Aviation in Jersey

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Aviation in Jersey


1912: Jean Benoist landed his Sanchez-Besa biplane in St Aubin's Bay as part of a four aircraft race organised between St Malo and Jersey

1920s: Imperial Airways provided regular flying boat services between the UK, France and the Channel Islands

1933: Jersey Airways established and the beach at West Park used as an airfield. As flights and aircraft size increased a purpose built airfield was commissioned.

1937: New airport opened at St Peter on 10 March 1937, with four grass runways, the longest at 980 yards. The airport complex included a central tower and two side buildings for departures and arrivals, designed with future expansion in mind.

The beach at West Park became busier and busier in the 1930s as demand for air travel grew
A new airport in 1937
Jersey's Bailiff Alexander Countanche meets arriving German troops at Jersey Airport in July 1940

Seaplane lands

The first aircraft to land was the Sanchez Besa seaplane piloted by Jean Benoist, which touched down in the water off West Park on 26 August 1912. Such was the commotion when a large crowded gathered round the flying machine such as none of them had ever seen, that Benoist's return flight to Saint Malo was delayed and he slipped to third place in the race in which he was competing. The pilot feared for the safety of his flimsy machine as islanders scratched their names in the wings. American Charles Weymann had the fortune to land further down the beach at Beaumont, where he stayed 30 minutes, refuelled and hurried back to St Malo to claim first prize in the race.

The first passenger flight in the island is recorded as having taken place 147 years earlier when a schoolmaster called Granger made several flights over the island in a balloon.

The First World War intervened and it was not until 1921 that aviation really got going with seaplanes landing outside the harbour and venturing inside to collect passengers. As the decade progressed Imperial Airways began to provide regular seaplane services. But the one-way fare from Southampton was a massive £3 18s, which was more than a return boat trip, plus accommodation, and the services decreased in frequency.


Before the beach at West Park became established as an airfield, a number of operators had used seaplanes to provide services from Jersey to the French coast and the UK mainland, although none was particularly successful. However, contemporary reports reveal that the aircraft manufactured by Saunders Roe at Southampton were among the best suited to the cross-Channel route. [1]

Daily services

But when the terminal switched from the sea to the beach at West Park demand grew, particularly on bank holiday weekends, and by 1936 Jersey Airways operated return flights to the island from London and Southampton. The latter service took an hour and a quarter, and passengers from London could leave Victoria for Heston and land in Jersey less than three hours later. Departure times varied significantly according to the tides.

Cloud of Iona

One of the most popular aircraft to fly between the Channel Islands and England was the Cloud of Iona, a true amphibian which could land on the beach or in the water. Sadly this was to become the first aircraft in local service to crash, with the loss of all of those on board, in July 1936. By this time pressure to build a permanent airport had increased, the driving force being the island's Chamber of Commerce.

Airport opens

Eventually a reluctant States agreed with plans for an airport at St Peter, although fears had been expressed that it would become a burden on the taxpayer.

The States need not have worried. In 1938, just a year after it opened, Jersey Airport was the second busiest in the British Isles, the 34,559 passengers carried that year being second only to Croydon and some 10,000 more than had used the beach aerodrome at West Park three years earlier.

Second World War

The Germans took over Jersey Airport and the rest of the island for five years from 1 July 1940. The first encounter between the occupying forces and the insular authorities took place at the Airport, to which Bailiff Sir Alexander Coutanche was summoned to meet senior officers. Surrender terms were agreed and more troops started arriving by air.

Plans to turn the Airport into a major military base were abandoned, along with Hitler's intentions to invade England, and the Airport was initially used more for reconnaissance flights than aggressive missions, and as the war continued, the Airport was extended but became little used by the Luftwaffe.


Commercial flights soon restarted after the war and helped tourism become the island's main industry until the 1990s.

History of flying at West Park

This edited history is taken from the website www.ukairfieldguide.net. It contains a number of inaccuracies, particularly concerning the period when the beach 'airport' was in use, but has been included for the benefit of aviation enthusiasts, who will doubtless be interested in the history it contains of some of the aircraft used by Jersey Airways.

St Aubin's Bay: Civil seawater and also beach aerodrome/airport (Aka West Park)

Location: Adjacent to and west of St Helier

Period of operation: 1930 to 1951

In 1930 Kirston and Mace Ltd operated a Saunders-Roe Cutty Sark G-AAIP from here to Southampton. Converted Short Sunderland flying boats were used for the Aquila services later on, after WW2. Jersey Airways used the beach in the 1930s often with several DH84 Dragons flying in formation from Heston and lining up abreast on the beach after landing. Later other De Havilland airliner types were also employed. An incredible spectacle both in the air and on the beach.

In his book The Triple Alliance, Neville Doyle states: “Probably the first landing by a Dragon on the beach of St Aubin’s Bay in Jersey took place on 19 June 19 1933, when Hillman’s Airways' Capt Flowerday arrived to collect Mrs Hidden of Holland-on-Sea, who had been taken ill on holiday. Seats were removed to make room for a stretcher.” This would make sense as the Kirston and Mace Saunders-Roe Cutty Sark was an amphibious type, so it might have ‘moored’ near a pontoon or pier? Indeed, the same might had applied to the Supermarine Seagull, which Neville Doyle mentions, operated briefly by the Tour and Travel Association from Southampton.

In 1934 Jersey Airways were operating a fleet of eight DH Dragons flying from both Southampton (Eastleigh) and Heston. They landed on the beach, and due to the tide, which can rise to 40 feet, no doubt their stay was fairly short. At the height of the season, it was not unknown for all Jersey’s eight Dragons to be in the air at once. Jersey Airways had exclusive rights to operate from the beach.

Jersey Airways also flew their DH86 Express and DH89 Dragon Rapides onto this beach.

Jersey Airways 1930s fleet

DH84 Dragon: G-ACMC, G-ACMJ, G-ACMP and G-ACNH


DH89A Dragon Rapide: G-ADBW


  • G-ADBW: Jersey Airways, based at Heston in west London, operated G-ADBW from 28 May 1935 until 21 of July 1938. Airwork at Heston then acquired it from 30 January 1939 until 15 July 1040, basing it at Shoreham.
  • G-ACZR: Registered to Jersey Airways, Jersey, from 27 January 1934 until 21 July 1940, and was based at Eastleigh.
  • G-ACYG: Based at Heston.
  • G-ACNH: Registered to Northern and Scottish Airways, and based at Renfrew from 4 July 1935 until January 1937.
  • G-ACNG: Registered with Spartan Airlines at Cowes, Isle of Wight, then British Airways. Finally end with Northern and Scottish and British Airways at Renfrew.
  • G-ACMP: Registered to Jersey Airways, and based at Jersey, from 31 January 1934 to 30 December 1937.
  • G-ACMO: Registered to Northern and Scottish Airways at Renfrew from February 1934 to September 1940. Presumably Jersey Airways hired aircraft to cope with their 'high season' workload.
  • G-ACCR: Registered to Doris Godley who ran Commercial Air Hire from Croydon. Commercial Air Hire operated it from 13 December 1934 until 21 January 1936, when it crashed in the Channel.
  • G-ACMP: Registered to Jersey Airways from the 1 December 1933 until 22 July 1935, when it crashed on mudflats near Cardiff.
  • G-ACNI: Registered initially to British AW Ltd, (Heston) from February 1934. Then to Airwork at Heston, from 31 December 1936 until March 1937.
  • G-ACNJ: Registered to A C Pearson at Heston from 1 February 1934, when it went to Allied Airways, Aberdeen from 6 December 1937 until 29 June 1945.
  • G-ACZO: Registered on 7 July 1934. This registration was cancelled on the 21 July 1940.
  • C-ACMJ: Registered to Jersey Airways from 7 December 1933. Later it went to Weston-Super-Mare and appears to have been registered to a private/company owner before being registered to Western Airways, from 1 July 1938 until 2 April 1940.

The batch of DH86 Express, G-ACZN, G-ACZO, G-ACZP and G-ACZR were all registered to Jersey Airways at Portsmouth.

Other pages

This is both a new and a historical photograph. New, because it was taken on 18 November 2012; historical, because it shows a view from Jersey Airport's air traffic control tower of the main airport building, which earlier that year lost most of the ugly extensions added over the years to the original 1937 structure. It may not be quite the airport it was when it first opened 75 years ago, but it is undeniably much more attractive than it appeared for most of the last 40

Notes and references

  1. A new air service announced in 1931: 'A company has just been formed for the purpose of maintaining an air service between Guernsey, Jersey and England. This is the fourth such enterprise, including the Imperial Airways service of three years ago with Calcuttas. The prime movers in the new enterprise are Lord Amherst and Mr G Black, of Garroway, Black and Co. With these exceptions the board consists of local businessmen. It is intended to use Saunders-Roe Saro-Clouds for the service. Two machines will be used, one for passengers and one for freight, and it is expected that during the potato season the Guernsey growers will make considerable use of the latter plane in order to place their produce on the markets considerably sooner than is possible by mail boats and train. Flower growers are also expected to benefit. An official of the Guernsey Growers Association has been appointed to the board
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