A spoof sign has made a welcome return in the Welsh town of Powys. For 20 years, unaware drivers passing by the A44 in Powys between Rhayander and Kington would have been excused for thinking they were approaching an airport, given there was a sign in place showing where to go to enter Llandegley International’s Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. However, those who followed the directions would only find a field on the outskirts of the village.
The man who “founded” the non-existent Llandegley International Airport decided after his joke had lasted for two decades to stop paying for the sign. But was delighted when people came together to support his crowdfunding campaign to place a brand-new billboard.
Nicholas Whitehead had come up with the idea of renting an advertising billboard publicising a place that did not exist during a “wild conversation” with friends in 2002.
After realising it was possible to enforce their plan, Mr Whitehead, a journalist, rented a billboard and breathed life into the imaginary Welsh airport.
Rather than upsetting people, the joke seemed to quickly grow popular among locals and tourists alike.
Mr Whitehead, who had spent some £25,000 pay over two decades to pay for the rent of the billboard, brought the joke to an end in late 2022.
While the sign had to be taken down after he stopped paying for it, the journalist didn’t give up on Llandegley International Airport.
Mr Whitehead asked CADW – the environment service of the Welsh Government – Powys County Council and the Welsh Government to sort out the bureaucracy and authorise the erection of a proper sign for the made-up airport.
As he didn’t deem it fair for taxpayers to fork out for the cost of the physical sign, he launched a crowdfunding campaign in November last year.
In the description of the campaign, Mr Whitehead called himself the “founder” of Llandegley International Airport.
Six months later, after the necessary funds had been gathered, the fake airport had its sign up once again.
Mr Whitehead told the BBC: “When the sign came down we gained thousands of followers on Facebook. There was so much support for getting another, I felt sure the crowd-funder would work.
“In a time of austerity, no local authority would want to pay for this, so we tried to raise all the money ourselves. We only needed £1,300 and we raised £2,000.”
The money not spent for the sign will be donated to Wales Air Ambulance – an organisation Mr Whitehead said to be happy to support also due to the obvious avian connection between the charity and his fake airport.
The original billboard was located near Crossgates, and cost around £1,500 per year to maintain.
The new one found its home outside the farm of the Richard family, who said to be happy to keep it there forever.
Clearly showing how much buzz the sign generates, Holly Richards said: “We were sad to see it go, so at the first chance of having it back we were happy to put it on our land. Since the sign has come back the social media response has been great. It’s become a real talking point once more.”
Mr Whitehead kept the old sign, and is currently housing it in its garden in Wembury, Devon.
This experience, he said, helped him to see the positive face of social media, as the Facebook page of the fake airport, which counts more than 4,000 likes, has no “unpleasantness”.
Speaking about his made-up airport, the journalist added: “It’s not exactly a national monument – but it is a national treasure. It has become an item of Welsh heritage.”