Renfrew Airport, originally known as Moorpark Aerodrome, was Scotland's first municipal airport.
Flying began in the Moorpark area of Renfrew around 1910, with early flyers taking advantage of the area's flat fields to practice their take-off and landing skills. Following the outbreak of World War I,the Ministry of Munitions took over the area between Renfrew and Arkleston, creating an airfield where aircraft Manufactured in Glasgow, by companies such as Weir's, could be tested. Moorpark Aerodrome was formed in 1914 by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), forerunner to the RAF.
During the 1920s, the Scottish Flying Club established its headquarters there, and the first scheduled air service to operate from Renfrew began in 1933, destined for Campbeltown, soon to be followed with the addition of a London service.
602 Squadron was formed at Renfrew on September 12, 1925, and is described on its own page, which includes further details of the airfield's military history.
On May 14, 1933, a rescue flight was flown from Renfrew to Islay by Jimmy Orwell, to rescue a fisherman with acute peritonitis, an event which led to the formation of the Scottish Air Ambulance Service. A monument can be found on the corner of Newmains and Sandy Road, built with stones taken from the Highlands and Islands, where the Service has helped save many lives.
World war II saw the arrival of the RAF, with the Air Ministry taking over the club headquarters, and expanding the buildings to meet it the RAF's requirements. Following the end of World War II, the club returned to the site, and became responsible for running the civil operation of Renfrew Airport.
During the 1950s, air travel grew at an increasing rate, Renfrew was becoming too small to handle the increase, and its location was proving limited with regard to expansion, being bordered by Hillington Industrial Estate, the King George V dock on the Clyde, and Arkleston Cemetery near the main runway. At 2,000 yards and 1,350 yards, the runways were almost as long as those at Prestwick Airport (which handled Transatlantic traffic) but, at 50 yards, they were only half the width. Plans for a third runway were dropped after the site was found to suffer from the effects of crosswinds and fog.
A new terminal building was constructed at Renfrew in 1954, as part of a limited expansion, and its design was considered to be a classic at the time. The intention had been to dismantle this building, and reconstruct it on the site of the former Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) at Abbotsinch. Unfortunately, the growth in air traffic continued to increase, exceeding earlier projections, with the result that the planned move was forgotten, and the terminal building was destroyed when the site was later cleared for other developments. The site is now occupied by a large supermarket and car park.
With no room for further expansion at Renfrew, a new airport was commissioned at Abbotsinch, only two miles west of the former site, but with none of its disadvantages.
Renfrew Airport closed on May 1, 1966, with operations transferring to the new Glasgow Airport, which opened on May 2, 1966.
A straight section of the M8 motorway, adjacent to Hillington Industrial Estate, is built upon the line of the former runway. It is not known if the original runway structure lies under the motorway, or if it was replaced by the appropriate substructure for such a roadway. The runway positions are indicated on the map below, but are taken from 1960's mapping, which did not have the benefit of today's GPS accuracy. There are no remaining ground features which would allow a definite comparison to be made, due to the working of the original motorway construction, and subsequent development of the adjacent land to the north.
Some of the World War II defences installed around the airfield have been identified.
Abbotsinch Airfield pillboxes:
- 43.01 - Pillbox 1
- 43.02 - Pillbox 2
- 43.03 - Pillbox 3
- 43.04 - Pillbox 4
- 43.05 - Pillbox 5
- 43.06 - Pillbox 6
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- 43.08 - Pillbox 8
- 43.09 - Pillbox 9
- 43.10 - Pillbox 10
Renfrew Airfield pillbox:
In 1916 Renfrew Town Council requisitioned land at Newmains Farm for an airfield, used to test fly aeroplanes built by the neighbouring Clydeside shipbuilding and engineering companies. In 1918 it became redundant, but in 1923 William Beardmore & Co established a Royal Air Force Reserve Flying School at Renfrew.
Renfrew Airport thus became the airfield for developing services to Glasgow, and home to private flyers. The Scottish Flying Club was founded at Renfrew in November 1927. By 1932 it had become too small for military aircraft, so the RAF established Abbotsinch Aerodrome in 1933. This was transferred to the Royal Navy as HMS Sanderling in 1943. Source
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