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Kirknewton

Major
Also known as: Kirknewton Aerodrome / RAF Kirknewton / Ritchie Camp
County: City of Edinburgh
Current Status: Aviation / Leisure activity / Open land
Date: 1940 (probable date) - 1960s
Current Use: Limited flying
Used By: RAF / RAF (Polish) / Civil / USAF
Landing Surface Types: Unpaved, later paved

Probably used as a grass landing ground from 1940, Kirknewton officially opened in November 1941. No 13 Group’s Anti-Aircraft Co-operation (AAC) Flight had arrived in October from Dalcross, soon becoming No 289 Squadron. As with most AAC units it operated a large variety of aircraft, including Bristol Blenheim, Lockheed Hudson and Hawker Hurricane types. The squadron moved to nearby Turnhouse in May 1942.

After a unique element named the Refresher Flying Training School had then stayed until disbandment the following October, a Polish North American Mustang unit, No 309 Squadron, used the airfield for a few months in the spring of 1943 for army co-operation work. However, Kirknewton’s main role from February 1944 was as an Air Ammunition Park for No 243 Maintenance Unit (MU), having been handed over to Maintenance Command.

One notable wartime incident was the rescue of two aircrew from a Bristol Beaufighter that had crashed on takeoff into the ammunition dump at Kirknewton. Squadron Leader Peter Guy Ottewill was awarded the George Medal for his bravery in pulling them clear of the burning aircraft.

The MU disbanded in early 1952 but the airfield was used by the United States Air Force (USAF) under the control of 7535th Air Base Squadron as well as use by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for mobile communications and intelligence tracking.

The site was returned to British use after the Americans left in 1966 and saw No 661 Volunteer Gliding School reforming there the following year, using Slingsby Kirby Cadet gliders and remaining there to this day, now using the Grob Viking T1.

The three hard runways were also used for driver training until the mid 1980s, while the Central Scotland Aero Club used the airfield by 2001. Plans to use Kirknewton for a major army base were dropped due to budget cuts in 2013. The site is nevertheless retained by the Ministry of Defence should the need arise for more significant use in the future. A Bellman and two Blister hangars are among the buildings that survive.

 

The following organisations are either based at, use and/or have at least potentially significant connections with the airfield (as at 01/09/2011):

  • Livingston Model Aircraft Club

Main unit(s) present:

  • No 13 Gp AAC Flight

  • No 243 MU

  • No 289 Sqn

  • No 309 Sqn

  • No 661 GS

  • No 661 VGS

  • Army Flying Club

  • Combined Services Flying Club

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