Following a long-running dispute over planning permission for a housing development, historic Old Sarum airfield near Salisbury closed in late October with the resident aircraft, including those of the ‘GoFly’ flying school, forced to re-locate to other airfields.
Old Sarum is widely considered to be one of the most historic aerodromes in the UK (military flying training commenced here in 1917) and also one of the least-developed – three of the original WW1 hangars are still standing and are now Grade II listed, many of the other historic buildings on the airfield are still occupied, and the airfield retains its grass landing and take-off area.
In the days leading up to the closure, good weather allowed pilots from all over the country to fly into Old Sarum and when FTN visited on the last Sunday before the airfield closed, there were still a couple of dozen resident aircraft in evidence, as well as busy flying operations by ‘GoFly’ together with the GoSkyDive parachuting school.
However, the poor state of some of the historic hangars was also evident. A few weeks after the closure, the GoSkyDive parachuting school announced that it had reached a ‘multi-year’ agreement to resume operations at Old Sarum in 2020.
GoSkydive jump almost 10,000 first time skydivers per annum at Old Sarum and have historically welcomed 60,000 plus visitors each year to Old Sarum. Paul Shipway, General Manager of GoSkydive said: “Today is a hugely important day for GoSkydive as we can now plan for our future at Old Sarum.
Securing our agreement means we will be able to continue to employ almost 70 people at Old Sarum and of course bring visitors to the local area. Our new agreement removes the aircraft-related operational constraints that had been imposed by the owners, allowing us much greater flexibility to grow as a business and provide additional opportunities for our customers to develop in the sport, including freefall skydive training and Sports Skydiving at the site.
It is certainly a very exciting time for us as a business as we plan for our first operational day – 1st February 2020.”
Gordon Blamire, Founder of GoSkydive added: “We have been in discussions with the owners of Old Sarum Airfield for some time and following their decision to change the mode of operation to dedicate the airfield to unlimited flying by commercial organisations, we are pleased we can now concentrate fully on additional growth opportunities and improving our skydiving packages even further.”
FTN understands that discussions to permit the flying school to return to Old Sarum are also underway, nevertheless it is unclear at present whether full flying operations will resume at the 102-years old airfield.