RAF Acaster Malbis was commissioned in 1942 on an area of land adjacent to the River Ouse lying between the villages of Acaster Malbis and Acaster Selby. Although the greater part of the airfield lies within the Acaster Malbis parish boundary, the southern end lies within the parishes of Acaster Selby and Appleton Roebuck.
The Canadian Air Force 601 Squadron was the first to arrive on 6th January 1942; they used the grass landing strip airfield as a base to fly the new American P39 Airacobra fighter planes. They stayed only three months; unfortunately there were many problems with the planes. From 6th April 1942 until the beginning of 1943 No.15 Pilots Advanced Flying Unit used the airfield, training recently qualified pilots to convert to twin-engine aeroplanes using Oxford aircraft.
On 25th January 1943 contractors moved in to develop the airfield into a full size ‘Class A’ bomber base, with three concrete runways, steel hangers and new administration buildings. Accommodation for the RAF personnel was dispersed around the periphery of the airfield as far as Acaster Malbis and Bishopthorpe to minimise casualties in case of attack. Farmers continued to farm the land between the runways as the need for food increased. The airfield reopened in late 1943 although it was then used only as a relief landing ground for heavy bombers stationed at Rufforth and Marston Moor. In November 1944 No 4 Aircrew School moved in. Pilots, navigators, and air gunners completed their ground training while ‘holding’, awaiting posting to a squadron. By 1945 there were between 200 and 300 RAF personnel living on the base.
At the end of the war RAF Acaster Malbis became No.91 MU (Maintenance Unit) concerned with the storage and disposal of vast amounts of munitions. Bombs were brought from airfields that were closing down and stacked up along the runways. It was well into the 1950’s before the work was completed.
RAF Acaster Malbis was decommissioned in 1963 and the land sold by public auction. It reverted to farmland, although many of the local people remember learning to drive on the disused runways. In the mid-1970’s it returned to use as an airfield, for light aircraft. Businessmen flew in from all over Europe for meetings with York companies, and it was particularly popular during the racing season as a fast and convenient means of transport for horses and jockeys. This usage continued until the mid 1980’s.
The airfield is now once again used as farmland. Large parts of the runways have been dug up and the buildings have fallen into disuse; many have been demolished although it is still possible to see a hanger and the control tower. Part of the land is used for light industry.