THE ORIGINS OF STAFFORDSHIRE AERO CLUB
The Club was founded in 1983 by a small group of aviation enthusiasts. Although the Club had no airfield or aircraft, it thrived and grew on a diet of enthusiasm and good humour, holding monthly social evenings, outings to airshows and visits to places of aviation interest.
At the same time as the club was formed, microlight aircraft were gaining credibility in the flying community as a serious and affordable means of aviation, particularly once the CAA took the responsibility for the regulation of microlight aviation. It was time for the fledgling club to gain its wings! Unfortunately, microlight training schools were few and far between, and only two members of the club had qualified by 1990. Matters improved in June of that year when a new school was established locally on a disused WW2 airfield at Fradley, near Lichfield, and the number of pilots in the club began to increase. However, the Fradley school soon lost its planning permission, and the club only managed to continue flying because 5 members financed the rental of a large field near Penkridge. The site was "Set Aside Land" and could only be a temporary airfield since the period of Set Aside was due to expire in 1993. The landowner could then return it to agricultural use and expect a great deal more income from it than the five Club pilots were willing to pay.
Faced with the loss of the airfield, a meeting was arranged between the Club and the CFI of the Fradley school. The situation was resolved by the CFI offering the land owner a very competitive rent, sufficient to secure the site for flying, on condition that the landowner carried no liability, that the site be known as Otherton Airfield and that it should be operated by the CFI as a business. A planning application was made and after two temporary approvals, full planning permission was granted.
The new flying school was called Staffordshire Microlight Centre (SMC). The close alliance between SMC and the Club resulted in a steady increase in pilot numbers and new Club members. After fifteen safe and co-operative years with the club, the CFI wanted to retire, so the flying school together with the airfield lease came on the market, being sold to an outside investor in 2007 and renamed Airfield Operations Ltd (AOL).
After four years the directors of OAL decided to put their business on the market. A consortium of five Club members formed a limited company with the aim of acquiring the airfield lease. The directors of the new company funded it with their own money and, after discussions with the Club Committee, called it Staffordshire Aero Club Ltd (SAC Ltd), later being re-named as Otherton Airfield Limited. This company operates on a not-for-profit basis with any surplus revenue after re-payment of the directors’ initial outlay being used to improve the facilities at Otherton. Thanks to these individuals, the future of Staffordshire Aero Club and Otherton Airfield now looks secure.
The Club now has approximately 60 members and is very active in flying and social events. Currently the airfield is busy with over 40 aircraft based there with Flex, 3 axis and GA planes.