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Chocks Away!

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Yesterday, I visited the former Croydon Airport as part of my London Open House perambulations. Croydon was home to London’s first proper airport, with the purpose-designed terminal building opening in 1928. It’s now a visitor centre and business park.

Detail of Airport House, Croydon (credit: David Rooney)

Detail of Airport House, Croydon (credit: David Rooney)

Increasing aircraft size, number of flights, and worries over proximity to a fast-growing London (sound familiar?) meant that Croydon’s days were numbered as an international airport after the Second World War, and the last flight left exactly fifty years ago, in September 1959. Heathrow took over.

In its day, though, Croydon Airport saw much pioneering flying. One of its most celebrated departures took place in 1930, two years after the terminal opened for business, as Amy Johnson took off to become the first woman to fly solo to Australia.

To get a true sense of her remarkable achievement (and those of every other flying pioneer of the early days), it is well worth seeing her aircraft, ‘Jason’, on show in our Flight gallery:

Amy Johnsons Gipsy Moth aircraft (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)

Amy Johnson's Gipsy Moth aircraft (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)

Such a small aircraft – such a long journey. Remember Johnson – and the diminutive Jason – next time you fly a Boeing 747 round the world. Alternatively, you could always remember the event by dining in Amy Johnson’s Restaurant and Bar, at the historic Aerodrome Hotel right next to the airport terminal…

Aerodrome Hotel, Croydon (credit: David Rooney)

Aerodrome Hotel, Croydon (credit: David Rooney)

Written by David Rooney

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  1. Zanna

    I love that picture of Jason. Does it say G-AAAH(!) out of pure chance – that’s just the code the plane was assigned, or is it a joke? And was she making a point by giving her plane a man’s name?

  2. David Rooney, Curator of Transport

    Hi Zanna, thanks for the comment. As far as I know, ‘Jason’ was the trademark of her father’s fish business. As for the registration code, ‘G’ is the start of all UK airplane registrations, and then I think it just started ‘AAAA’ and went up from there. Can anyone shed any more light on the history of the coding system? Out of interest, I just found a scan of Johnson’s original registration certificate online at http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/HistoricalMaterial/G-AAAH.pdf.

  3. David Rooney, Curator of Transport

    Oops. Link doesn’t work directly. Try http://www.caa.co.uk/application.aspx?catid=60&pagetype=65&appid=1&mode=reg&fullregmark=AAAH and then click the ‘Pre-1986 Register Entry’ link…

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