In contrast to many UK bases, Weston-super-Mare was conceived and developed by the local Council to promote business and tourism in 1935, rather than in response to the RAF
expansion programme in advance of WWII. The airfield opened as a commercial concern in 1936. The RAF established an Elementary Flying Training School soon after the start of the war and a shadow aircraft factory was set up by the Bristol Aeroplane Company
on the south western margins of the base. No.1 Radio School was also established for training of radio and radar technicians.
The Bristol Aeroplane Company
had a base on the Oldmixon (south west) part of the site and along with the factory at Filton
manufactured a considerable number of Sycamore, including all the examples for West Germany between 1957 and 1959. Much of the turbine conversion work was carried out here for the Whirlwind
HAR.9, HAR.10 and HCC.12. In Mar 1960,
Westland acquired the helicopter interests of Bristol Aeroplane Company and manufacture moved eastwards to Yeovil
and the ex-Fairey plant at Hayes
. Commercial maintenance capacity was retained (Puma repairs for the RAF and roof / cabin sections for the line at Marignane
, Sea King seat construction, Wasp refurbishment for foreign customers) and the Gazelle production line was moved here from Yeovil
in mid 1977. The RAF began its drawdown as first the radio school at the adjacent RAF Locking moved to RAF Cosford, and in 1995, the Bristol Aero Collection was moved to RAF Kemble in Gloucestershire and development permission was granted for a housing estate.
In 1978, the embryonic British Rotorcraft Museum acquired premises at the south eastern side of the airfield at Weston-super-Mare and after 1981 when it became a company, its growth has continued. Renamed the International Helicopter Museum in 1988, it undertakes preservation work and displays a stunning array of helicopters in its refurbished and expanded buildings. In 1991, the first International Helidays towards the end of July, was organised by the Museum and held on the seafront
in the town of Weston-super-Mare.