Will Daedalus soon be wingless?

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Lee-on-Solent airfield, originally the site of the Royal Naval Air Services’ first seaplane base in 1917, was also a Fleet Air Arm training base in WW2 as HMS Daedalus . The picture, looking east, shows its coastal location between Portsmouth harbour (seen in the distance) and Southampton Water

The historic Daedalus airfield, still operating as Solent Airport (EGHF), is a CAA-licensed general aviation aerodrome, with airline traffic served by Southampton airport to its north-west and Bournemouth to the west.

It is also home to Britten-Norman, which proudly calls itself the UK’s only independent aircraft manufacturer, still churning out updated civil and military variants of the perennially popular Islander/Trislander series more than 50 years after the type first flew.

More than 1,250 Islander series aircraft have been produced, and B-N operates a specialist MRO support service for them at Lee-on-Solent. But as an aeronautical engineering company it also carries out sophisticated mission systems integration for the Defender variant and other aircraft.

Now the base is under threat as an aviation site.

Fareham Borough Council, which owns it, is tempted to accept offers to locate a massive National Grid electrical supply interconnector terminal close by. This 10-acre, 25m-high terminal will be an electrical power supply interconnector with France, and if it goes ahead many extremely high voltage electrical cables will run underneath Daedalus’ runways and taxiways.

This will seriously mess up simple things like compass swings, but the calibration of mission systems and any other equipment affected by powerful electromagnetic fields will also be threatened.

Considering the interconnector terminal could equally efficiently be located the other side of Southampton Water at Fawley on a site that has always been industrial, threatening Daedalus, Britten-Norman and local general aviation in this way just because Fareham Borough Council likes the colour of National Grid’s money is, to put it mildly, short-sighted.