The Biggin Hill International Air Fair has been cancelled after 48 years in favour of a smaller-scale event.
The inaugural Open Day is scheduled for 10 September 2011 and will help position Biggin Hill as a more modern business and general aviation aerospace centre, airport management said.
The Biggin Hill International Air Fair was founded in 1963 by Jock Maitland and had been managed by his company, Air Displays International, from 1988 under a 25-year contract. Biggin Airport owners terminated the agreement three months ago, prompting outrage from the community and Maitland’s son and former ADI MD, James Maitland. It also raised speculation about the event’s long-term future.
The most recent Biggin Hill Air Fair took place 26-27 June 2010 and was attended by 100,000 visitors. An airport spokesperson told EN the new event would be substantially smaller but was reluctant to predict attendance figures. The Open Day has been established to coincide with the Battle of Britain weekend in September.
“All good things come to an end. Now is the moment to adapt, particularly with the Olympics coming up,” the spokesperson added.
According to Biggin Hill Airport chairman, Andrew Walters, the new event will enable a more direct relationship with the local community while retaining the heritage of RAF Biggin Hill. A Youth Day is also being planned.
“Jock Maitland, his son Jim and Colin Hitchins in more recent years, have promoted and presided over a magnificent air show for almost half a century. But now is time for change, putting the community first and giving us the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to them,” he said.
Jim Maitland, along with fans of the International Air Fair on Facebook, have expressed disappointment about the decision. One online entry claimed it was a sad day for Biggin Hill, while others reminisced about family trips to previous shows.
Airport management also plan to establish a WWII Heritage Centre as well as refurbish the site’s original WWII pilot’s crew room in time for the 2012 Open Day.