View Full Version : Portland

14-03-2009, 21:17
Visited Portland today and had a look at the old HMS Osprey there.


Many changes going on now with the site being carved up.

In the annoted Google view (top)... the area outlined in red is that retained by the MCA for use by the SAR unit....a large new hangar is now fully occupied.
The disused runway stays within the new boundaries but the tiedowns to the SE of the runway are now being used as a car park(altho free and rather unkempt - lots of rubbish on places).

New access road as shown ...and the blue outlined areas are undergoing extensive redevelopement.

Below the GE view there are 4 photos..
First shows view across the MCA area to the NW - the yellow boat in the distance is in a boatyard in the new developement area.
Second is the disused RW from the West.
Third the tie down area (car park now ) from the NE.

Lastly the SAR AW139 G-CGWB


Peter Kirk
14-03-2009, 23:33
Nice update.

I must admit, though, to being confused about Portland's "airfields". I understood the the current site was developed either late war or post war on the site of RN playing fields. The original site, albeit very small, was somewhere else close by but I can't find an exact location. Was there an earlier airstrip (used by Swordfish?) or have I got it wrong?

Richard Flagg
15-03-2009, 00:50
Got to be the smallest runway ever hasn't it?

15-03-2009, 11:12
PNK.... the Swordfish were on floats...772Sq,Swordfish,formed 9-39,dep7-40...

Any land based fixed wing ops in the area would have been either at Chickerell..
or Lodmoor...(entry on my Dorset Airfields site......)

"WEYMOUTH:Lodmoor:There was an aerodrome here(Actual location was the Weymouth Cricket Club's ground at Overcombe Corner)- used by the RFC/RN for flying.It is recorded that Lt Spencer Grey flew a Blackburn Monoplane from here on 7th January 1912 .On the 10th January he crashed on landing whilst trying to avoid spectators on the landing ground.He suffered a dislocated arm.There was a hangar to accomodate the aircraft.In May 1912 the RFC used a site during the period around the Naval Review held at Portland in May.The aircraft were a Short biplane,a Deperdussin and a Nieuport. The aircraft had been bought to Portland on board the HMS Hibernia which had been fitted with a launching platform in the bows.An additional Short biplane, No.41, fitted as a "hydro- aeroplane had also come on the battleship. The "hydro-aeroplane" flew from Portland harbour. A "shed" had been provided on the shore for the aircraft(see image below on LEFT).Right hand image below shows Cdr Samson at Lodmoor with Short aircraft "S38". In addition there were visits by several civilian machines at that time- including Claude Grahame-White who flew his Henri-Farman monoplane from the aerodrome(The aircraft was brought in by rail & road)Also present at the time was Benny Hucks with his aircraft.There were further visits later in the summer by RFC aircraft.

By 1921 there was a "listed" aerodrome here according to "Flight" Sept 8th 1921 .This continued in use until 1933."

If you want to see the development of the Air station site over the last 100 years ...look at the site below which shows the view from Portland looking along the Chesil beach as shown in postcards from 1904 to 2007.

You can clearly see that until the 1950s, there was nothing where the air staion is now except the marshy expanse of The Mere....Here's the link (Use LH menu to advance thruough the years- click images for enlarged views)

http://www.chesilbeach.org/pictures/pos ... land1.html

15-03-2009, 11:34
I wonder if any fixed wing aircraft (other than Harriers) have ever managed to use Portlands runway?

15-03-2009, 13:06
It would be a little tight even taking the grass to the SW of the runway into account ...total length available is just over 460 metres.

The only FAA aircraft capable(safely) IMO would have been the couple of Tiger Moths that they had on charge till the early 70s at L-o-S(and other places).

Peter Kirk
15-03-2009, 13:29
Thanks for the info. I'd forgotton about Swordfish with Boots.

Peter Kirk
17-09-2009, 14:02
Only just noticed that Portlands huge runway has moved by 1 degree at some point. Must be uniquie on modern military "airfields"?

17-09-2009, 16:52
I'm sure it's not the first by a long way.....
Change due to magnetic variation - it must happen to all sooner or later...just how soon depends how close to a runway heading is to a figure ending in 5+ now - this will determine how long before it becomes less than 5 and so precipitates a "label" change.

Peter Kirk
17-09-2009, 17:30
I actually meant the runway itself not the magnetic heading. You can see the old alignment to the top right of "21". I suspect it's only a spray job as the whole area is probably concrete.

On the subject of magnetic change, does it only move in one direction or can it go back to 'original' at some point (decades, centuries or millennia)?

17-09-2009, 18:55
Yes - I see what you mean.

Mag Variation - I think (stand to be corrected on this ) that over several hundreds(maybe thousands ) of years , the Mag N pole travels in a circle that eventually leads back to its starting point.

23-10-2009, 01:02
from map reading 101 I seem to remember that the mag variation will eventually move full circle, I think the variation is something like 2 degrees in 100 years, although some areas change more than that (something to do with localised iron ore deposits in the earths crust)

as for that runway... my word, is it even worth having? i've seen model planes need more runway than that!!

28-10-2011, 23:27
A few pictures from today:

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6107/6290121792_14b34cd193_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6290121792/)
Former Admin Block and ATC (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6290121792/) by PaulHP (http://www.flickr.com/people/harlowirish/), on Flickr

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6060/6289601281_ea8b6c06ee_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6289601281/)
Old Runway Light Casing (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6289601281/) by PaulHP (http://www.flickr.com/people/harlowirish/), on Flickr

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6097/6290116330_d21c962f56_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6290116330/)
Old Runway Light Casing (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6290116330/) by PaulHP (http://www.flickr.com/people/harlowirish/), on Flickr

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6053/6290112846_62ab4dc205_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6290112846/)
Old Runway Light Casings (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6290112846/) by PaulHP (http://www.flickr.com/people/harlowirish/), on Flickr

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6100/6290110514_882114aee1_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6290110514/)
Old Runway Number (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6290110514/) by PaulHP (http://www.flickr.com/people/harlowirish/), on Flickr

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6098/6290105738_43bd798dc9_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6290105738/)
Site of the former RNAS Portland (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6290105738/) by PaulHP (http://www.flickr.com/people/harlowirish/), on Flickr

And one from the Navy Cemetery:

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6234/6290108028_2b083b04ce_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6290108028/)
J.F. Mantle, V.C., War Grave, 1940, Portland, Royal Navy (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/6290108028/) by PaulHP (http://www.flickr.com/people/harlowirish/), on Flickr

Richard Flagg
29-10-2011, 09:06
Nice photos PaulHP, it looks more dis-used in your photos than it does in the ones earlier on in the thread. Is the runway still used? The last evevated view is excellent with the beach in the background.

29-10-2011, 09:13
My guess would be no as the runway has two X's painted on it. The Coastguards just seem to fly off their helipad.

29-10-2011, 10:48
The second lighting picture isn't ! It says 'Avery' on it -something to do with Avery Fuel Oil Inc ?

29-10-2011, 21:26
The runway is out of use and has been for some years.
If you look at the historical imagery on GE you can go back to 2001 when the old runway alignnment was in use... a repaint job somewhen between then and closing shifted the northern end of it to the west.

Paul's 4th & 5th pictures are of the area in my 3rd picture(see post #1) - originally several heli-spots ....now slated to become a car park and green area (according to locals I interrogated when I was last there)

30-10-2011, 06:52
The second lighting picture isn't ! It says 'Avery' on it -something to do with Avery Fuel Oil Inc ?

Yes, AVERY-HARDOL make aviation fuel couplings etc. It's the cover for a pressure refuelling point.

23-07-2012, 15:18
I still live on Portland and used to fly out of it during the 70's through to the 90's prior to it closing down.

The runway orientation has changed, what was runway 04/22 is now 05/23, looking at the new marking and comparing them with the old hardly discernible runway markings I believe the numbering is more than a shift in variation.

Over my time working out of PO, the runway was changed from a seriously short runway pre 1970/1, incapable of taking any FW other than Harrier. The runway had a temporary shift in orientation, Aprox 90 degrees, running north, south whilst a new runway was constructed along the original 04/22 orientation. This new runway was longer and strengthened as well as having dedicated 'hardened spots' to facilitate the heat from the hovering Harriers jet efflux. At the same time a new fire station was built on site to the north of the runway. The fire station had previously been located outside the airstation at Boscowan in nearby Castletown. New hangerage, tie down points and radars were installed.

There was talk of a C130 making a landing at PO but from memory I only remember a C130 putting wheels down running along the short runway and lifting prior to the piano keys.

I pass the old place daily and it breaks my heart to see the once busy heliport used by a shortly to depart CG helicopter. (Albeit - as I type there quite a few rotary wing sitting on the runway due to the Olympics. The sailing academy now sitting on what what the fire training pits, the Fleet Target Group hangers and 'crash and smash' the aircraft recovery section. The very visible fuel tanks that identified PO so easily from the air have gone in there entirety.

Regards, FW flights, the dockyard next door!! Used to have many float fitted aircraft circa 1930's 40's. I will attempt to dig out some old pics of that as well as few of the new site similar to the ones posted above.

23-07-2012, 22:11
A few pic of RNAS Portland including a dockyard shot.

South side of the airfield with what I think is a Westland Whirlwind Mk1 (I think!)

Portland airfield pre 1970, Helicopters in use at the time where Whirlwind and Dragon Fly.

Portland dock yard and one of it's aircraft. I will leave it to you guys to identify.

Portland airfield from the west cliffs of Portland. The picture was take whilst the air station was still operational. Flying Wessex Mk 5's of 772 NAS, Lynx, Mk 2 & 8 of 703 NAS, (Training Squadron), 829 NAS. The Wasp had been withdrawn from service by this time. :(

Richard Drew
29-05-2013, 21:50
Portland CEW R1 ROTOR Radar Station

The Portland Centimetric Early Warning (CEW) Radar Station was constructed (Site contractor: Robert McAlpine) in 1950-51. GPO installations began ('I' day) on 1st December 1951 with Operational availability (‘O’ Day) achieved by 20th February 1953, the R1 being transferred to the RAF under the command of Squadron Leader NOYES, AFC. It consisted of a single storey R1 operation Block accessed from a nonstandard design guardhouse/bungalow built of local Portland stone. (http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/sites/p/portland/

12651Guard House with lift shaft.

12640Shaft down

12641Tunnel from lift shaft to the R1 bunker.

12642Access corridor

12649Transformer room.

12648Radar Office.

12643Ops Room, Kelvin Hughes Photographic Display Unit http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/sites/h/holmpton/index210.html

12644Plant room.

12647Plant room.

12646Switch gear.

12645Switch gear.

12650Shaft looking up.

126536 radar plinths still survive on the surface.

12652Inside the radar plinth.

I would like to thank two AIX members for asking me along to this Subbrit day out, it was a fascinating day and to Nick Catford for a warm welcome.
25 May 2013

23-05-2014, 12:11
One of the group companies within the Welbeck Estate Group namely First State Holdings purchased and refurbished the naval ratings married quarters comprising 36 flats within six blocks known as Hinkley, Odgers, Mitchell, Shepherd, Pride, Sullivan Westcliff on Portland between November 1986 and March 1988. For the past 35 years Welbeck have specialised in the acquisition of former military establishments and MQ sites and recently completed their 36th ex MOD site of 66 officers houses at Shackleton Barracks RAF Ballykelly Northern Ireland. Visit the site at: http://welbeckestate.com looking under 'Management Profile and Projects' also 'Aviation'

06-11-2014, 09:59
Some news here regarding Portland's possible future use -

(Courtesy of the Dorset ECHO http://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/news/11579324.EXCLUSIVE__New_plan_for_helicopter_base_a fter_search_and_rescue_leaves/)

EXCLUSIVE: New plan for helicopter base after search and rescue leaves

Business plan to maintain
NEW plans could see Portland (http://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/search/?search=Portland&topic_id=4327) remain as a facility for helicopters after the closure of the coastguard search and rescue base in 2017.
South Dorset MP Richard Drax (http://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/search/?search=MP+Richard+Drax&topic_id=7350) has been working with HeliOperations – a company supplying trained helicopter personnel to companies worldwide – on a business plan for the Portland helicopter base site at Osprey Quay (http://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/search/?search=Osprey+Quay&topic_id=4323).
The move could secure the future of the site as a helicopter training facility after a coastguard government contract comes to an end in 2017. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency rents the site from the Homes and Communities Agency and it will hand the site back to the HCA in 2017.

Under the new business plan, a search and rescue presence would not be kept at the site – but it could potentially allow the site to maintain the capability to refuel helicopters.
Mr Drax said this was very important as it meant any coastguard helicopters on a rescue mission would have somewhere to refuel, as well as providing skilled work opportunities for people in the area.
The current MCA site would become the head office for HeliOperations. The company provides training for the helicopter industry, oil and gas industry, the luxury super yacht sector and search and rescue crew.

The business plan states: “The property is ideally located and designed as an operating centre from where training for industry and military support can be provided for local and international clients.
“The proposed HeliOperations facility will employ up to 30 people and provide opportunities for people in the area to enter this high value industry.”
The business plan suggests a phased approach to taking over the site starting next year, taking the facility through from the search and rescue closedown in 2017, to being fully operational by 2019.
The business plan concludes: “If Portland helicopter base were closed or put to another use, it would lose its captive career-generating capability for the people of Portland and it would in all likelihood be an irreversible decision.”
The next stage of the plan is to have meetings with the HCA about a potential lease.
CEO of the company Steve Gladston, who was in the Fleet Air Arm and trained at Portland on Sea King helicopters, said he was very fond of the area.
He said he wanted people to get in touch and tell them what they thought of the plans.
Mr Gladston said: “One of the reasons we are really keen on doing it, is we believe the people of Weymouth and Portland would support it.”