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Compton Abbas Airfield: History & Attractions at this Grass Airfield

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Compton Abbas Airfield (EGHA) is one of those airfields that attracts many new visitors and which has a loyal selection of aviators who frequently drop in. It is arguably one of the most picturesque airfields in the South of England. I have a personal reason to be fond of the airfield as it was here that I completed my PPL in 1991.

The airfield is on top of a hill about 3 miles south of the Dorset town of Shaftesbury. The hill is one of the chalk hills known as Cranborne Chase.  The nearby village of Compton Abbas dates back to Saxon times and the literal meaning of the name is ‘village in a narrow valley’ near the ‘abbey’ in Shaftesbury.

This grass airfield is known for its warm welcome, social and aviation events, and of course, flying in various forms. It’s a popular meeting point for widely dispersed pilots who want to meet up before exploring the south coast.

Flight Experiences

There are several flight experiences available for anyone who wants a taste of flight in vintage aircraft or for aviators who want to try something new.

Compton is one of the locations in the UK where you can have a flight in a Harvard. The particular Havard at this airfield is a 1946 Marines At-6C Mk2a. Click here for more information.

If the Harvard Experience is out of your price range then how about a flight in an open cockpit biplane of the 1940s, the Boeing Stearman, used during WWII to train Navy Pilots, or the closed cockpit of a 1950s RAF trainer, the de Havilland Chipmunk, used until comparatively recently to train Army pilots at the Middle Wallop airfield in Hampshire. They would learn to fly on these fixed-wing aircraft before graduating onto helicopters at the Army Air Corps School of Flying.

If in vintage aircraft flying is not for you then there are two other options in more modern airplanes. You can try your hand at conventional flying in a light aircraft aboard a Piper Warrior or an Ikarus C42 which looks like an airplane but is in fact in the microlight category.

Flying Club

Compton is the home of a busy and active flying club. As well as being a prime location at which to base an aircraft members can hire from of a fleet of Piper Warrior aircraft and an Ikarus C42 providing ample solo hire availability. Club members fly out to other airfields and enjoy other social and aviation activities.

Airfield Cafes

There are two cafes at the airfield, the Compton Cafe (for visiting pilots and customers attending for experience flights) and the Runway Cafe which is open to all. In fact, as with many picturesque airfields like this one, the Runway Cafe is frequented by many people who simply want to enjoy the view, watching the airplanes come and go, with the backdrop of the open country rolling away in the distance.

Compton Abbas Airfield
By Clive Perrin, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9191787
View from the patio outside the club house and restaurant. Looking NW across the landing strip, Melbury beacon between the aircraft and Shaftesbury on the right.

Flight Training

Flight training is available for the following licences at the Flying School at Compton which has been teaching people to fly light aircraft for over 30 years.:

  • The CAA Private Pilots Licence
  • The Light Aircraft Pilots Licence (LAPL)
  • The National Private Pilots Licence Microlight (NPPL(M))

They can also provide training for additional ratings including Tailwheel (essential if you want to fly vintage aircraft), Instrument Rating (Restricted).

Opening Hours

The airfield is open all year from Tuesday to Sunday from 09:00-17:00hrs (local), apart from bank holidays. The Runway Cafe is open from 10:00-16:00hrs.

Compton Abbas really is a lovely place to visit, by road as well as by air.

Compton Abbas Airfield in the news

Compton Abbas may be a small airfield but it hit international headlines in the 1990s.

Asil Nadir is a Turkish Cypriot business tycoon who fled the United Kingdom in 1993 aboard a twin-engined Piper aircraft that took off from this airfield. The Piper landed in northern France where Nadir transferred to a private jet that took him to Northern Cyprus. He absconded after being charged with multiple counts of fraud and theft. He was later convicted in his absence and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

In August 2010, he returned to the UK to stand trial, but was released on bail and subsequently absconded again. In 2013, he was finally brought back to the UK to stand trial and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Nadir is currently out on parole and living in Turkey.

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