Five miles south-east of the centre of York, this airfield lies south of the B1228 on the approach to Elvington village. Originally scheduled as a satellite landing ground, the flat extent of largely rough grazing land encroached by birch woods was requisitioned in 1940. After clearing the site and laying a gravel and cinder perimeter taxiway, upgrading took place and hard runways were put down as well as several hardstandings ultimately 38 in number. These were 02-20 and 14-32 at 1,400 yards and the main 08-26 at 2,000 yards. A T2 hangar was erected on the technical site near the B1228 and two more T2s further to the south-east between the heads of runways 02 and 34 at a later date which eliminated one hardstanding. A B 1 hangar was added early in 1943. The bomb stores were located off the south-east side of the airfield and the camp sites dispersed either side of the B1228 into Elvington village.
The station was first occupied by Whitleys of No. 77 Squadron, which arrived in October 1942. A veteran No. 4 Group squadron, No. 77 had been based at Leeming prior to being loaned to Coastal Command in May 1942 when it operated from Chivenor. Following its return to Bomber Command, after a brief period of retraining and converting to Halifaxes, the squadron joined Main Force operations in December and continued to fly from Elvington until May 1944. In that month No. 77 was moved to Full Sutton as Elvington had been selected as the base for two new heavy bomber squadrons manned by Free French personnel flying Halifaxes in No. 4 Group. These were Nos. 346 and 347 Squadrons, formed at Elvington in May and June 1944 respectively, both becoming operational in the latter month.
On December 28, 1944, a loaded Halifax caught fire on dispersal, the ensuing explosions causing 18 casualties of which 13 were fatal. During some 120 operations, the last from Elvington taking place on April 25, 1945, the French had 30 Halifaxes missing in action. A major Luftwaffe intruder operation on the night of March 3/4, 1945 resulted in a Halifax returning to Elvington being shot down. One of the Ju 88s involved struck trees and crashed while attempting to strafe the airfield. Operational losses from Elvington totaled 128 Halifaxes, including crashes, 45 of which were from the French squadrons.
In the weeks following VE-Day, the French-manned Halifaxes were employed in transporting military personnel and material across liberated Europe and in October they were officially turned over to the French Air Force, taking the aircraft with them. After their departure, Elvington was used by No. 14 Maintenance Unit to store bombs and eventually was reduced to having only a caretaker party in residence. In 1953 Elvington was one of several redundant airfields passed to the USAF for updating as reserve bases and in 1954 US engineer organisations extended and strengthened the main runway to 3,265 yards, built a `parking ramp' and new taxiways while breaking up the other old runways and much other wartime concrete for use as hardcore. However, with lessened East-West tension and a change in strategy, the USAF withdrew its personnel although the airfield remained in reserve status. Thereafter Elvington became a relief landing ground for RAF training establishments, the long runway providing a useful safety margin for student pilots. In 1968 this runway was also used for Hovercraft trials.
In the 1970s, Elvington's technical and administrative sites were acquired by an enthusiast group who formed the Yorkshire Air Museum. This thriving organisation has developed into one of the UK's premier air museums, noted particularly for its splendid effort in re-fabricating the only externally complete example of a Halifax in existence.
To give much needed protection for the exhibits, a T2 hangar (removed from Kemble) was erected on the museum site in 1995. Being in a designated green belt area for York, no development is allowed of the airfield site, the runway remaining intact.