|IATA: VLY – ICAO: EGOV|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||Royal Air Force|
|In use||1941 - present|
|Commander||Group Captain A Hill RAF|
|Elevation AMSL||36 ft / 11 m|
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Royal Air Force Station Valley or more simply RAF Valley (IATA: VLY, ICAO: EGOV) is a Royal Air Force station on the island of Anglesey, Wales, and which is also used as Anglesey Airport. It provides fast-jet training using the BAE Systems Hawk and provides training for aircrew working with Search and rescue. Unofficially the motto for RAF Valley is 'Training Aircrew and Saving Lives'.
History[edit | edit source]
World War Two[edit | edit source]
The airfield was constructed in the latter part of 1940 and opened for operations on 1 February 1941 as a Fighter Sector Station under No. 9 Group RAF with the task of providing defence cover for England's industrial north-west and shipping in the Irish Sea. Initial detachments were made by Hawker Hurricanes of 312 and 615 Squadrons. A detachment of Bristol Beaufighters of 219 Squadron provided night fighter cover.
No. 456 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) formed at Valley on 30 June 1941 and became operational on 5 September flying Boulton Paul Defiants. By November the squadron had completely re-equipped with Beaufighter IIs, and these provided defensive night patrols over the Irish Sea until March 1943, when the unit moved away. As a result of many accidents in the Irish Sea, due to the number of training aircraft active in the area, 275 Squadron formed at Valley in October 1941, equipped with Westland Lysanders and Supermarine Walrus amphibians and these performed Air-sea rescue (ASR) missions until the unit moved away in April 1944.
The runways and taxiways were extended in early 1943 and on 19 June 1943 the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Ferry Terminal became operational. This handled American aircraft arriving from transatlantic flights and on European sorties. Eleven Liberators of the United States Navy arrived from Iceland on 17 August. During the winter of 1943/1944, the ferry route was switched to a southerly route via the Azores and Marrakesh and on 18February, 62 Douglas C-47s arrived from North Africa. One of Valley's busiest days was on 17 September 1944 when 99 USAAF Boeing B-17s and Liberators were ferried in from Iceland. In the middle of 1944 there was a daily transatlantic Douglas C-54 Skymaster service from Stephenville bringing airmen of all ranks, who continued their journeys to London by travelling on the LMSR Irish Mail train from Holyhead.
Because of the large scale USAAF activities at Valley, RAF operations were scaled down, but on 1 November 1944, No. 1528 BAT Flight re-formed here operating Airspeed Oxford twin-engined aircraft which were used in the Beam Approach training role until moving out on 17 December 1945.
RAF Valley's USAAF ferry role was reversed as soon as the European War ended and over 2,600 bombers passed through on their way back to the USA for re-deployment, each carrying 20 passengers and crew. The USAAF Movement Section closed in September 1945, and in June 1947 the airfield was put on a care and maintenance basis.
Postwar operations[edit | edit source]
During 1950 many improvements were made to the hangars and buildings at Valley and on 1 April 1951 No. 202 Advanced Flying School was reformed here in No. 25 Group to train fighter pilots on Vampire and Meteor jet aircraft. Vampire FB.5 and T.11 and Meteor T.7 marks were used until the unit was re-designated No. 7 Flying Training School (FTS) on 1 June 1954. On 15 August 1960 the unit was renumbered No. 4 Flying Training School RAF which is still based at the airfield.
The first Folland Gnat jet trainers were received on 7 November 1962 and many examples of the type were successfully operated for many years. These were supplemented by Hawker Hunters for advanced training, marks F.6 and T.7 being used. The first BAE Hawks arrived on 11 November 1976 and this type is still in use by 4 FTS.
Current operations[edit | edit source]
No. 4 Flying Training School takes RAF and Royal Navy pilots from 1FTS at RAF Linton-on-Ouse and trains them to fly fast jets, prior to training on an Operational Conversion Unit. 4 FTS is divided into two squadrons; 208 Sqn provides legacy Hawk T1 advanced flying training and tactical weapons training. All RAF and RN students now train on 4 Sqn flying the modern Hawk T2.
Valley is also home to C Flight of 22 Sqn with Sea King helicopters. These are busy in the Search and Rescue role, rescuing people from ships in the Irish Sea, from the mountains of nearby Snowdonia and elsewhere. The mountain rescue work in Snowdonia is coordinated with the North Wales Mountain Rescue Association.
The base is also home to SARTU (Search and Rescue Training Unit), part of the Defence Helicopter Flying School, using AW139 and Griffin helicopters, and newly home to the relocated headquarters elements of both 22 and 202 Squadrons.
RAF Mona, also on Anglesey, acts as a relief landing ground.
Squadrons based at RAF Valley include:
- No. 4 FTS
- RAF Search and Rescue Force HQ
- Defence Helicopter Flying School
- Defence Helicopter Flying School Search and Rescue Training Unit
- RAF Mountain Rescue Service
Civilian airport[edit | edit source]
The National Assembly for Wales announced on 21 February 2007 that public service obligation (PSO) flights would be launched from RAF Valley in April 2007, connecting north Wales with Cardiff International Airport. A terminal facility, costing £1,500,000, was constructed at RAF Valley, named Anglesey Airport (Maes Awyr Môn), and projected to handle up to ten such PSO flights each day. The first public flight took place on 8 May 2007.
References[edit | edit source]
Citations[edit | edit source]
- Airport information for EGOV at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.Source: DAFIF.
- Airport information for EGOV at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective Oct. 2006).
- Smith, 1981, p. 196
- Halley, 1988, p. 478
- Halley, 1988, p. 342
- Smith, 1981, p. 199
- Sturtivant, 1997, p. 139
- Smith, 1981, p. 200
- Sturtivant, 1997, p. 39
- Sturtivant, 1997, p. 153
- North Wales Mountain Rescue Association
- "North-south airline is revealed". BBC News. 21 February 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/6380141.stm.
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
- Halley, J.J. (1988). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918-1988. Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
- Smith, D.J. (1981). Action Stations : 3 - Military Airfields of Wales and the North-West. Patrick Stephens Limited. ISBN 0-85059-485-5.
- Sturtivant, R.C. (1997). Royal Air Force Flying Training and Support Units. Air-Britain (Historians) Limited. ISBN 0-85130-252-1.
[edit | edit source]
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