Have we had the last Biggin Hill airshow?
The fate of the world-renowned Biggin Hill air show — the borough’s most iconic and historical event — hangs in the balance as a vote is cast on its future.
The board of Biggin Hill Airport Limited are due to meet today (Thursday) to decide how Europe’s largest privately organised air fair can go ahead in the coming years.
Biggin Hill International Air Fair has brought millions of visitors to Bromley and boosted the local economy during its 48-year history. In the crucial vote, bosses are set to decide whether the event will continue in its current form or be changed, even axing it completely.
A spokesperson for the airport said there were a number of issues they now needed to take into consideration, including the financial risk in the future and if it would cause disruption to businesses based there as the airfield is closed for a large part of June.
Residents and businesses said they would be “devastated” if the show — which attracts the world’s highest calibre stunt teams including the RAF’s Red Arrows — is no longer sustainable.
Chairman of Biggin Hill Residents’ Association, David Haslam, 67, said: “We would be delighted if it continued, we love it, but what you want and what you get are not always the same.”
Squadron Leader Jock Maitland, 86, took a lease from Bromley council for the airport in 1958, establishing the air show five years later under his company Air Displays International (ADI).
The airport was privatised in 1988 and in 1994 Biggin Hill Airport Limited (BHAL) bought it and granted a 25-year licence to ADI for the air fair.
But the company controversially had its licence terminated three years early in July this year, making six people redundant.
The airport said the contract’s legality was now questionable because Jock Maitland, to whom the licence was originally granted, was no longer involved.
Mr Haslam, who has known the Squadron Leader for many years, added: “Jock Maitland used to say they started planning 18 months in advance.
He said: “Nobody seems to have done much for a 2011 show. The airport says it will become a parking lot for aircraft during the Olympics so there is no likelihood in 2012. The chances of it going ahead are fairly shaky. It is a very sad state of affairs.
“Jock Maitland is a tremendous character. It’s often said that Biggin Hill airfield can cast a spell on you if you get involved in it and that’s what happened. He very much loved the airshow and would have done pretty much anything to see it continue.”
Airport director Peter Lonergan said he would not comment before the vote. BHAL owner Andrew Walters said the “show would go on” in July but residents have expressed their doubts.
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