1951 – 2012
Should my end come while I am in flight,
Whether brightest day or darkest night;
Spare me no pity and shrug off the pain,
Secure in the knowledge that I’d do it again.
Today Welshpool Mid Wales Airport is a hub for business aviation. Home to an eclectic mix of light aircraft and the people who fly them. It’s a learned campus for fixed wing and rotary flying schools and it is also the base for the Wales Air Ambulance. That it is such a bustling aviation hotspot is due to the vision of one man – the farmer on whose field it lies.
From his earliest days at the family farm at Trehelig, Bob Jones always had his eyes to the skies. From airfix kits and balsa wood disasters to pocket money flying lessons and cadged rides in a Tiger Moth on Long Mountain, Bob was born to be an aviator. PPL at sixteen and simultaneous Student of the Year at Walford Agricultural college and Pilot of the Year at Sleap aerodrome.
But the world of dairy farming slowly faded into the background as Bob could see how the land could be put to better use. He started work on the grass strip in 1987 – digging hedges, filling ditches and erecting hangars. Then a government grant allowed him to build a much-needed hard runway – a key step in bringing business aviation to Welshpool.
Once he’d further expanded the airport by adding more hangars, office and a runway extension, Bob started to concentrate on his aviation qualifications. Thus started a lengthy career as a charter pilot with him holding UK and American Commercial Pilots licences for both helicopter and fixed wing aircraft.
To we Welshpool flyers, Bob was Mr Aviation. This was his airfield. He cut the grass, pumped up the tyres, painted the fences, dipped the fuel, and flew all the planes. Bob Jones who was more put out at being medically grounded than by the mere hiccup of prostate cancer that caused it.
We were in awe of him. He could and would fly anything. Yet whether we had one hour in our logbooks or a thousand, he would stop and take the time to talk to us as equals, to ask us how we were getting on and to give us encouragement. My first and abiding memory is seeing him lift a small disabled girl into the seat of his Cessna 172 and take her off for a ride. Talk about inspirational!
It is with that Bob Jones in mind that we, his friends and fellow pilots want to keep the air show alive in his memory. The show that he started several years ago at the airport that he built and which we hope will continue for many years to come.