WRIGHT THINKING: It’ll never take off ...

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I’VE had airports on the brain lately, after a rather odd news story you might have seen last week.

A chap was suggesting that there was a case for building a new North-East regional airport near Peterlee to replace the existing two at Newcastle and Teesside, or Durham Tees Valley to give it its new name, which has never quite caught on.

I’m no financial expert, but I would respectfully suggest that the chances of funding a multi-billion development in such austere times are fairly slim.

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It might have been a fair idea around 75 years ago, but its time has probably gone.

I wonder if the man behind the idea knew that we had our own airport in Hartlepool at one time.

Technically, it was in West Hartlepool (pre-town amalgamation days) and was situated just outside Greatham.

I’m dating myself a smidge here, but I can definitely remember going to an air show there in the early Fifties.

The site was later taken over by British Steel and is now occupied by the headquarters of Cleveland Fire Brigade and the Queens Meadow Business Park.

Some of my older relatives had served in the Royal Air Force during the war, and remembered it from those days along with its larger sister stations at Graythorp and Thornaby.

Greatham airport had its place in our history, with a small number of the legendary Spitfire fighters operating from there around 1942.

It also housed a training section for glider pilots, and that outfit eventually moved a bit south to Topcliffe – you can still see those super light planes as you join the A1M from the A19 near Dishforth.

Of course, airport was quite a grand word for the very basic facility.

Airfield or airstrip was more accurate and the planes really did take off and land on a flattened field.

At the end of the war in 1945, the RAF had a lot of surplus planes, and airfields, and a crop of small planes providing internal flights soon sprang up.

18th May, 1953 was quite an historic day, seeing the start of a scheduled service from West Hartlepool to Northolt Airport near London.

That service would be really handy today (especially as the return fare was less than a tenner), but sadly the BKS company who ran it closed the service in 1956.

My memories of the West Hartlepool Air Show are strangely vivid, given that I was only five or six, but I can still recall the smell and noise of the planes.

Compared to modern extreme security at modern airports, the early Fifties were a much simpler age.

As I remember, there was no huge security fence, and certainly no metal detectors or armed police – just chaps who told you to stand back when a plane was coming in.

Older Hartlepool Mail readers may be able to help here, but I’m sure I can recall a tethered balloon which popped up and down to give visitors a bird’s eye view over the town.

I don’t think we’ll ever see an East Durham Airport, but, next time you are heading out of town on the A689, glance to your left and remember a different world.