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Samlesbury
Lancashire

Nearly 100 years at the very heart of British military aircraft development 
Samlesbury Aerial View 1994 Samlesbury Aerial View 1994
 
The BAE Systems Military Air and Information (MA & I) advanced manufacturing and technology facility is based at the now disused Samlesbury Aerodrome, near Bladerstone, Lancashire. 
 
The aerodrome has a rich hstory in aviation dating back to 1922 when it was first selected as the location for a municipal airport, serving Preston and the North West.  It was something of a visionary project given the economy after the first World War and the fact that 'passenger travel' for the masses had yet to be invented.
English Electric Square Image
Despite gaining all the approvals however, construction did not start until April 1939, mainly due to finances and the availability of suitable plant and equipment during what is now referred to a 'The Great Depression'. 
 
Once started however, the aerodrome expanded quickly and with the outbreak of the Second World War, the English Electric Company were instructed to erect a flight shed for the construction of Handley Page Hampden bombers.  With war raging in Europe, the first Hampden flew from Samlesbury on 22nd February 1940 and within 2 years they had produced some 770 aircraft. 
 
1940 also saw the runways extended and the building of a second assembly and manufacturing facility, this time for the construction of Handley Page Halifax bombers. 
 
During the final years of the conflict Samlesbury became home to numerous Hawker Hurricanes and Airpseed Oxfords, all under the control of No.9 Group RAF.
 
Halifax Aircraft Assembly at Samlesbury Aerodrome 1942 - 3 Halifax Aircraft Assembly at Samlesbury Aerodrome 1942
 
By the end of the war, five main hangars and three runways existed and the production focus turned to the jet era with the construction (under licence) of the De Havilland Vampire. 
 
English Electric meanwhile had turned to creating their own aircraft and Samlesbury soon saw the maiden flight on 13th May 1949 of the Canberra, English Electric's first wholly-built and designed aircraft.
 
Canberras on apron at Samlesbury Canberras on apron at Samlesbury
 
The Canberra was produced in great quantities with over 900 examples being constructed across the UK, these being joined by 49 aircraft built under licence in Australia and in one of the greatest Anglo-American collaborations, over 400 were built by Glenn L. Martin Company in the USA as B-57.
 
Canberra B production at Samlesbury EE Canberra B (I) Mk 8, B Mk 6 & T Mk 4 production at Samlesbury
 
From 1953 onwards, attention shifted to the new English Electric Lightning Fighter / Interceptor with the first three prototypes (WG760, WG763 & WG765) being hand built at Samlesbury.
 
Lightning jets under construction Lightning jets under construction
 
The first production English Electric Lightning took to the skies over Samlesbury on 3rd November 1959 and when the English Electric became part of the British Aircraft Corporation
BAC logo
(Under the rationalisation of the aircraft industry in 1963), the site played a major part in the development of high-tech components for the ill-fated TSR-2 project, as well as the iconic supersonic airliner Concorde.
 
Salmesbury continues to work closely with the nearby Warton and Preston factories in the development and production of the joint-venture Sepecat Jaguar and Panavia Tornado jet fighters. 
 
BAE Systems logo
It also produces major components for Eurofighter Typhoon and the T-45 Goshawk.
 
Samlesbury - 2 Lightnings Lightning I & Lightning II at Samlesbury
 
The site is currently undergoing redevelopment and although the runways no longer exist (having disappeared under a sea of solar panels, Samlesbury still plays a major part in aviation.  The site currentl employs around 3,000 people involved in fuselage and component manufacture.  BAE Systems recent opened a £15.6 million ASK Centre (Academy for Skills and Knowledge) where over 200 apprentices and graduates are trained in advanced engineering and manufacturing technology such as robotics and clean room composites as well as 3D printing and enhanced technologies.

Site Timeline

1939 English Electric Company Ltd
1960 British Aircraft Corporation
1977 British Aerospace
1999 BAE Systems