In 1910, a field on the current airfield site was rented by Harold Piffard and George Wingfield to flight-test Piffard’s designs. A year later, it became the first airport in the UK to be given a commercial licence, as Brighton and Shoreham Aerodrome. A restaurant was opened and in 1912 a pavilion for the Brighton and Shoreham Aero Club. Eric and Cecil Pashley started selling joyrides in 1913 and opened a flying school in 1914. The airfield was used by the RFC throughout the Great War, ending up as a site for training (newly-formed) RAF flying instructors. The Miles Brothers operated from the airfield between 1925 and 1932.
The corporations of Brighton, Hove and Worthing jointly bought some 150 acres on the original airport site in 1933; the Brighton Hove and Worthing Municipal Airport was opened in 1936, with a new art deco terminal building designed by Stavers H. Tiltman. Olley Air Services of Croydon were appointed to run the airport, which was used for both private and commercial flights to Croydon, the Channel Islands and France (Deauville). At its peak, 6,000 passengers were carried annually. Training of RAF Volunteer Reserve pilots began in 1937 and, after a brief interlude in 1939 when international passenger flights were transferred from Croydon for safety reasons, the airfield became an RAF air-sea rescue and fighter base.
Postwar, Cecil Pashley (the joyride operator) returned, setting up the South Coast Flying Club. Miles and Beagle Aircraft came here in 1951, but didn’t stay long. Flight training, pleasure flying and light business use has continued to the present day. Scheduled services have been tried, but no one has yet been able to repeat the success of the inter-war years. The hard runway was constructed in 1982. In 2006, the councils sold the airport to a property services company.