70 years of Exeter flights

DC-3 aircraft flight with Lord Mayor marks the airport opening

To mark the 70th anniversary of the first use of Exeter Airport, The Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Exeter, Councillor Norman Shiel, agreed to participate in a 30 minute flight over the city.  The planned flight in a de Havilland Dragon Rapide similar to that used for the ‘opening’ of the airport was cancelled due to poor weather and instead a DC-3 Dakota was used.

Following a reception hosted by the airport’s Acting Managing Director, John Spooner, the Lord Mayor was escorted to the DC-3 Dakota which was similar to those that operated from Exeter in support of the D-Day invasion and then as an airliner with the likes of British Island Airways and F&S Mann Airways in the early days of the airport.

The Lord Mayor of Exeter was joined by competition winner Sam Mather, who was celebrating his 88th birthday.  Mr Mather had not been on a plane since 1945, when he was flown back to England in a DC3 after being wounded in Holland. His wife, Ruby, meanwhile, was taking her first ever flight at the age of 82.

The aircarft, which was built in 1944 and painted in RAF Transport Command colours, saw service in Burma during the Second World War is now lovingly maintained by Air Atlantique.

On the airport’s 70th anniversary, Cllr Shiel said: “As a classicist and as Lord Mayor of an historic city, I always have a great interest in the past and 1937 was a good year: the only Rolls Royce I have owned was built in 1937, there was a coronation and Exeter got an airport for the first time. I’m very pleased to be here to celebrate this anniversary.”

  • The first landing took place on 10 May 1937 when a Leopard Moth brought films of the Coronation of HM King George VI for showing in the cinemas of Exeter.
  • The airport opened to traffic on 31 May 1937 when the Mayor of Exeter, Alfred Anstey and civic leaders were given a flight over the city in a Dragon Rapide DH 86 Express G-ACZO
  • The airport was officially licensed for public use on 9 September 1937.
  • The airport was formally opened by the Air Minister, Sir Kingsley Wood on 30 July 1938.