Over thirty people attended our presentation by Betty Black on the life of Skyways as a Lympne based airline from 1955 to 1974. Betty’s presentation was well illustrated with many colour photographs of all aspects of the era. The first flight to Beauvais near Paris was made on 21/9/55 linking London with Paris as a coach air service. The man behind Skyways was Eric Rylands who had seen a similar service linking Blackpool with the Isle of Man, and brought the idea to Lympne. He bought the airfield outright in 1956. The booking in hall and airport lounges had been created by Silver City, but since this car carrying airline had moved to Lydd in 1954, Skyways had to have them extended as they were too small. Other routes to Jersey, Ostend and Montpelier were also operated at first with Dakotas and then a brand new fleet of Hawker Siddeley 748 twin turbo prop aircraft. By 1968 Skyways were flying 247,000 passengers from Lympne. Many Lympne residents and others from the local area were working at the airport, with over 300 working for Skyways alone. By 1969 Lympne became Ashford Airport opened by Ted Heath the then leader of the opposition. A new runway had replaced the grass one after a serious landing accident in 1965, in which all survived the upturned 748 as it rolled over in poor weather. Other hair raising airliner incidents were recalled including one landing on a French beach and another diverting to Manston with a nose wheel jammed half way, to land on a foam covered runway. Again no loss of life
Many personalities were remembered with affection by our audience which included several former employees, too many to mention here, save for Cpt. Murray (Andy) Anderson who had flown PRU Spitfires in WW2 and gone on to fly Lysanders in and out of France at night dropping off and collecting SOE agents. He would go on to have a further flying career in the civil sector including Skyways. Several other Cpts. had been RAF pilots in WW2. We even learned that Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh flew into Lympne often in a Queen’s Flight Andover (a military 748) to visit the Brabourne estate. One such flight was in 1967.
Skyways Coach Air became Skyways International in 1971 after a management buyout and part of Dan Air in 1972. The last flight of a Dakota left Lympne on 31/10/74. Its return flight landed at Lydd where everything transferred that year ending a 19 year golden era of aviation history for Skyways at Lympne.
Our next meeting on May 2nd will be presented by John Simpson on the stories of Douglas Bader and Roger Bushell (Great Escape Big X) at Lympne before, during and after the war. We meet every two months at 7.30pm in the East Bar of Lympne Castle. There is no admission charge. Please note we are working with SHAL to avoid clashing dates in future, albeit holiday commitments may make this more difficult for our July meeting. From September this should be the case, as we look to occupy the first Tuesday in the month.
For more Information please contact:
John Simpson 01303 265078