Flying at Daedalus  in the 21st Century

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HMS Daedalus, Lee-on-Solent

Use of the Airfield today

Access to the airfield is strictly controlled by the MOD as it is still active with the Coastguard helicopter, police spotter aircraft and the Naval Gliding Club. Visitors therefore have to make arrangements in advance.

In 1996 the Air Station closed and the Ministry of Defence has declared it surplus
to requirements howevetr that was not the end of flying at Lee-on-Solent. Among a variety of flying and training activities, the Coastguard Search and Rescue Service and Hampshire Police Surveillance Unit have use the Airfield as a strategic base. Also there are a diversity of flying and glider clubs as well as aircraft restioration activities and hovercraft preservation. The establishment is visited annually by the Royal Navy Historic Flight in its flypast to the return of the Fleet Air Arm TAG association members in their annual reunion. The airfield is also used during the Southampton Seawings and  Portsmouth International Festival of the Sea celebrations.

Who's who at Lee-on-Solent 

See the Daedalus Who's who contacts and links page for full a full and uptodate list

Airfield status - Flying activities
Aerodrome Status : Maintenance
Services: Pilot Training ClubAircraft HireProducts

Argus Gate
Broom Way
PO13 9YA
Tel 01705 550143 Ext: 4015

Routine naval flying operations of the Fleet Air Arm ceased in 1993 apart from occasional activation for exercises. The airfield continued with Southampton University Air Squadron (the Nation's Premier University Air Squadron), Bristow's SAR Flight and the Hampshire Police hrelicopter unit until April 1993 when the UAS moved to Boscombe Down. 814 Sea King squadron was perhaps one of the last front-line squadrons to visit Lee in April 1993. Air Engineering traing continued until Christmas 1995 when the school transferred to HMS Sultan, School of Marine Engineering, and School for Aircraft Handling.. The Air Station was finally paid off on 29 March 1996.

The airfield in 2001 is marked as disused but useable with caution.  Operational hours strictly with PPR; and is normally only available to civil aircraft in connection with Police operations or having business with Bristow Helicopters Ltd.  Operators are to provide evidence of a minimum of 27.5m crown indemnity insurance before landing at this airfield.  Specific operating procedures apply at this airfield (Ref).

Currently Bristows Air / Sea rescue using Sea King helicopters, Hampshire Constabulary with an Islander spotter plane and the Naval gliding club are the main users, a Hovercraft Trust museum is also located here. The recent decision by the MOD to lease the substantial hangarage should bring more aircraft, flying and related activities to the airfield. Nearby to Lee is the the Defence Aviation Repair Agency at Fleetlands, located on the A32 between  Fareham and Gosport, this undertakes helicopter maintenance for all three services. Part of the HMS Daedalus airfield lies within the Fleetlands ATZ. All inbound and outbound aircraft should call Fleetlands TWR (L 35.70).   Staff  employed at  this  facility  total approximately 1,100 almost entirely civilian personnel.
Solent Coastguard and Bristows SAR helicopters

Watch Manager
Solent Coastguard
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Lee on the Solent

See the Daedalus Search and Rescue history page

The airfield has been the base for the Coastguard Search and Rescue Service since 1973.

Solent Coastguard is a sub centre of the new Maritime and Coastguard Agency  (MCA) Southern Region which has 2 Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCS) at Falmouth and Dover. What it means is that the 6 coastguard centres (Falmouth, Brixham, Portland, Solent, Dover and Thames) are responsible for entire southern coastline of England.

The commercial version of the Sikorsky Sea King (S61N) is adapted for Search and Rescue Operations, being operated by Bristows Helicopters on behalf of H.M. Coastguard.

The Coastguard Agency leases accommodation for Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter facilities from the Ministry of Defence and contracts Bristow Helicopter Ltd to undertake the SAR activities. A recent announcement of the HM Coastguard's five-year strategy, indicated that Coastguard helicopter provision would continue at Portland and Lee-on-Solent. New five-year contracts have been let recently to Bristows Helicopters Ltd. for the provision of Coastguard (SAR) helicopters at both locations thus ensuring their continuing presence until at least 2002. There are no plans to relocate these major SAR resources. The crewing of these helicopters is a matter for the contractor. (ref: House of Commons Hansard Written answers for 8 Dec 1997)

Currently Bristows Helicopter Ltd Air/Sea rescue activities are carried out with Sea King helicopters at Lee-on-Solent. The Bristows Air Sea rescue helicopter "India Juliet" is based just behind the Solent Coastguard so it's a very convenient location for them. IJ is a Sikorski S6IN and is capable of taking 33 survivors in her cabin more than enough for the average yacht crew.

Steve Jeans-Laws painted this scene of the Bristow Search & Rescue Sea king for the crewroom at HMS Daedalus, Lee on Solent.

Bristow Helicopters Ltd. is a leading provider of helicopter transportation services in the North Sea/European market and is recognized as one of the pioneers of the offshore helicopter industry. Bristow specializes in the movement of personnel to offshore production platforms and drilling rigs, and is also the leading civilian supplier of search and rescue services and military rotor wing training. Bristow's search and rescue activities, which span most of the UK, are poised around the clock to meet the needs of anybody who requires assistance. The military training services date back to the early 1960s and today, through a joint venture entity, provide the complete initial and advanced rotor wing training for all branches of the UK military.
Hampshire Constabulary - Hampshire Police Air Support Unit

Hampshire Constabulary
HPASU, Hampshire Police, Control Tower, Argus Gate, Brooke Way, Lee on Solent, Hampshire, PO13 9YA.

See the Daedalus Police Air Suppoprt Unit history page

The Hampshire Police Air Support Unit currently occupies the "watch-tower" and is responsible for control of air traffic at Lee on Solent.

The airfield has been the base for the Hampshire Police Air Support Unit since 1985 where it used an Britten-Norman Islander spotter plane (PBN-2B-26 Islander (the noisy version) G-HPAA, although in the past - police used the airfield for quite different activities - instructors trained police on the runway of the Daedalus naval airfield encompassing fast-driving techniques.

On 26 February 2001 the Chairman of Britten-Norman Group, Mr Alawi Zawawi, handed over the keys of a new Defender 4000 aircraft to Hampshire Police Authority Chairman, Councillor Ron Culver, and the Hampshire Police Chief Constable, Paul Kernaghan, at a ceremony at HMS Daedalus, Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire, UK. The aircraft is named after former Chief Constable Sir John Hoddinott and bears his initials.  The Authority is paying £1.3 million in addition to their existing B-N Islander, which has been taken in part exchange for the Defender. This Defender 4000 will provide Hampshire Police with a facility which is understood to be the most sophisticated and best equipped aircraft, in respect of speed, fuel consumption and low noise considerations, held by any police force in the country.

In 1998 the sum of £500,000 is included provisionally for the purchase of land at the former HMS Daedalus should this become available. Application has been made to the Home Office for a specific allocation towards this item. If successful it would reduce the demand of this on the Authority’s resources by £400,000 (80%)(Hampshire Police Authority, 1998)
Flying Associations

Lee-on-Solent (EGHF) home to the Fleetlands Flying Association
Fleetlands Flying Association is a non-profit-making flying club based at Lee-on-the-Solent on the central south coast of England. Founded in 1994 by members of RNAY Fleetlands (now DARA Fleetlands) their ethos is to provide the cheapest possible flying for Fleetlands and other MoD employees, Civil Servants and members of the UK Armed Services. We operate a single Piper Warrior II, have two part time instructors and approximately fifty members.

For more information about the F.F.A. email: Eligibility Members of H.M Armed Forces, MoD Employees and Civil and Public Servants are automatically eligible to join FFA.
Naval and Civil Gliding Clubs

Even when the establishment was an active Naval Base, gliding occurred at Lee-on-Solent - the origin of gliding at Lee goes back as far as the 1940s. The premier gliding association is the Portsmouth Naval Gliding Club. They also share the airfield with two clubs that fly various powered aircraft from the field.

Portsmouth Naval Gliding Club (PNGC)

PNGC Aerotow Chipmunk "Zulu Zulu" (ref PNGC website)

The Portsmouth Naval Gliding Club has been operating from the South Coast for over 50 Years. Originally membership was only open to serving Naval personnel but over the years other branches of the M.O.D. have been welcomed and latterly members of the general public who do not have any Naval connections. The club has been based at the Naval Airfield HMS Daedalus for many years now.

The PNGC maintains a link with the Fleet Air Arm and at the recent PNGC Gliding course at RNAS Lee on Solent in April 2001 it was supported by the FAA Squadron assets to very good effect. The Fleet Air Arm Squadron - formed in 1996 for retired members of the Fleet Air Arm; organizing events and fly-ins across the U.K.

Location: see map

Southampton University Gliding Club

Southampton University Gliding Club does its flying at Lee-on-Solent (HMS Daedalus), also home of the Portsmouth Naval Gliding Club (PNGC). Portsmouth Naval Gliding Club have provided facilities for the members of Southampton University Gliding Club for several years. Students joining the University Gliding Club become members of Portsmouth Naval Gliding Club and as a result they are able to fly at Lee on Solent at club rates.
Aircraft Restoration activities

Super Catalina Restoration

Super Catalina Restoration can be found at hangar J situated to the right as you enter and towards the north end of runway 35. On 11 March 2001 the Catalina VPBPS (PBY-5A 46633 VPBPS) arrived at Lee on Solent. This ex Royal Navy airfield will be home to the restoration group for the next two years. Having leased hangarage from the MOD the restoration of VPBPS can now be continued apace and under cover.

Super Catalina Restoration was formed in 1998 when two aircraft engineers, Phil Rampley and Dick Smith joined forces to bid on the salvage of Super Catalina VP-BPS which had succumbed to the now well documented landing accident in Southampton Water. To restore and operate a pair of Canso PBY5A Catalina Flying boats and preserve these historic aircraft for present and future generations to enjoy for years to come. To support like minded Catalina operators and enthusiasts around the world.

Location: see map
Hovercraft conservation and storage

The Hovercraft History & Hovercraft Museum Website

The Hovercraft Trust and 'Friends of the Hovercraft Museum' organisation store and occassionally host Hovershows by the Daedalus slipway hangers.  The main collection is now stored in Building 40 at HMS Daedalus. This building also houses the office facilities for the Museum, and includes the films, archives, books and plans which have their own display rooms. The largest craft, the SR.N4 Mk II Swift is stored close to the top of the slipway within the Gosport part of the former HMS Daedalus site. The BH.7 Mk 2 is also stored adjacent to Building 40 near the top of the Daedalus slipway, facing out to sea.

The 'Friends' carry out fundraising, help with refurbishment of the various hovercraft & models and generally further the aims of the Museum which has acquired an impressive collection of nearly 50 craft during the last ten years. The immediate aim is saving these valuable craft from destruction, and the long term ambition is to provide a permanent display, open to the public, which will provide an interesting and exciting, interactive environment for education, development and promotion of this wonderful British invention. The hovercrafts include a few loaned by Fleet Air Arm Museum from 1987 including the Cushioncraft CC.7 (004), SR.N3 Model and SR.N4 Minesweeper Model
Model aircraft clubs

Lee Airfield's Model Aircraft Club (Lee Bees Model Aero Club)
(website not functioning 2001)

The Lee Bees Model Aircraft Club - an aviation-related Radio Controlled (R/C) model club operates from the former Royal Naval Air Station at Lee on the Solent in the company of the Royal Navy Model Aircraft Association (RNMAA), the Daedalus Model Flying Group. Tarmac runways still maintained in good condition are a particular benefit enjoyed by the club.
Other uses


Over the weekend of 11 and 12 November 2000, Gosport Rotary Club co-ordinated a collection of 17,000 shoeboxes, each filled with gifts suitable for children in Albania. This was the second year that Gosport had undertaken the task, which involved fifty-four other Rotary clubs in Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands. The Mayor, Councillor Aleck Hayward, joined the group at the Daedalus site, kindly loaned by the MoD for storage, to help and witness the loading of two articulated lorries. Popular Meridian TV presenter Fred Dineage also went along to present Rotary International with a 'Save a Life' award for their work in Albania and Kosovo.