Jim Espin

I am sure that there are a good number of Andover Strut members who remember Jim Espin who passed away in early February. A former member of the Andover Strut in the PFA days it was Jim’s vision and tenacity, combined with the hours of support from fellow members like Stan Lawrence and others that helped create Popham airfield in the early 1970s. Jim acquired the land for Poham airfield, home to the Recreational Flying Club as it was known in 1974. What followed was a battle with the local authorities to secure panning permission that involved  singled mindedness and unstinting effort, not to mention some devious actions to overcome tree preservation orders - little short of cutting down and uprooting trees in the middle of the night!  Eventually the land was cleared, seeded and transformed into an airstrip, now the 26/08 runway, followed by the acquisition further land permitting the development of the 21/03 runway.  What he bequeathed has become the standard for informal grass roots flying, always conscious of safety but not strangled by rules and regulations. 

Perhaps his legacy can best be summed up by the following comments taken from the internet:

Popham is a gem of an airfield, the antidote to the ' Hi-vis, permission-to-taxi' ethos that unnecessarily pollutes numerous airfields.

That is a pretty good legacy- nearly four decades of fun-flying, and a real community resource. You need quite a vision to stand in a wood, and envisage an airfield, but that is what Jim Espin did.

For the first few years you had to dodge the remnants of tree stumps as well as the flock of sheep that invariably Jim had to herd into a corner of the field!

But along with the dog-leg approach between the trees it was all part of the fun and without Jim's vision, enthusiasm and determination combined with his sheer dogged-mindedness there would have been no Popham airfield to enjoy.

by Eryl Smith, March 2012.