The St Athan military base in the Vale of Glamorgan celebrated its 75th anniversary earlier in the week when it welcomed back a De Havilland Hornet Moth – one of the first planes which took off from there when the old air base opened in 1938.
The history of St Athan and the Hornet Moth are somewhat intertwined because originally the base was intended to be a maintenance base because it was thought to be beyond the reach of the Luftwaffe. However, the fall of France put an end to that belief while the development of rapid monoplane fighters meant that the Hornet Moth was far too slow and vulnerable for combat duties.
Nevertheless, the Hornet Moth found new roles at St Athan as submarine spotters, air taxis and for helping to calibrate early radar installations. All told, around 160 Hornet Moths were built and between 25 and 30 are thought to still be in airworthy condition 75 years later.
One of those airworthy Horner Moths returned to St Athan as part of its 75th anniversay celebration with current owner David Weston telling the BBC:
“People say the design was outdated even then but it was always intended to be an easy-to-fly, easy-to-maintain workhorse, and it does it brilliantly. I bought her from the Shuttleworth Collection in Bedfordshire in 1996 and, apart from a slight crash in 1971, she’s been flying continuously all her life and could easily go for another 75 years if she’s looked after properly.”
The BBC also has the following video showing Weston coming in for a landing and then he talks a bit about the history of the aircraft: