Geoff Milsom, former Chief Pilot of Fairey Surveys, contributed “The Record of Air Survey” article on the Home page from his files, and wrote the following notes to extend the history from 1955.
Notes on the Fairey Air Surveys/White Waltham Connection
The article “The Record of Air Survey” is taken from an old brochure circa 1955.
At that time the company had about a dozen pilots and operated three Dakotas, two Doves and a Rapide.
I am not very sure about the fleet before that, as I was away on lengthy overseas tours from 1947 to 1957 but I seem to remember there was an Oxford, an Avro XIX, an Auster, an Aerovan!! Mike Young may be able to verify the fleet details.
The aircraft were hangared/parked and maintained by Fairey Aviation Company on the North side of the aerodrome at that time. In fact, they were probably owned by FAC, but I am not sure of that.
Around the time of the Westland take-over, the survey company moved most of the staff into Maidenhead – i.e. admin, photographic laboratory, drawing office, mapping machines, etc. Just the flying unit remained at White Waltham.
This may have been 1963?
A couple of years later (1965?) we moved to the South side of the airfield to be maintained by Jim Kelly and his merry men alongside all those RAF Chipmunks. Jim’s section was now taken over by Short Bros.
I am sorry to be so vague about the timing of all this but no doubt the dates of the Westland involvement can be verified elsewhere.
Probably the best known of the company’s aircraft was the Dakota ‘Whisky Charlie’ (G.ALWC). It was ‘home-based’ and operated for more than 20 years out of White Waltham and Farnborough on contract to the Ministry of Defence for flight trials of various sorts of airborne equipment.
Our main line of work was air photography for mapping (worldwide) but we also flew many hours of airborne geophysics i.e. with a magnetometer and scintillometer for oil/uranium exploration, etc.
The company also carried out airborne infra-red line scan surveys in France, Holland and the UK generally for heat loss investigation.
Thunderstorm research was also on the agenda in 1969 on behalf of RAE Bedford and the Bracknell Met Office. This was a project with a view to the avoidance of thunderstorm tops by cruising supersonic airliners. One of our Dakotas (Charlie Tango) was fitted with some special equipment at Bedford and our job was to measure the tops.
Incidentally, the highest top we measured was 65,000 ft. (in Bengal).
I am sure most of this is irrelevant but it tells you something about the company.
In 1968 a third Dove was purchased followed in 1972 by two Queen Airs – and at this time a Dove and a Dakota were phased out.
In 1974 the company was included, briefly, in an association called Fairey Britten Norman Air Services. It lasted barely a year and did not affect our operations but it did enable BN to sell us a couple of Islanders that we did not really want!!
In 1980 the company was purchased by Clyde Petroleum and the name was changed to Clyde Surveys.
Operations continued as before but, by now, overseas contracts were less plentiful and gradually the fleet was reduced.
Sometime in the early 1980s Sir William Halcrow and partners bought the company from Clyde Petroleum, but we continued to trade as ‘Clyde Surveys’.
In 1982 we lost the Farnborough contract due to defence cut-backs, so that was the end of Whisky Charlie.
The reduction of the fleet continued until, by the mid-1980s, we were operating just one Queen Air.
The flying unit was eventually closed down in April 1990.
This does not seem to tell you much about the history of White Waltham – it is more a short account of a company whose home was White Waltham.
I hope it helps.