The first aeroplane to land in York was piloted by Captain Longcroft of the Royal Flying Corps in February 1913. Thousands were at Knavesmire to witness his landing.
By 1931 York had its own aircraft factory. Airspeed Ltd was co-founded by Nevil Shute, an airship designer who later found fame as a novelist. Airspeed operated from the Piccadilly bus garage and designed aircraft and gliders. When it outgrew the garage, the company asked York Council to help it find new premises. But no help was forthcoming and Shute took the operation to Portsmouth.
The Council did not make the same mistake twice. When Yorkshire Aviation Services Ltd was looking for an aerodrome, suitable land was found on the outskirts of the city at Clifton. On July 4, 1936, the York City Municipal Aerodrome was officially opened by Lord Swinton, Minister for Air. Yorkshire Aviation Services offered flying lessons at 40 shillings an hour, and its air taxi was available for hire for 6d a mile.
With the outbreak of war in 1939, the airfield was taken over by the R.A.F. and became a base for bomber aircraft; three new runways and a selection of support buildings were constructed. The site was badly damaged in the Luftwaffe raids on York in April 1942. After the war the airfield was returned to civilian use until it was sold for housing in the 1950s.