Dundee Riverside Airport
The River Tay Estuary has had a long-standing aviation history. The Royal Naval Air Service first opened a seaplane base at Stannergate, Dundee in 1914 to patrol the East coast of Scotland. The base operated until 1919 and was re-activated between 1940-44. In 1938 the Short Mayo composite aircraft, “Maia-Mercury” (a seaplane mounted on top of a flying boat), took off from the river to set a world record distance flight of 6,045 miles (9,728km) from Dundee to Alexander Bay, South Africa. During the Second World War there was a flying boat base at Woodhaven, near Wormit. The Royal Norwegian Air Force operated Catalina flying boats from there and sank or damaged several German submarines in the North Sea.
Dundee (Riverside) Airport lies on the north bank of the River Tay just over 1 mile from the city centre. It was built on reclaimed land in 1963, when it had a short, grass runway suitable for light aircraft. The grass airstrip was regularly used by William “Willie” Logan to fly in and inspect the building progress of the Tay Road Bridge during it’s construction. The first scheduled air services started operations in 1966 with small piston-engined aircraft. The ‘terminal building’ was a small hut, which was situated near to where the Bridgeview Café is today.
After a few years the airfield was moved onto land further to the west and a tarmac runway was laid. Over the years the runway has been extended and runway lighting and navigation aids have been installed. The runway 09/27 is now 1400 metres long and has an Instrument Landing System and satellite based approaches. Air Traffic Control and Airport Fire services are provided, with water and mud rescue facilities. The terminal building provides passenger check-In and security services. Several airlines have operated scheduled and charter flights to UK and European destinations. These include Air Ecosse, Business Air, Eastern Airways, ScotAirways, CityJet and Flybe. Loganair currently fly to London City and Belfast City Airports, using ATR42 regional airliners. Many private and business aircraft use the airport for its convenience to the universities and medical research establishments, and especially its close proximity to the golf courses at Carnoustie, St. Andrews and Gleneagles. Major golf championships are a very busy time, with many celebrities and famous golf players arriving and departing from all over the world.
A long-standing resident operator at Dundee Airport is Tayside Aviation. They are a major flight training organisation who operate a large fleet of training aircraft and a flight simulator. Many pilots have learnt to fly at Dundee and a large number have gone on to become professional airline pilots for UK and European airlines. Tayside Aviation are also the sole operator of the RAF Flying Scholarship Scheme. The airport is often used by Air Ambulance helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for patient transfer to or from Ninewells Hospital and refuelling of Coastguard Rescue helicopters when on Search and Rescue missions in the area.
Because of the short runway length Dundee Airport will always be restricted to small, regional airliners, but occasionally larger aircraft, such as RAF Lockheed Hercules, A400M or BAe146 land at the airport for training or Royal Flights. The airport provides an essential transport link for the Dundee, Tayside and Fife areas and will continue to do so for many years to come.
Feature image – Gareth James
Catalina flying boat – Graham Rowley, Pixabay
A busy parking apron – Gareth James
CITYJET D328 at sunset – Gareth James
The Queen arriving for a Royal Flight – Gareth James
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at Dundee Airport – Gareth James