Ryde Airport began operations on the 27th June 1932, it occupied 823 acres of land which was purchased from Barnsley Farm by the newly formed Wight Aviation Ltd which was later renamed to Isle of Wight Aviation Ltd.
Being a grass runway of approximately 670 yards made it a very short field and thus the size of aircraft it could handle was restricted from the outset. Flights were advertised by the newly formed company and an aircraft ordered.
A modified Wessex G-ABVB now with nine passenger seats fitted was the first arrival from the Portsmouth and Southsea airfield just across the Solent. However, this new service was really only open to those that could afford the fairly high ticket price, for example a single was 6/- and a return ticket 10/-, which may not seem much but this relates to £16.05 pence for the single and £26.75 for the return. Hence the passengers who used the service tended to be those that preferred a short luxury quick hop and had deep pockets.
The original airport postion - No runways yet established
The airport tower and buildings were erected and although the official name of the aerodrome was that of “The Isle of Wight Air Port” its hording (thumbnail image above) clearly shows it with RYDE AIRPORT profile. It should be noted that Wight Aviation also operated the airfield at Apse Heath near Sandown.
Painting of Ryde Airport 1936 reproduced with kind permission of Ivan Berryman - the artist
Between 1933 and 1939 various aircraft and services were operated from the Ryde Airport, one aircraft that is still flying today is that of the De Havilland DH 82 Dragon Rapide “The City of Birmingham” which flew with a pilot and radio officer and approximately five to eight passengers. This was very dependent on weight and the flying conditions, as the Ryde airport suffered constantly from bad crosswinds which could make landing and take-off rather tricky so pilots would carefully balance all prior to attempting a take-off in rough weather. Another well known aircraft seen over the Ryde skies at the time was that of the well loved Gypsy-engined Moth - G-ACCA this was actually PSIWA’s training aircraft both for flying lessons and aerobatics.
When war broke out in 1939 the airfield was not of great use thus was obstructed in order to stop it being used by the Luftwaffe as a possible landing site if invasion were ever on the cards.
After the war the ministry and various governments placed far greater restrictions on the operation of private airfields and services as they saw the state owned services need to compete without too much competition in order to survive and grow. This had the effect of Ryde Airport remaining unused for several years. Locally the Ryde Town Council saw a different route forward for the airfield, and drew up plans to extend and add various runways so making the airport far more viable in all weather conditions and also able to service larger aircraft.
Ryde Airport Plan 1950's proposed by Ryde Town Council
However, due to the Government’s stance with regard to private airfields this was quietly dropped and it was not until 6h May 1950 before private flying and charter flights were re started. This effort again stalled fairly soon after opening as the field was not a viable enterprise and was soon on the market and sold for development to the Ball family who owned Westridge Construction.
The land was gradually broke up into various packets, the terminal became a nightclub called the Babalu and appeared in the film “That’ll Be the Day” 1973. Today it would be at the back of Macdonald’s roughly on the site of the Jehovah Witness’s meeting hall.
There is very little left of the old airport itself as the land is now covered with a mixture of commercial and residential dwellings along with the largest supermarket being Tesco.