Wings over St Athan

VANTAGE - - Inside Story St Athan -

AS WITH GAYDON, the 1000-acre air­field at St Athan is a for­mer Royal Air Force fa­cil­ity. In St Athan’s case, the RAF pres­ence dates back to 1938, when a tech­ni­cal train­ing cen­tre was es­tab­lished, though its ac­tiv­i­ties were ex­panded the fol­low­ing year with the ar­rival of a fighter group pool. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War over 14,000 per­son­nel were sta­tioned here and it was used for train­ing both ground and air crew. Af­ter the war, St Athan also be­came an RAF driver train­ing school where re­cruits who needed to drive (RAF po­lice, etc) learned in a fleet of Mor­ris Mi­nors!

St Athan’s main role in re­cent decades has been as a main­te­nance base for fight­ers and bombers… Vul­can, Vic­tor, Buc­ca­neer, Phan­tom, Har­rier, Tor­nado and oth­ers were all ser­viced here, as was the Bat­tle of Bri­tain Me­mo­rial Flight’s Avro Lan­caster. At one stage it was the big­gest mil­i­tary air­craft re­pair and over­haul base in Europe, which at its peak em­ployed over 6000 mil­i­tary and civil­ian per­son­nel.

But over the years the UK’S air fleet shrunk, main­te­nance was taken on by the op­er­at­ing bases, and St Athan’s role dwin­dled. The last air­craft to be ser­viced at St Athan was a Vick­ers VC10. When it de­parted in Fe­bru­ary 2012, the re­main­ing em­ploy­ees were made re­dun­dant.

Since then the hangars have stood empty, but their size and avail­abilty were two im­por­tant fac­tors that at­tracted As­ton Martin. At the han­dover cer­e­mony, CEO Andy Palmer said: ‘Due to its sheer size and scale, the St Athan su­per hangars rep­re­sented an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity for us to build our sec­ond man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity, within the en­ve­lope of an ex­ist­ing struc­ture.

‘We have three hangars, one of which will han­dle the body in white, one will be the paint shop and one will look af­ter trim and fi­nal as­sem­bly.’ He also hinted that there could po­ten­tially be a small test track on the perime­ter of the air­field.

From the RAF wings to the sim­i­larly iconic wings of As­ton Martin, the next chap­ter in the story of St Athan is just about to be­gin.

Above and left Aerial view shows how the MOD site nes­tles up to the vil­lage of St Athan. No miss­ing the three su­per hangars, which opened in 2005, though they have stood largely un­used since 2012. As­ton Martin CEO Andy Palmer (left) saw an op­por­tu­nity for

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