There are many unusual airports in the world, especially on sloping hills. RAF Spadeadam (EGOM) is one of the most unusual though. In this article we will explore the history of this ‘dummy airfield’, and the possibility of landing an aircraft at it.

What is RAF Spadeadam?

RAF Spadeadam (pronounced as “Spade adam”), is a Royal Air Force (RAF) station located in Cumbria, England. The site was first built in 1955, and was set to be the Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile Test Centre for the Blue Streak missile project. The site, nicknamed “The Rocket Establishment”, was divided into five areas: an administration and assembly block, a British Oxygen Company compound for on-site liquid oxygen fuel manufacture, a component test area, the engine test area and the static firing stands. In 2004, following tree felling work at the site, missile silos were uncovered, prompting belief that Spadeadam was probably intended to be one of 60 launch sites planned for remote locations as part of the UK’s Cold War Nuclear program.

The site was taken over by the RAF in 1976 and subsequently converted into Europe’s first Electronic Warfare Tactics Range. The aim of the site is to permit RAF training sorties to practice approaching the ‘airfield’ without being detected by radar and surveillance systems. Alongside this, the site has been used for drone swarm tests, practice bombing exercises, and Electronic Warfare training.

As part of it’s use as a training site, Spadeadam features targets on the range such as Russian SAM systems and even a fake airfield, nicknamed Colinski airfield. The airfield has real aircraft parked on it: former Belgian AF T-33s, former Adl’A Mystère IV-As and a former East German Su-22.

So, can planes operate from RAF Spadeadam?

RAF Spadeadam features a ploughed field, mimicking an active runway when seen from above. As a training site, the site also has an airport designator – EGOM – and issues a METAR to pilots. The “runway” length at Spadeadam is a mere 533 meters. Due to this, there would be a limitation on aircraft that are permitted to operate there. Most of the aircraft that would be permitted to land at Spadeadam would be STOL aircraft (Short Takeoff and Landing Performance), such as the F-15 fighter jet, which can take-off on a runway with a length of 500 meters. Though, with the runway surface being grass, this would likely eliminate any form of fighter aircraft, or jet powered aircraft.

Spadeadam Dummy Airfield - Travel Radar - Aviation News
Spadeadam from above | © nickthebee

Could commercial planes operate at RAF Spadeadam?

It is theoretically possible for Spadeadam to serve as a commercial airport, however it would be very unsafe. First of all, the largest possible commercial plane to land at Spadeadam is a DHC-6 Twin Otter, with a minimum safe runway length needed of 760 meters, but can be further reduced to 500 meters. Secondly, RAF Spadeadam has no airport utilities and nowhere to park a commercial airplane, let alone being surrounded by cold-war era aircraft relics, and electronic warfare equipment.

So, yes, you could technically land a small commercial aircraft on the dummy runway which in reality is a grass field. But, it certainly wouldn’t be a very safe operation.

If you want to visit Spadeadam someday, you will have to fly to Carlisle Lake District Airport, which is 13km away from the site, and open to regular scheduled traffic.

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The Twin Otter aircraft | © Burmarrad (Mark) Camenzuli

Do you want to visit this dummy airfield? And should light aircraft be permitted to land there? Let us know your thoughts below.

32 Shares:
  • This article is bullshit. Spadeadam doesn’t have a working runway, it’s a ploughed field made to look like a runway from the air and planes cannot land on it.

    • Hi E,

      I think our article by reporter, Sohail, makes this clear, and focuses on the history of the site, and why it has things such as an airport designator, and issues METARs.


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