by Dick Cole 2007

'The Felthorpe Flying Group was started in about 1958 by a bunch of flying enthusiasts, after being given flights from Beck Farm flying field at Felthorpe by Eric Jarvis, in his father's Tiger Moth G-ANFM. The field had 3 small runways and a hangar; there was also a Piper Tripacer, which belonged to Jack Last of Saxthorpe. At that time the group called themselves the North Norfolk Flying Group. Jack Last was involved in a ground handling accident at Seething airfield, when a gust of wind tipped the Tripacer over and the wing caught poor old Jack on the head and he was killed.

We were all very upset, had a meeting and decided to carry on; we decided to rename the group to the Felthorpe Flying Group. George Jarvis was President, Mike Husband Secretary and Eric Jarvis Chairman and flying instructor. Most of the early members learnt the basics from Eric, but not being registered, some of us joined the Norfolk and Norwich Aero Club at Swanton Morley, where Taffy Rich was the flying instructor. George Morrison was the first to get his licence, followed by Dick Cole, John Quantrell, Jack Freeman and others.

After a Macaully Flying Group dinner at the Colne House Hotel in Cromer, a few drinks later Dick Cole and John Quantrell met and had a talk with Wing Commander Tich Holmes, who insured the aircraft. He told us what a wonderful aircraft the Piper J3 Cub was (this was on a Saturday night) and the following morning we reported this to the boys and we decided that we must buy one. We found one in a garage at Folkestone - I think John Quantrell found it - but I can't remember what the price was. Eric Jarvis and Dick Cole went round and 10 members put money up: George Jarvis, George Morrison, Tom Morrison, Dick Cole, John Freeman, R Brooks, G Urquart, Ralph Medler, Alfred Reynolds and John Quantrell.

The aircraft was all in pieces; it was collected by lorry and taken to Stapleford for rebuild. The registration was G-AKAA. After the C of A was issued, we went round to the boys for more money, which was collected with no problem and Eric collected the aircraft from Stapleford on 24th July 1961, and arrived at Felthorpe at 18.15hrs.

A few months prior to this, George Morrison bought G-AFWT, a Tipsy Monoplane; then a few weeks later, John Quantrell and Dick Cole bought Auster J4 G-AIJT; George sold the Tipsy to Charlie Medler and then he and his brother Tom bought Auster 5 G-AJVT. These were the aircraft we had at the old field.'

A Move

'We moved to the new field in 1964. Eric laid out the runways as they are to this present day and we raised enough money between us to purchase a hangar from an airfield near Woodbridge. Two other members, who bought aeroplanes, put up one third of the money and the group paid for the other two thirds. We had to pay for it to be erected and doors made and we had the whole floor concreted. Pam Wiles bought a Gemini twin-engined 4-seater; Hugh Showell had a Bonanza and these were the other 2 people who had an interest in the hangar. We built an engine shed and John Quantrell supplied and wired up a diesel generator, which started up whenever a switch was turned on, so we were fixed up for electricity.'

More Aircraft

'Dick Cole sold his half share in the Auster to John Quantrell and bought a Jodel 117 from Blackpool, G-AVPM. Ken Lefevre bought a Rallye Club, G-AVIN. Dougie Gore bought Auster G-AJEB from Taffy Rich and the boys then bought 3 Piper Cubs from the American Air Force; two we kept for Club use, G-ATKI and G-ATZM and the other was sold to Geoff Priest and was taken away. Jules Chapman bought a Rallye Super Club G-ATST and another member bought a Rallye Club G-ATGG, which was on loan to any club member who wanted to use it.

In 1970, G-AKAA was sold to the Macaully Flying Group. Dick Cole sold G-AVPM and soon after bought Emeraude CP301B G-ASDW. The Group then bought a Jodel 3/4-seater Ambassador, G-ATHX from Biggin Hill; Dick Cole flew down with Nick Simpson and Nick flew it back to Felthorpe. This aircraft was sold on later and we purchased Cessna 150 G-ASZB, which cost £2,000. Dick Cole and Jack Freeman paid half each until the club raised the money, which was done in a few months. Dick sold the Emeraude and later bought Jodel 117 G-ASZM. Between 1964 and 1971, a petrol tank and pump was purchased together with a diesel tractor and grass cutter. We had a fully licenced instructor, Terry Chapman, join the group and he trained several members, who all got their PPLs.

We decided to take in new flying members during this time - they paid £25 membership and we also had many social members who paid £1 per year. We had many fly-ins and trips to the continent. There was always someone up at the club in the evenings and also all day Saturday and Sunday. Every third Saturday evening we had a social night with music and dancing, food and drink and we attended many air displays at other clubs. These were great days; on Sundays, perhaps 3 or 4 aircraft would go to Peterborough and return via Skegness and back over The Wash. 

There are only 3 of us left now: Ralph Medler, Tom Morrison and Dick Cole. We all enjoyed the past and want to see the group prosper in the future and give as much pleasure to the younger people as we have had over the years.'
Trident Tragedy
The airfield was the scene of an unfortunate crash in 1966: HS Trident 1C, G-ARPY crashed at Felthorpe airfield on 3rd June. (photos: the late Bob Kerrison - FFG)

The aircraft departed Hatfield at 16:52 to carry out the first of a series of production test flights to qualify for a Series Certificate of Airworthiness. At 18:30, after completing a large part of the tests, the stalling tests were begun. Three approaches to stall were made to check the stall warning and stall recovery systems. The fourth stalling run was made at a height of 11,600ft in landing configuration with the stall warning and recovery systems made inoperative. The Trident entered a superstall with the nose going up to 30-40 degrees. The plane turned to the left, the right wing dropped and the plane then went into a flat spin to the right. All the crew were killed.

Probable Cause: "During a stalling test decisive recovery action was delayed too long to prevent the aircraft from entering a superstall from which recovery was not possible."
Sources: ICAO Circular 88-AN/74 Volume II (86-107).

Change of Ownership
George Jarvis sold the field to Gordon Greenwood, who in turn sold the property to Mrs Kay Mason.
The Fire
Unfortunately for the members of the Felthorpe Flying Group and owners of several other aircraft based at the field, an arson attack was carried out in February 2003, which saw the destruction of the hangar, clubhouse and 9 aeroplanes.
The crime has never been brought to a satisfactory conclusion and anyone who contacts the webmaster with any information, anonymous or otherwise, which could lead to a prosecution, will be treated in the strictest confidence. See here for a discussion on a popular forum at the time.
Felthorpe is a thriving community of pilots and social members alike. Many owners are involved in engineering matters for their aeroplanes and several of the resident aircraft have indeed been built by their owners from scratch. Anyone wishing to visit is welcome!