In 1940, the land around Rufforth was selected as a suitable site for an airfield that opened in 1942. The first Operational unit (158 Squadron) arrived from RAF East Moor flying Halifaxes, in 1943 the Halifax Operational Training Unit No4 arrived. Accommodation, sick quarters, messes, gymnasium, and cinema were along Heights Lane away from the technical site and Rufforth Hall became officers’ accommodation during the war.
The roof of Grasslands Farm was struck off by an aircraft attempting to land in fog, almost totally destroying the upper floor; repairs to the brickwork are still visible today. The Halifax crew and three members of the Hildreth family lost their lives and a local man later received the George Medal for his part in the rescue.
RAF Rufforth closed in 1959 and Flying Training Command took over; the RAF closed the airfield in 1974 and the land was returned to agriculture. One hangar remains today operating as a haulage company.
Civilian Gliding arrived in Rufforth in November 1961 and continued their tenancy until September 1977; in 1981 the Ouse Gliding Club purchased the site and returned to Rufforth. The British Racing and Sports Club set up as a circuit and held three meetings a year, they stayed until 1977. Air displays and model aircraft displays have also taken place. The Queen and Prince Philip landed at Rufforth and the airfield was also used as an out of city car park for the Pope’s visit in 1983. During 1979 – 1980 the TV series Airline was filmed here.
AF Budge Aviation attempted to establish a multi-million international airport for businessmen, the Gliding Club were instrumental in blocking the project; the plans ended in 1992 when North Yorkshire County Council refused to remove Green Belt Protection.