Thurston Engineering/Aviation

Has Operated from 1946 to Present

Main Base – Stapleford Tawney

Founder/Director – Capt. Eric Thurston O.B.E.

Based in Ongar, Essex Thurston Engineering can trace its roots back to 1938 when Eric Thurston began offering comprehensive engine repair services, one of the first in Essex to do so. However, WWII would summarily put things on hold and business would not commence again until 1946 when having been discharged from the Royal Engineers where he had been responsible for the running of various repair units, Eric returned to Ongar now owning a large amount of war surplus in the form of hard to source bearings and pistons and quite naturally, business boomed. The company expanded further still in 1948 with the procurement of another engine workshop in Romford and in 1950, Thurston began its very own apprenticeship scheme.

Further expansion would see a new factory being built in 1951 and not long after this, Eric began to move into the aviation market, his company producing unique parts for D. Napier and Sons and later Bristol Aircraft before finally gaining full certification to carry out complete engine overhauls. Sometime later, Eric became head of Herts & Essex Aero Club’s Engineering Department which then effectively witnessed both companies operating from the same hangar. However, bigger plans were afoot and by 1960, Thurston had moved into aircraft construction with the building of the first and only Tawney Owl. Unfortunately, this aircraft would be written off on its inaugural flight in March 1960 after which the remains were stored until 1986 when it was sold off. It is now currently being restored for static display.

It was also during March 1960 (the 3rd) that Thurston Aviation began business and from this point on, the company began to acquire a considerable number of aircraft, many of which would be used for commercial ops from May 1966 onwards. Indeed, while most of them flew a multitude of tasks, certain aircraft were used for more specific purposes, such as their PA-28 which carried out flight crew positioning, rentals and joy-rides and their PA-23s and PA-31 all of which were used solely for leasing, light freight work and air-taxi services. Sufficed to say, by this time the much revered Uncle Eric (as he was known at SEN) had become yet another aviation legend and was a regular visitor to the airport where he could be seen zipping around at his usual frenetic pace either in his dealings with the local aviation companies or clearing customs on a trip to or from the Continent.

A move to Stansted then occurred some time during mid 1980s resulting in a name change to Tal-Air along with the arrival of several more aircraft, some as large as King Air 200s (inc. G-IPRA) & H.S.125s (G-MHIH) although some of these were leased. It would seem that the company eventually gained itself a new director although by the early 1990s, it had folded. However, rumour has it that despite his advanced years, Eric still enjoys frequenting his old stomping ground at Stapleford while the engineering side of the business continues to serve the automotive trade from its factory in Ongar.

With many thanks to Jim Brazier, Michael Brett, Phillip Camp, Andy Glynn, Ivan Palmer, William Thomas & David Thompson for help with some of the information above.


Thurston Engineering fleet from 1960 to 1990

Auster J/1 Autocrat

G-AHHN – 12/62 to 4/64

Sold to D. McQuoid

ERCO 415 Ercoupe

G-ASNF – 12/63 to 3/72

Sold to C. Robertson (Developments) Ltd

Forney F-1 Aircoupe

G-ARHB – 4/61 to 2/71

Sold to Holding & Barnes Ltd

G-ARHE – 1/62 to 6/65

DBR in forced landing at Kelvedon, Essex 4/6/65

Miles M.38 Messenger

G-AILI – 12/60 to 5/63

Sold to M. Darlington

G-AJKL – 10/61 to 7/64

Sold to F. Darlington

Miles M.65 Gemini

G-AIHM – 5/61 to 11/62

W/O in crash at Le Touquet 18/11/1962

Percival P.40 Prentice

G-AOKL – 6/62 to 2/63 & 3/64 to 6/68

Sold to J.L. Gullen

Piper PA-23 Apache

G-ASMY – 12/67 to 3/84

Sold to E.P. Collier

G-ATOA – 6/71 to 7/76

Sold to A.F. Sobey

Piper PA-23 Aztec

G-AWXW – 5/76  to 12/82

W/O when nose gear collapsed at Leeds-Bradford 8/12/82

G-BADE – 9/76 to 2/85

Sold to RCR Aviation Ltd

Piper PA-28 Cherokee

G-ASTC* – 5/64 to 5/73

Destroyed – Actual fate unknown

G-ATVO – 10/66 to 3/70

Sold to Cannon Electronics & Automation

Piper PA-30 Twin Commanche


Dates Unknown

Piper PA-31 Navajo Chieftain

G-BBVR – 3/78 to 8/81

Sold in the U.S.

Piper PA-31 Turbo Navajo

G-AZHL – 3/78 to 8/79

Sold to BAC Windows Ltd

Taylorcraft Plus D

G-AFWO –  3/63 to 5/63

Crashed after stalling Willesden, London 29/5/63

Hawker Siddeley H.S.125 3B

G-AZVS – 7/84 to 8/85

Sold to Food Brokers Ltd as G-MRFB



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Many thanks from the SAAD Admin Team.