FEATURE: Celebrating 110 years at Leicestershire Aero Club in the Harborough district

A veteran Market Harborough pilot is urging people to get their feet off the ground and put their heads in the clouds at Leicestershire Aero Club.

Friday, 1st November 2019, 1:48 pm
Dave Biddles and Anne French with the Beech 18 aircraft used in one of the Bond films.

Anne French roared out her “come and join us message” as the grand old club – based at Stoughton – celebrates a staggering 110 years.

Intrepid Anne, who’s flown for over 50 years, told the Harborough Mail: “We are the place for you if you have a real interest in aeroplanes and flying.

“We are proud to sit inside Harborough district and we are the club to visit if you live in south Leicestershire and you’d like to learn to fly.

Leicestershire Aero Club logo.

“So come along and get to know us – the sky really is the limit!”

Anne, of Great Bowden, helps to run the historic world-renowned club as part of an elected seven-strong council of management.

Now into her 70s, she’s still going strong after earning her wings at legendary Battle of Britain airfield Biggin Hill in 1966.

“I just love to fly.

Stirling IV, EF270 possibly at Leicester East with the 190 Squadron in 1944.

“Flying to me is freedom and fun.

“It’s still such a thrill to leave the ground and climb up into the heavens after all these years,” said indomitable Anne.

“I’m proud to have been involved with Leicestershire Aero Club for about 30 years.

“Incredibly we were set up way back on August 30, 1909 by Leicester City Council.

View from the tower...Dave Biddles chief flying instructor, Anne French and Ivan Court chairman and seated Greg Lovell..

“That was just six years after the Wright brothers made the first ever flight in America – and six weeks after French pioneer Louis Bleriot flew across the English Channel.

“We are without doubt one of the oldest aero clubs in the world, not just the UK.

“We have a fantastic history straddling both world wars and so many characters have come and gone over the decades.”

Starting out at Desford, the club moved to Stoughton – then called Leicester East – in 1942 at the height of the Second World War.

Katleen Voets checks the tech logs.

“Between the wars we were very popular with the rich and powerful.

“Figures such as the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Bedford and Sir Lindsay Everard of the local brewery came to fly and mix here.

“The club really took off – and boasted 900 members by the 1920s.

“As a wartime airfield we operated as an important base for Short Stirling heavy bombers attacking Nazi Germany and the Dakota workhorse,” said Anne.

She said the club had become much more egalitarian and accessible since those heady far-off days of the Roaring Twenties.

“We’ve got about 370 members now and they come from just about every single trade.

Concorde during the 1988 air show.

“Electricians, butchers, farmers, business people – they all fly here,” smiled Anne.

“We do have more men than women so I’d urge any women reading this to pop in and have a chat.

“Flying is a brilliant career.

“It’s hugely rewarding, you’ll travel all over the world, you’ll be well paid – and it’s so satisfying and fulfilling.

“We’ve had students here who have gone on to join the RAF’s amazing aerobatic team the Red Arrows, become fighter pilots and airline captains.

“It will take about 45 hours to achieve your solo licence here and cost about £7000.

“We’ve got outstanding flying instructors here at Stoughton, you’ll make a lot of new friends and it’s great fun.

“So come and see us today – and reach for the skies!”

If you would like to find out more about Leicestershire Aero Club and head onwards and upwards visit their website here:


View from the tower...Dave Biddles chief flying instructor, Anne French and Ivan Court chairman and seated Greg Lovell..