Airfield Beacons

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In days of yore, airliners navigated by lit glass beacons located on the ground. One example of such (or the remainder of it), from Hatfield Aerodrome, was stored at the Mosquito Museum (now the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Museum) in Herts and is now located at North Weald.

I was wondering if anyone knew of any others still in existence?

Thanks
Janie

Original post
Profile picture for user J Boyle

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In the early day of airmail in the US, the Department of Commerce would place rotating beacons every 15 miles to guide the mailplane pilots at night over the vast (and empty) countryside. Originally, they were 18 inch lights, soon they were upgraded to powerfull 24 inch models. They were mounted on tall platforms.

I don't know how many were made but few survive. One is on display in the transport gallery of the NASM.
However, recently a friend found one in very good condition at a junk store near the Canadian border. He bought and restored it and gave it to another friend (and antique airplane restorer/pilot) for Christmas. Ot's good to have friends!

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Is this the same thing as a 'Chance Light' or is that something completely different?

Moggy

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Shoreham Airport, Sussex still had the flashing beacon on top of one of the older hangars, about a year ago, flashing "SH" in morse code. Is this what you mean?

Paul F

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This is what I am interested in:

http://www.michaelmillichamp.ukgateway.net/page16.html

I have contacted the website creator to see if he has any further information.

J Boyle: Do you have a photo?

Moggy: I did a search on 'Chance Light' on Google and got mens clothing, the weather forecast and the lyrics to "Terminal Verlocity". I'll answer you when I have more knowledge. Right now, I am still an erudite neophyte on this subject.

Paul F: Can you direct me to a photo of the Shoreham beacon, or have a look at the website above and let me know. Thanks.

Anyone got a picture of the Beacon at North Weald? It's the thing that looks like a derelict, dome-shaped green house on the mound outside the Squadron.

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Aerial Lighthouses

Hi Janie,

Er, no, the beacon at Shoreham is a much smaller affair without a revolving lens/mirror affair. It simply flashes out the morse " ... .... ".

I haven't got any photos of it, but from memory it looks to be about two feet tall, and I guess a foot in diameter, and seems to be formed from one "folded", or multiple small, neon tubes mounted vertically in a cylindrical glass housing. It is simply mounted on the apex of one of the hangars - nothing so elaborate as the structure in the link above which looks more akin to a coastal lighthouse?

Paul

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Chance Lighting Tower

Is this the same thing as a 'Chance Light' or is that something completely different?

Moggy


Moggy, The Chance Light was primarily a powerful floodlight on a tower. They were positioned at a number of locations around the aerodrome pointing in towards the centre to illuminate the landing area. I'm not quite sure how pilots landing/taking off avoided being temporarily blinded by these - perhaps the one nearest the end of the landing/take off run was switched off.

There is a Chance Light from Birmingham aerodrome preserved at the Midland Air Museum, Coventry - although it consists of only the tower and light housing on top, none of the illumination/electrical equipment survives.

Roger Smith.

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Janie,

I thought I had a photo of the beacon, but I can't find it.
Best I can do is a crop of another photo - sorry the quality is poor, but hope it helps.

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There is a Chance Light from Birmingham aerodrome preserved at the Midland Air Museum, Coventry - although it consists of only the tower and light housing on top, none of the illumination/electrical equipment survives.
Roger Smith.

Here's a pic of the very same at Coventry.... note that the structure is rather truncated from it's original height!!! I used to see this very beacon shining a green light across Solihull / Elmdon area on the way back home to Solihull from Coventry on the A45 as a kid on Sunday trips to Grandparent's in Coventry - rather ironic that it's now planted right behind the Hunter....lol ;)

Attachments

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ex BHX Chance light at MAM

Pete,
Is the tower truncated? - I don't remember mention of this before. The ladder and cross-bracings suggest to me it might be it's original height.

Is your recollection of Elmdon actually of THIS Chance Tower or an airfield beacon a la the original topic of this thread?

Anyone got old photos of Birmingham/Elmdon that show any of the airfield lighting/identification equipment?

Roger Smith.

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Chance Light.

RNAS airfields in the late 50,s/60,s had a powerfull Deisel powered floodlight mounted on a trailer which would be towed to the end of the duty runway for use if the runway lights failed.

The also had a similar trailer containing a Flashing light sequence (Morse) which identified the station ie FD - Ford

I believe this was for emergency use only as well.

I remember it was part of the duty electricians duty to not only check all the Airfield lights, but to start up and check the above devices.

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Pete,
Is the tower truncated? - I don't remember mention of this before. The ladder and cross-bracings suggest to me it might be it's original height.

Is your recollection of Elmdon actually of THIS Chance Tower or an airfield beacon a la the original topic of this thread?

Anyone got old photos of Birmingham/Elmdon that show any of the airfield lighting/identification equipment?

Roger Smith.

Hi Roger,
I may be wrong... but a long time ago I was told that the original leg structure height was not completely used in the re-assembly due to it's condition? Hence I thought it was 'truncated' from it's original height?

As for this precise light tower - well it certainly looks identical to the one that used to be positioned just off the A45 near to the former "Excelsior" hotel which is at the old airport entrance...

Old photo's: a brief search online came up with this link:
Old Elmdon Airport Postcard Views which although of interest don't clearly show any light towers sadly :(

I knew nothing about these lights / beacons until I realised that the one parked behind the Hunter was a former Elmdon one, many years ago ... so I'm learning...lol

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I too remember the Elmdon beacon with its green flashing light. It was located on the northern side of the (old)A-45 road off the eastern boundary of the airfield (I'm talking early 1960s here). I seem to recall the pylon being about 30 feet high ... but I was only 4 feet high at the time!

Cambridge Airport (Marshalls) has a green neon airfield beacon composed of several green neon tubes in a short pyramid structure. It used to be situated on the roof of the 1930s Terminal until about 10 years ago when it was resited on the aerodrome itself.

BTW - Green was always used for civil airfields and Red for RAF.

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Aerodrome Beacon

Newcastle had their bweacon working up to about five years ago and I am pretty sure that most military airfields still illuminate theirs in Red during the hours of darkness.

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The ex-Hatfield beacon used to sit on the roof of the executive jet sales office (which in the 1930s was The London Aero Club squash courts. (All demolished, plus the clubhouse ... staff canteen in the 80's and 90's ... in one weekend of destruction around 1992)

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Do you live near the A6 Derby to Matlock?

Thanks for all your notes and the photos. I wonder what people think of the beacon at North Weald. Does anyone care if it lives or dies. Should it be preserved?

Do you live near Derby?

Somebody sent me a note saying:

There is a very nice restored one (airfield beacon) on Crich Stand, a few hundred yards of Crich village, easily seen from the A6 Derby to Matlock Road. This unique structure was built in the 1920s as a memorial to the fallen Sherwood Foresters of WW1. It was to serve as both as a memorial to the dead and to be an aerial lighthouse. It is by far the most architecturally ornate one I have seen.

Does anyone have a photo of this? I want to see if it is worth starting a campaign to restore the Hatfield Beacon.

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Moggy: I did a search on 'Chance Light' on Google and got mens clothing, the weather forecast and the lyrics to "Terminal Verlocity".
I discovered it is best to search on 'Chance Brothers/Bros' for more illuminating information.

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As this thread has got going again I was in discussion with XF382 about the original height of the Chance light tower at MAM. A week ago I spoke to Geoff Firth (ex MAM Vice Chairman) who went to Elmdon to inspect before dismantling and acquisition and he doesn't recall it being any higher there than it is now. Although emgineers at Elmdon had numbered all the joints when dismantling Geoff is still unsure whether it was re-erected properly!

Roger Smith.

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There's a big green flasher at Booker (Wycombe)......same thing ? ? ? ?

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The 2ft high by 1ft diameter size sounds about right for Finningley's beacon which has been saved by a local enthusiast, literally pulled out of a skip.The RAF were dumping it as they moved out of their care & maintenance job there.
I know it's location and it still works, but the owner won't part with it.Rest assured it's safe though.

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Halifax nose missing

Cees (HP 57), Do you have that photo of the Halifax, from windshield forward missing, that was flown back from Germany?? That is a good one for the guys. Cheers, Karl Kj