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Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Captain Black’s Phantom at the Old Airport.

Liverpool’s John Lennon airport — formerly known as Speke airport and RAF Speke — is one of the UK's oldest operational airports. Scheduled flights began leaving from Speke in 1930 but the airport was not officially opened until a few years later. The modern site is about two miles (3.2 km) south west of the original airport which has since been converted into a business park housing a hotel, restaurant and gym amongst other things. Not long after its official opening on the 1st of July 1933, Speke airport was the site of a great tragedy – the death of the famous Captain Thomas Campbell Black.

The old airport today.

Campbell found fame when he and his co-pilot Charles William Anderson Scott won the London to Melbourne Centenary Air Race (also known as the MacRobertson Air Race) in 1934. They completed the journey in a record seventy-one hours and were awarded the huge sum of ten thousand pounds in prize money as well as the Britannia Trophy. Black and Scott were regarded as true luminaries in their field and their names became known across the globe. In 1936 Black was preparing to enter The Schlesinger Race from England to Johannesburg, South Africa which again offered a colossal ten thousand pound first prize. He was, naturally, amongst the favourites to win but, sadly never got the chance. On the 19th of September Captain Black was in the cockpit of his Percival Mew Gull (newly christened Miss Liverpool) preparing for take off when a Hawker Hart bomber, piloted by Officer Peter Stanley Salter, came in to land and collided with the craft. The bomber’s propeller ripped through the side of Black's cockpit and into the Captain himself. Despite all efforts, Tom Campbell Black died on the way to hospital.

The shadowy figure of a man has reportedly been sighted on numerous occasions pacing around what was once Hanger Number One, where Miss Liverpool was kept. Some claim that this apparition could be old Tom out in search of a new plane or else trapped in some kind of perpetual retread of events leading up to his death. Certainly, stories of Black’s phantom were still circulating amongst airport employees right up until the old site’s closure in the mid-1980s.

Over the years there have also been many reports of so called “phantom planes” being seen over Speke and its neighbouring districts. Although descriptions of the craft vary widely and amateur aviators flying light aircraft are doubtless the origin of many, there are those who like to think that, just maybe, Captain Tom Campbell Black has somehow managed to take to the skies once more.

The above is an abridged excerpt from 800 Years of Haunted Liverpool by John Reppion which is to be published by Tempus Publishing in summer 2008. John Reppion can be contacted about Liverpool's ghosts, hauntings and other strange occurrences at haunted_liverpool@btinternet.com.

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