A BUSINESSMAN is to launch commercial flying from a former RAF base in North Yorkshire after buying it from the Ministry of Defence.

Chris Makin says his plans for RAF Church Fenton, which also include opening a flying training school, should create 100 jobs within the next five years.

He revealed he was organising a 'fly-in' at the airfield near Tadcaster from 10am to 4pm on Saturday to celebrate its official handover to Makin Enterprises.

He expected up to 100 light aircraft from across Britain to fly in to the airfield, where an air display was planned for 1pm by ex-European aerobatic champion Tom Cassell.

"With over 70 years of service, RAF Church Fenton was regarded as one of Britain's most important airfields, and its our aim to continue that status," he said.

"Although the RAF operation ended in 2013, passionate new ownership with a thirst for all things aviation will ensure its operational days shall remain long and plentiful."

Church Fenton housed the first RAF Eagle Squadron of American volunteers in 1940 and provided protection for industrial heartlands in Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Humberside during the Second World War.

Defence chiefs decided recently to close the base as part of a range of cost-cutting measures and units based there, including the Yorkshire University Air Squadron, have relocated to other bases.

Mr Makin, who lives at Garforth and runs a soft fruit business, said he had bought the whole of the 450-acre site, with the exception of three acres occupied by former military quarters, which had been bought by someone else for development with 65 homes.

He said Church Fenton had two finely paved runways and was almost at sea level, which compared well to Leeds Bradford Airport, which was 650 feet above sea level and therefore subject to poorer weather.

He said there was already a huge amount of interest from people wanting to base their planes in hangars at Church Fenton, but people would also use it while flying into the region, for example to visit York or spend a day at York Races.

It would be able to cater for planes with up to 20 passengers, and helicopters would also be able to land there.