an approved maintenance facility.
It offers many services on-site including pilot training, aircraft hire, avionics installation, avionics design, and aircraft maintenance.
He said: “We like to serve the general aviation industry because we have approval [to carry out design modifications for aircrafts of up to 20 tonnes] and we are able to service equipment, sales and supply, installation of avionic systems, and schedule maintenance for aircraft parked here and visiting aircraft.
However, modification designs can also be done remotely from Tatenhill before the team can then go and fit equipment to the aircraft.