Northumberland airfield defends safety record following crash

Eshott Airfield, also known as Bockenfield Aerodrome. Picture by Jane Coltman.Eshott Airfield, also known as Bockenfield Aerodrome. Picture by Jane Coltman.
Eshott Airfield, also known as Bockenfield Aerodrome. Picture by Jane Coltman.
Bosses at a Northumberland airfield have hit back at safety concerns raised following a recent crash.

A pilot suffered minor injuries after he was forced to make an emergency landing in fields in Felton while en route to Eshott Airfield.

Following the incident, Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council, has revealed he is seeking “clarification” on safety matters, while also pushing for a management plan which would make it easier for the airfield’s management and families living nearby to resolve disputes.

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But bosses at the aviation base have insisted the site is not “dangerous” and cannot be held responsible for genuine accidents in the air.

“Unfortunately, all aircraft can sometimes have issues,” said Richard Pike, a director at the airfield.

“I totally appreciate that to a normal person in the street, it is potentially quite shocking that there can be two incidents in three months, but it was different pilots and different aircraft.

“We can manage the airfield however we want, but that doesn’t mean something like that won’t happen again.”

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He added: “There’s been accidents before and it’s unfortunate, but cars have accidents too and you don’t blame the shop they’ve just driven from.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, Eshott Airfield was used as a refuelling base for Operation Rescript, where the RAF used helicopters to fly ventilators to hospitals.

It also regularly hosts air ambulance and coast guard craft.

Earlier this year, tempers flared over plans to extend operating hours at the airfield, prompting a slew of opposition and even claims of a “vendetta” between the airfield and families living nearby.

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“The management [of the airfield] has to be fair to both sides, operators and residents,” said Cllr Sanderson.

“The latest problem is around the issue of safety, which is why I’ve asked for clarification on who is responsible for making sure the right checks and balances are in place.

“I think we’ve been very lucky to avoid anything worse, there’s been no serious injuries to pilots, but the fear local people have, and are perfectly entitled to have, is that one day there will be an accident which will cause injury.”

He added: “We need this management plan to ensure both sides can get a fair hearing, it’s not just for the residents, the operators must also feel fairly treated.”