Splott international airport site

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Splott international airport site

Photo of RAS plane City of Cardiff
© National Railway Museum /
Science & Society Picture Library

If you were standing here in the 1930s, you might have heard and seen a passenger aircraft taking off for Paris just a little to the east. The area behind the Tesco store was Cardiff’s first international airport. Some of the hangars, near Seawall Road, are now used for light industry.

Cardiff-born aviation pioneer Ernest Willows (1886-1926) established a private aerodrome at Tremorfa in 1905. He experimented with airships, one of which he flew to Paris in 1910. He died when one of his airships crashed.

Railway Air Services poster
© National Railway Museum /
Science & Society Picture Library

Splott civilian aerodrome, named after the residential suburb west of Tremorfa, was opened in 1931. It was later named Cardiff Municipal Airport. Initially British Air Navigation flew between Bristol and Cardiff. In April 1933 the Great Western Railway began flights from Splott to Haldon and Plymouth. From May 1935 flights also departed for Paris and the French resort of Le Touquet. The photo above right shows the Railway Air Services plane City of Cardiff in the 1930s. The poster on the left advertised GWR air services from Cardiff and other places

In 1937, 614 (County of Glamorgan) Squadron was formed here, as part of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. The airport was taken over by the military for the duration of the the Second World War, during which it played an important role in dismantling and repairing fighter planes for shipping to areas where they were required. Infrastructure upgrades included replacing the grass runway with a concrete one.

After the war, the airport reverted to civilian use but the runway soon proved to be too short for the larger aircraft then entering service, and there was little space to extend it. In 1954 flights were transferred to Cardiff’s new commercial airport at Rhoose, west of Barry.

East of here, the Wales Coast Path follows the approximate location of the airport’s perimeter as it parallels Rover Way. This is named after the Rover car factory which occupied part of the former airport from the 1960s to 1984.

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Website of Science & Society Picture Library - prints available of the above images and many others

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