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Aerial giants which risked landing at Cosford

By Toby Neal | Features | Published:

Aviation historian Stephen King thinks he may have got to the bottom of the mystery of an extra – and huge – runway marked on a 1950s plan of RAF Cosford.

And it seems it may have been a runway that never was.

Stephen, from Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton, got in touch with airfield history specialist Aldon Ferguson, who lives near Reading, to see if he had any ideas.

"It is not really a mystery runway," Aldon told him.

"It is a standard proposal by the Air Ministry showing how airfields could be extended in the future to accommodate larger aircraft. Plans such as this were produced for many stations.

"It does not always make sense. In the case of Cosford the runway would be far too close to the hangars and be impractical. In some cases there was a suggestion that some buildings could be relocated, but it appears not a lot of thought has gone into the proposal.

"It was not an existing runway, but really just a concept of what could be done."

Stephen said: "Talking to Aldon, he says that at the time in the early 1950s new fast jet aircraft were coming into service, including the V-bomber force.

"New upgraded runways with extra length were required, and also gave the opportunity for a new angle for take off and landing to account for the prevailing wind and so on.

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"But this planning seems to have been rushed and somewhat misconceived.

"This planned new second runway at Cosford was far too near the hangars and control tower.

"A wartime RAF Cosford record states that, if required, extensibility of the 1,200 yard runway was possible to 2,200 yards, entailing slight demolition. This idea obviously gained new interest in the early 1950s for a new, second runway.

"Modern fast jets require longer runways, which is why the Red Arrows at the annual Cosford air day use RAF Shawbury as a base for the day."

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Despite being a short runway, which severely limits the type of aircraft which can use Cosford, some giants have touched down there.

Stephen says that in early January 1983 he went to Cosford to watch the landing of a retiring Vulcan bomber, which was going into the museum, but with the weather being bad with torrential rain it did not risk it and went back to its own base.

"It did land later that month. Unfortunately, on landing or moving off the runway, its wheels got bogged down in the soft grass verge beside the runway.

"More impressively, local press reported on December 17, 2008, the massive four jet engined RAF C17 Globemaster transport aircraft of 99 Squadron landed at RAF Cosford. It was the largest aircraft ever to land at the base up to that time, delivering a USAF special operations Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Low helicopter for the museum."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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