Bristol Blenheim MKI
The Bristol Blenheim is a truly unique aircraft and was a milestone in the history of British aviation as the first stressed skin aeroplane accepted by the RAF. It bore the brunt of the early war bombing effort and its crews paid a heavy price defending the nation, Winston Churchill paid homage to their bravery comparing them to the 'Charge of the Light Brigade'. At the start of the war the RAF had 1089 Blenheim bombers in service, more than any other aircraft however, this is now the only flying example left in the world and serves as a lasting memorial to those who crewed them.
The restoration wouldn't have been possible without the ARC Volunteers who put in over 25,000 man hours to help the rebuild and the Blenheim Society whose relentless fund raising helped to keep the project afloat.
The Mk1 Nose of our Blenheim has an interesting history. It began life as a Bristol Blenheim Mk1 built under license by AVRO and issued to 23 Squadron on 2nd September 1939, serial number L6739. It served as a night fighter throughout the Battle of Britain before being struck off charge in December 1940 after which it went back to Bristol's and was left in their scrapyard. After the war an innovative electrician by the name of Ralph Nelson, who was working at Bristol's, was given permission to buy the nose which he then went on to convert into an electric car. After mounting it to the chassis of an Austin 7 he fitted an electric motor of his own design and registered it as a 'Nelson' with the index JAD347. Ralph drove the car for 10 years before it suffered a fire which damaged the systems beyond repair, however, he had heard of the ongoing 2nd Blenheim restoration at Duxford and donated the car to the project in 1992. Thankfully Ralph had kept most of the original systems such as the control column, rudder pedals, trim system and fittings including the seat and frame, so after hours of reverse engineering and a huge amount of fabrication work we where able to turn the much loved car back into the Blenheim nose you see today. If you have a chance to see it up close in the future look for the tax disc in one of the front windows, we decided to leave it in as a lasting legacy of Ralph and his car for which this project wouldn't have been possible without.
T9 Two-Seat Spitfire
This Spitfire aircraft was built as a single-seat LFlX fighter at the Castle Bromwich factory of Vickers Supermarine in 1944 as part of contract No. B981687/39. It was delivered to the Royal Air Force at No.33 Maintenance Unit at Lyneham in Wiltshire as PV202 on 18/09/44 where it was brought up to operational standard for service delivery.
The aircraft moved to an operational pool of pilots and machines at No.84 Ground Support Unit at Thruxton, Hants, and on 19/10/44 finally entered service with 33Sqn. 135 Wing of 2nd Tactical Air Force, based at Merville, Northern France, carrying the codes “5R-Q”. The Squadron was tasked mainly with ground support of offensive operations as the allied forces pushed further into Europe and was also engaged in the harassment of enemy troop movements by carrying out strafing attacks on road and rail convoys. The aircraft moved to its new base at Maldegem in Belgium before returning to the UK on 14/12/44 at 84GSU, Lasham when the Squadron converted onto Hawker Tempest Aircraft.
PV202 had carried out 20 operational sorties with ten pilots from Britain, Denmark, Holland and South Africa during its service with 33 Squadron. A move between M.U.’s took it to 83GSU at Dunsfold in January 1945 before being issued to 412Sqn. Royal Canadian Air Force operating from Heesch in Holland where it carried the Squadron identity “VZ-M” later changing to “VZ-W”. Operations were still to strafe anything enemy moving on the ground and the Squadron eventually moved further into Germany itself, being based at Rheinand Wunsdorf forward operating airfields. On 04/05/45 Fg Off H.M.Lepard carried out the last of PV202’s 76 operational sorties with 412 Sqn. With the war in Europe at an end, the Sqn. returned to Dunsfold at the end of May and PV202 was flown to the famous 29MU at High Ercall for storage in July 1945.
The aircraft remained at High Ercall until selected by Vickers-Armstrong for conversion into trainer configuration in 1950 as part of an order from the Irish Air Corps. It was converted at their Eastleigh Factory and test flown as G-15-174. Delivery was completed to the IAC on 15/06/51, where it was given the new identity IAC161.
The Tr.9 Spitfires were used to train pilots for the IAC Seafire fleet and the course included gunnery practice, for although the Spitfire was primarily a trainer, it was equipped with two .303 Browning machine guns, one in each outer wing bay. In time, the IAC retired its Seafire fleet and the Spitfires took on their duties until in 1960 they too were retired. Most of the Tr.9 aircraft passed to the ground technical training school at Baldonnel where they were used as instructional airframes for the training of aircraft engineers for the Air Corps. IAC161 fulfilled this role from December 1960 until it was sold to Tony Samuelson, a collector who was supplying aircraft for the Battle of Britain Film Company.
Samuelson bought four Tr.9 aircraft from the IAC, two of which were made airworthy and used in the filming. IAC161 however, remained on the ground and was never used, remaining in store in Cricklewood. In April 1970 Tony Samuelson sold his four Spitfires and also an airworthy Hurricane to Sir William Roberts. IAC161 was moved to a farm at Flimwell and later the fuselage moved to Shoreham, before heading north to join Roberts’s “Strathallan Collection” aircraft museum in Scotland.
Little or no work was carried out on IAC161 and in 1979 it and its sister aircraft IAC162/ML407(now operated by Carolyn Grace) were put up for sale and went to new owner Nick Grace, who moved the pair to St. Merryn in Cornwall. Grace kept IAC162 for himself and sold IAC161 to Steve Atkins who moved the various parts of the project to a barn on a farm at Saffron Walden, only a few miles from its current home at Duxford! Here a band of volunteers were involved in starting the mammoth job of restoring the Spitfire to fly.
A change in business made Atkins relocate to Sussex and the Spitfire moved too. The aircraft was restored as a two seater, but a modified rear canopy arrangement was incorporated to the rebuild. After many struggles, the Aircraft was eventually fully rebuilt and made a first post restoration flight from Bae Dunsfold on 23/02/90 now wearing its 412 Sqn colours as PV202 “VZ-M”. At this point Atkins relinquished ownership to shareholder Richard Parker who went on to operate the Spitfire extensively on the airshow scene until selling it to collector Rick Roberts on 14/07/92.
Roberts also operated the aircraft extensively and during this time it suffered an undercarriage malfunction at its home base at Goodwood. Following repairs at Earls Colne the aircraft changed its colours to the earlier 33 Sqn markings as “5R-Q”. Roberts sold the aircraft in March 2000 to Greg McCarrach who intended to export the Spitfire to his base in South Africa, but it was written off in a fatal accident at Goodwood on 8/04/2000, killing the owner and his instructor Norman Lees.
The aircraft was removed to Farnborough where a crash investigation was undertaken. Following completion of the investigation, the salvage was offered for sale and inspected by Aircraft Restoration Company (ARC) and Historic Flying Ltd. (HFL) engineers to see if a rebuild was possible. Karel Bos, owner of HFL bought the wreckage and it arrived at The ARC workshop at Duxford on 28/02/01 where a partial strip down was undertaken before it moved into the new ARC/HFL hangar in June 2001.
Since then a comprehensive and detailed rebuild has been carried out by ten engineers at HFL. Although highly experienced in the rebuilding of Spitfires of differing marks, PV202 brought its own challenges by way of its damage and the very fact that it was the first Tr.9 variant the company had tackled. A decision was made by Karel Bos to present the aircraft in the colour scheme it wore when delivered to the IAC in 1951 and to convert it back to its original configuration with the bubble top rear canopy. Amazingly the original rear canopy assembly was traced to being in store in Norfolk and was acquired for the project. Detailed research was undertaken to obtain the correct colour match for the original IAC Green paint scheme. A Rolls-RoyceMerlin 66, correct for this mark, was rebuilt in America by Paul Szendroi of Universal Airmotive and replaced the previously fitted Packard (American built) 266 Merlin.
The aircraft was substantially complete by February 2004 and first engine runs were undertaken on the 27th of that month. At that point it was confidently expected that the Spitfire would make its airshow debut that season, but during ground testing of the engine it became apparent that all was not well. A component had failed and it would require removal of the complete engine to facilitate a repair. IAC161 would remain grounded for the rest of 2004 whilst a replacement component was sourced and the engine stripped and repaired in-house.
Veteran spitfire pilot, Alex Henshaw joined John Romain in G-CCCA on her first flight following restoration in March 2005
By December 2004 the Spitfire was ready for engine runs, the first taking place on the 3rd of the month. Testing continued and full power runs were carried out on 23 December. Following further final preparation the Spitfire took to the air from Duxford for its first post-restoration flight on 13th January 2005 in the hands of ARC Managing Director and pilot John Romain. It was not John’s first flight in this particular aircraft though, as it is also the one in which he had his very first Spitfire flight, as a passenger, back in the 1990’s.
Following extensive flight testing, the aircraft was awarded it's Permit to Fly by the CAA. It emerged onto the busy airshow scene in 2005, where it was distinctive not only for its unusual colour scheme, but because it was the only Tr.9 to be flying in its original colours and configuration. All the others fly in colour schemes representing their time as single seat fighter variants.
In March 2007 the Dutch owner had the aircraft painted in Royal Netherlands Air Force colours to represent ‘H98’, one of three Spitfire Trainers sold to the Netherlands in March 1948. The aircraft showed off her new colours at the Antwerp Airshow in May 2007, before going on to appear at many air shows and events in the UK.
To reflect countrywide celebrations for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, 2010 has seen the aircraft appear in yet another new livery. This time, the aircraft has been painted to represent Spitfire X4474 of Duxford’s 19 Squadron. Spitfire X4474 was a late production Mk1 flown by Sergeant Bernard Jennings of 19 Squadron during the Battle of Britain in September 1940. The Squadron was based at Fowlmere airfield, near Duxford during the battle.
The Buchon is essentially a Rolls-Royce Merlin-engined Messerschmitt Bf109. The Luftwaffe-manned Condor Legion left around 40 Bf109B/E’s for the Spanish Air Force to use upon its return to Germany in 1939. In 1943 the Spanish government agreed a licence production with Messerschmitt to produce 200 Bf109G’s. A total of 25 dismantled airframes were sent to Spain in 1943 as pattern aircraft for future production, although engines, propellers, tailplanes and armament failed to arrive. As the war worsened, Germany was unable to supply the remaining components for the airframes, the technical drawings or appropriate jigs. By late 1944, when neither missing parts nor engines were available from Germany, Hispano Aviacion modified the airframes and tried two different engines, the second French built engine being the
Improving relations between the Spanish government and the West from 1952 onwards, saw a more powerful engine sourced from Britain, the two-speed Rolls Royce Merlin 500-45. The combination of ex-German airframe and British powerplant was successful and the first prototype flew its maiden flight on 30 December 1954. This particular aircraft was given the construction number 223 when built by Hispano Aviacion in Seville in 1959. Its service history has yet to come to light but unit code 7-54 stamped into a panel on the wing indicates that the Buchon served with Ala 7 at Tablada and El Corpero, although it remains uncertain whether the aircraft saw combat in the Spanish Sahara
This aircraft was one of 27 purchased at auction from the Spanish Air Force by Spitfire Productions for use in the making of the 1968 film “Battle of Britain”. Wing tips were squared off, tail struts added and dummy machine guns fitted to the wings to more visually represent the Messerschmitt BF109E of the Battle of Britain period. Filming started in Spain, but later the 17 airworthy aircraft were flown via France to Duxford, UK. Throughout the summer of 1968, the 17 Buchons, 2 Heinkel Bombers and 9 Spitfires engaged in mock dogfights above East Anglia and The Wash. Upon completion of filming, the aircraft were returned to their owners or in the case of the Buchons put up for disposal.
By now registered as G-AWHK, this particular Buchon was one of eleven taken by Texan pilot and aircraft collector Wilson C “Connie” Edwards as payment for flying services during the filming. It was shipped to his ranch in Texas where it flew briefly as N9938 before being placed on static display in 1971 with the Confederate Air Force in Detroit. Acquired by the Old Flying Machine Company, it arrived at Duxford In May 1996,re-registered as G-BWUE and sold on to The Real Aircraft Company at Breighton in Yorkshire, who initiated a full rebuild to airworthy condition. The aircraft was marked up as Hauptmann Werner Schroer’s Bf 109G-2/trop ‘Red 1’, which he flew whilst serving on the Greek island of Rhodes in early 1943.
Purchased by Spitfire Ltd. in November 2006, G-BWUE moved back to Duxford to be maintained by the Aircraft Restoration Company. The aircraft appeared regularly at airshows in the UK and was also used during the filming of ‘Valkyrie’ starring Tom Cruise. Now owned by Historic Flying Ltd, G-BWUE has been assembled and painted as Messerschmitt ‘Yellow 10’ as seen in the Battle of Britain film.
The aircraft, which was formerly XP772 with the Army Air Corps, was acquired outright from the MOD disposals agency in September 2004.
Stripping of the airframe was carried out and a full inspection of its condition has been undertaken. In spite of some time in open storage, little corrosion was found. Repairs were affected where necessary and work carried out on the fuselage and cabin areas. The Pratt and Whitney R-985 engine has been overhauled in the USA and is in storage awaiting fitting at a later date.
With all systems to firewall complete, DHC2 Beaver G-DHCZ has recently emerged from the paint shop at ARC in a striking new civilian colour scheme. To bring the aircraft up to a much improved standard a new instrument panel with comprehensive avionics suite has been added, as well as panorama windows in the rear cabin and blister windows in the side entry doors, upgraded brakes, a total rewire and fitting of a custom made luggage bay. The cabin is to be trimmed in high grade leather and co-ordinated to compliment the exterior colour scheme. The Beaver had it's first post restoration flight early in 2011.
The Beaver, a “utility” aircraft which could operate from short, rough airstrips as well as on floats or skis was first flown by Russ Bannock in 1947 and was De Havilland Canadian subsidiary’s second indigenous aircraft design (the first being the DHC-1 Chipmunk). Like the Chipmunk, the Beaver became a huge international success with the majority of the 1,692 aircraft manufactured being exported to 63 countries. These operators have made the Beaver name synonymous with the Canadian reputation for hard working, rugged dependability. Over400 Beaver aircraft still live and work in Canada (several having been converted to turbine engines) and the capabilities of the machine are still hard to equal, thus ensuring continued use for many years to come. Its development led to the larger “King Beaver” (known as the Single Otter) and the world famous Twin Otter. In 1987 the Canadian Engineering Society gave the aircraft one of their ten outstanding engineering awards; it has even been depicted on a Canadian stamp and coin.
Harvard IV 'TAZ'
Harvard lV 1747/G-BGPB was built by the Canadian Car Foundry at Fort Williams in 1953 as part of an order for the United States Air Force and was given the US military serial 53-4619. It saw service with the USAF in Europe and was then sold to the West German Air Force in 1958. It was delivered to the Flugzeugfuhrerschule (Pilot Training School) at Landsberg wearing the code “AA+050”. When the School closed in 1966, it moved to the Technische Schule 1 (Technical training School 1) at Kaufbeuren as a ground instructional airframe, becoming “BG+050”. From here it was sold on to the Portuguese Air Force and became operational at the Flight Training base at Sao Jacinta and was given the FAP (Portuguese Air Force) code 1747. When the Portuguese disposed of theirHarvard fleet in the late 1970’s 1747 was imported into the UK by Alistair Walker and Robs Lamplough and placed on the UK register as G-BGPB.
The aircraft was refurbished and placed into a Royal Canadian Air Force colour scheme and operated from Duxford in the company of Anthony Hutton’s Harvard llb FT229/G-AZKI as “The Harvard Duo”, and later went on to be a part of the 1980’s “Harvard Formation Team”. Following a change of ownership, the aircraft was involved in an accident at Little Gransden aerodrome on 15th June 1989 and was acquired by the Duxford based Aircraft Restoration Company in September of that year. Following completion of their second Bristol Blenheim restoration in 1993 ARC commenced on a complex rebuild of the airframe with meticulous attention to detail and finish culminating in a first post restoration flight on 23rd February 2000. The resultant airframe is in stock condition and is immaculately finished in its original striking colours of the Portuguese air Force and is a colourful and unusual example of this famous American designed training aeroplane. In addition to being an ideal “Warbird” conversion training aircraft “Taz” (as this Harvard is affectionately known) is able to be swiftly re-configured into an ideal air-to-air camera platform with rear canopy removed, purpose built cut-down rear fuselage top-decking and universal camera mount fitted and has been used by many of the worlds top photographers and in film and television productions including “Waiting for Dublin” and “Bomber Crews”.
This Harvard is on a full Public Transport Certificate Of Airworthiness for the carriage of passengers and is available for film work, pilot training and airshows.
OUR IN HOUSE PROJECTS
Lysander V9312, owned since 2003 and under restoration by ARCo was built by Westlands during 1940, taken on charge at 33 M.U. on the 4th January 1941 and subsequently served with 612, 225 and 4 Squadrons. On 26th April 1942 whilst serving with 4 Squadron it suffered Category B accident damage. Repaired at Fairfield’s Watford, it was converted to target tug status and sent to Liverpool, from where it sailed for Canada arriving on 18th October 1942. In Canada, it served with the Commonwealth Air Training Plan at Mossbank, Saskatchewan.
V9312 last flew on the 30th December 1944, then came into the possession of Harry Wherreat at Assiniboa, Saskatchewan. It was kept in storage until sold to Kermit Weeks at Polk City, Florida. No restoration work took place by Week’s organization and the aircraft subsequently came to ARC at Duxford.
Fairey Firefly MkI
One and three quarter Fairey Firefly Mk1’s arrived at ARC on Tuesday 10th February 2004. The Fireflies had been stored in a barn on the edge of Ska Edeby Airport, 12 miles west of Stockholm, Sweden by owner Bjorn Lowgren.
Currently stored in No 3 Hangar at Duxford the future of the Fireflies is being assessed. The better of the two machines, SE-BRG, is 90 per cent complete and both the internal and external condition is remarkably good. The cockpit is totally complete with all the instruments still fitted, and all the systems throughout the airframe are still in place. It will certainly be restored to fly, and ARC is looking at variousoptions available to achieve this.
The Fireflies are former Fleet Air Arm machines which later became part of a fleet of 16 Firefly TT.1’s operated by Svensk Flygtjanst AB in Sweden as target-tugs between 1948 and 1964.
SE-BRG was originally delivered to the Royal Navy as DT989 on July 21st 1944, and went to 766 Squadron at Rattray near Dundee, Scotland, inFebruary 1946, but soon moved to West Raynham. The machine returned to Fairey on February 19th 1950, to be rebuilt as a target-tug, and was registered SE-BRG on September 20th 1950. It flew 2,800hr in Sweden before being retired on June 3rd 1964. It then spent many years stored at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport.