1978 - A road by any other name
In 1947 the aerodrome company had bought an adjoining field to the north east, which had been included for flying during the Second World War. The company also built a new gravel track along its northern edge which enabled the old hangars to be returned from neighbouring land. It also provided a new access to Denham Park Farm, to keep farm traffic off the landing area. For convenience it was named Hangar Road and signed accordingly. When the road signs had to be replaced due to age some neighbours objected to the name, so the matter had to be decided in a court case in Slough in March 1978. This ensured large lorries would approach both the aerodrome and the farm from Hangar Road to the east rather than via Marish Lane, a very narrow, rough, twisty, single track that led west.
January 1978 also saw the northern edge of Hangar Road being dug up along its entire length. The North Thames Gas Board needed to repair and replace a methane gas pipeline that carried gas from the North Sea. The pipe was exposed and replaced in sections to minimise the disruption that the work caused. The line was extensively pressure tested before being covered back over and the road surface repaired.
As to the rest of the aerodrome, the new tarmac runway was fully operational, with a grass runway parallel to it along its north side. There was one other runway on the aerodrome, again with a grass surface, at 40 degrees to the tarmac one. This was to allow aircraft to operate safely in the infrequent north westerly winds encountered at Denham. Known as runway 12/30, this facility is still in use today.
The pilots at Denham were also having a very good year in 1978. Aerobatic pilot Philip Meeson was now sponsored by Marlboro cigarettes and had their distinctive red, white and black colours prominently displayed on his Pitts Special G-BBOH. Aside from flying as part of the Marlboro Team at air displays across Europe, Meeson excelled in competition flying, becoming British Aerobatic Champion in July.
Meanwhile, Paddy Hember, the superb photographer for the Buckinghamshire Advertiser, was still a member of the Denham Flying Training School and was expanding his flying activities to larger and more powerful types of aircraft, organising tours and group flying events for club members.
Aside from taking photographs for the newspaper, Paddy Hember was also writing articles, and on 15 June 1978 he published one about another famous pilot at Denham, Brian Lecomber. Lecomber's third novel, "Talk Down", had just been released in hardback and Paddy had written a review of this and his previous two books which were now available in paperback. Lecomber's success as an author allowed him to expand his fleet of aircraft at Denham to include Stampe SV.4C G-AYWT, a de Havilland DHC.1 Chipmunk and a replica Sopwith Camel. The brightly coloured Stampe was to be used in a movie in 1978, Lecomber flying a number of sequences in the film as well as allowing his aircraft to to be mounted on a plinth to be used in close ups with cast members in the cockpit and the sky as an realistic background.
One other keen pilot and a great friend of Denham Aerodrome was Hector Laing, chairman of United Biscuits, whose Aviation Department was based at Denham and had been the impetus behind the installation of the tarmac runway. At this time, he was also serving as the Director of the Bank of England. Early in January, it was announced that he had been awarded a well deserved knighthood in the Queen's New Years Honours List.
The aerodrome and the pilots based upon it were enjoying a successful year, which was to continue, as will be related next.