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New Chairman for AHUK

Following the sad news about Robert Pleming's sudden death last week, Vice Chairman Allan Winn has been appointed as Chairman.

Allan Winn holds a degree in Mechanical (Aeronautical) Engineering and a post-graduate Diploma in Journalism, both from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. He moved to the UK in 1974 and spent 29 years working on engineering, heavy vehicle and aviation magazines culminating as Editor of Flight International (1989-99),  then Editor-in-Chief (1999) and Publisher (2000-2003) of Flight International and Airline Business.

He joined Brooklands Museum as Director (later Director & CEO) in 2003, having been Chairman of the Association of Friends of Brooklands Museum since 1996, and retired in 2018. He is now a Vice-President of Brooklands Museum Trust. Major developments in his time at Brooklands Museum included the acquisition and restoration of Concorde G-BBDG and the restoration to operation of the world’s only working Concorde Flight Simulator; the restorations of the Stratosphere Chamber high-altitude research facility and associated supersonic wind-tunnel buildings; acquiring the Vickers Vimy replica; and the £9 million Heritage Lottery Funded  Brooklands Aircraft Factory & Race Track Revival Project.

Allan joined the Executive Committee of AHUK in 2019, and sits on the Heritage Working Group of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation.

He is a Liveryman of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots and is the Honorary Editor of its magazine Air Pilot. He is also a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers, a Fellow (and Vice-President of the Weybridge Branch) of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and served for 14 years as a Committee Member (including six years as Chairman) of industry networking body The Aviation Club UK.

He is a Vice-President of the National Transport Trust and of the Association of Heritage Engineers, and his leisure interests include vintage cars (currently rebuilding his 1929 3-litre Bentley), motorsport marshalling (a Motorsport UK Driving Standards Observer and Post Chief), cycling and skiing.

He and his wife Jacqueline live in Tadworth, Surrey.

Allan says: "These are the last circumstances under which I would have wanted to succeed Robert. His untimely passing leaves a massive void, not only in AHUK and Vulcan to the Sky, but in the whole of the heritage aviation sector, for which he was such a tireless, selfless and highly effective campaigner and leader. All of us on the Executive will do our level best to honour his memory by continuing and finishing the work he started."

Robert Pleming

Dr Robert William Pleming – FRAeS MIET MBCS CITP

16th April 1951 – 2nd February 2021

Robert Pleming was born and brought up in north-west London. His lifelong interest in aviation received an early boost when, as a Cadet at the age of seventeen, he was awarded an RAF Flying Scholarship. His career though took a different direction and during 17 years at IBM, followed by 6 years at Cisco Systems, Robert built extensive general, technical and project management experience.

After gaining a BA in Physics and Doctorate at the Department of Nuclear Physics at Oxford University, Robert started a career in IT. He held technical, sales and management roles in IBM, latterly with responsibility for Open Systems in Europe.

In 1994 he moved to become the UK Technical Director for Cisco Systems, at a time when the company had only 18 employees in this country. Over the next few years, Cisco UK grew dramatically with the spread of the Internet and e-commerce. Robert’s responsibilities included resolution of the many problems resulting from this rapid growth, from acquisition of new buildings and customer issue management through to recruitment and training. From 1997, he was Technical Director for Cisco's Northern Europe operation, and latterly Special Projects Director for Cisco Europe.

In 1997 Robert agreed with David Walton, Managing Director of C. Walton Ltd, of Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire, the owner of Avro Vulcan XH558, that a last attempt should be made to determine the feasibility of a project to return this aircraft to flight, based on sound management practice and a professional approach. In the evenings and weekends, Robert built a team to guide the project’s direction, and established sufficient credibility with the Vulcan’s Design Authority, BAE Systems, for the formal decision to be taken to proceed with the activities necessary to achieve the return to flight.

In April 2000, Robert moved on voluntarily from his Cisco career to the role of full-time Director for the Avro Vulcan XH558 Return-to- Flight Project. His lifelong enthusiasm for aviation, allied to his project management experience, gave Robert the capabilities needed to maximize the probability of a successful return-to-flight for this historic aircraft.

The “Vulcan to the Sky” Project succeeded spectacularly on 18th October 2007, with the first test flight of the restored Vulcan from Bruntingthorpe Airfield, some 14 years after its last flight, and after nearly two years of intense engineering activity.

Since then, Vulcan XH558 has appeared in front of airshows and event audiences totalling over 10 million people, around the UK, and in Holland and Belgium, and relied on the donations from an adoring public for the £2+million annual operating costs. Sadly, XH558 made her final flight on 28th October 2015, the last flying example of a British four-engined jet aircraft from an era when Britain led the world.

From 2012 to 2017 Robert was also a Trustee of Young Engineers UK, and in 2016 was awarded the Air League's Scott-Farnie Medal for services to Air Education.

Having been a member of the Executive Committee since May 2007, in May 2016 Robert was elected Chairman of the British Aviation Preservation Council and set about his new responsibilities with determination to promote the best interests of BAPC Member organisations. He soon increased the number of committee meetings so that more could be done to raise the profile of the organisation.

The BAPC became Aviation Heritage UK in October 2017 at its 50th anniversary meeting where Robert laid out his new vision for the future of the organisation becoming the “go to” place for anything to do with aviation history.

Also in 2017, Robert was appointed a Trustee of the Transport Trust (now the National Transport Trust), having been the recipient of its prestigious “Preservationist of the Year” award in 2007 for his work on the Vulcan.

In March 2018 his proposal to create an All Party Parliamentary Group for Aviation Heritage was partially accepted.

At a meeting of the APPG for General Aviation, chaired by The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, a Heritage Working Group was established. Robert Courts MP was elected as Parliamentary Chair of the Group and Robert was elected unanimously as Sector Chair, with the two co-chairing the Group. For the first time, aviation heritage was on the Parliamentary agenda.

Over the past year Robert has been driving an initiative through the APPG Heritage Working Group to get aviation heritage put on a par with its maritime equivalent, with a full-time secretariat funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).

A proposal written by Robert and John Brown of the Imperial War Museum was submitted to DCMS late last year, and Robert was overseeing the finalising of a promotional video on the subject at the time of his death.

In recent months Robert had also represented AHUK on the Mobile Heritage Advocacy Group of The Heritage Alliance, a multidisciplinary coalition of more than 150 independent UK heritage organisations.

Robert was married to Suzanne and lived in Alresford, near Winchester in Hampshire. His outside interests included photography and following developments in the physical sciences.

Urgent Action Needed to Save Unique Blackburn Beverley From Being Scrapped

Blackburn Beverley XB259

The sole remaining example of one of the Royal Air Force’s most important transport aircraft, the Blackburn Beverley, is at risk of being scrapped. Aviation Heritage UK’s Chairman, Dr Robert Pleming, is calling for urgent action to save this unique aircraft for the Nation.

Blackburn Beverley XB259 is currently located at Fort Paull near Hull, Yorkshire’s only remaining Napoleonic fortress, which has until recently been serving as a military museum. However the closure of the attraction has forced its owner to put the site up for sale. 

With no acceptable bids having been received, the site and its contents, including the Beverley, are due to be sold piecemeal by Gilbert Baitson Auctioneers in a timed online auction ending at 10:00am on Saturday 19th September. The purchaser of the Beverley would have nine months to arrange for its collection. 

Dr Robert Pleming, Chairman of AHUK, said: “Blackburn Beverley XB259 is one of the largest preserved airframes in the UK, and if scrapped, would be the first post-war British aircraft for which there are no examples left. Beverley XB259 represents an important part of British aviation heritage, and deserves to be preserved in its entirety.”

In RAF service, the Beverley served operationally with several squadrons, including 47, 30, 34 and 53, with home bases at Abingdon and Dishforth, but it also deployed overseas in Aden (now Yemen), where two were lost to land mines during operations, Bahrain, Kenya and in Singapore during the Indonesian Confrontation of the mid- 1960s.The aircraft was also briefly operated in Vietnam to support flood relief work.

AHUK hopes that one of the national aviation museums will step in at the last minute to save the aircraft.

The Blackburn Beverly made a significant contribution to the post-war operations of RAF Transport Command. With its large cargo volume, the Beverley was designed for carrying bulk loads and operating from rough runways or dirt strips. The main cargo area could carry 94 troops, with an additional 36 in the tail boom. When it entered service in 1955, it was the largest aircraft in the RAF.

The prototype flew in June 1950.  It was the surprise of SBAC Farnborough Air Show that year, when its vast bulk left the ground with ease and then performed a slow flypast and very short landing, reversing back down the runway to the amazement of spectators.

Beverley XB259 was the first production aircraft, and went on to perform trials work at the Royal Aircraft Establishment into the early 1970s. XB259 was also the last Beverley to fly – its final landing was on the grass strip at Hull Aero Club near Paull on 30th March 1974.

In total 49 Beverleys were produced at the Blackburn factory at Brough. The type entered RAF service on 29th January 1955, with the first operational aircraft arriving at RAF Abingdon in March 1956. After serving all around the world, the Beverley was retired from RAF service in December 1967, replaced by the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

Featured image photo credit kitmasterbloke on Flickr via Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

And the winner is…

The 2020 Aviation Heritage Awards are now open for nominations.

The annual Aviation Heritage Awards are intended to identify, recognise and reward those exceptional Organisations, Groups or Individuals who have gone above and beyond to help support and promote the UK aviation heritage sector.

Do you know someone who does their all to support a charity or specific cause? Did the nominee have to overcome a particular obstacle or problem or achieve something especially significant?

This could have been by organising fundraising events, carrying out a restoration project, providing exceptional customer support, inspiring others or just generally raising awareness. You might know about a team of volunteers who have carried out an outstanding restoration project.

It could be almost anything. There are no strict guidelines or criteria for the award because we’d like to hear about those truly remarkable special individuals, groups or even an entire museum who have made an exceptional contribution to aviation heritage.

As this is a dynamic award, nominees should have achieved these things since 1st January 2019.

Our two awards are Individual of the year and Team/Group/Museum of the year.

We are also inviting nominations for our Lifetime Achievement Awards. This is open to any individual who has given many years of dedicated service to aviation heritage

Anyone can nominate and seconders are not required.

It’s easy to make a nomination. Simply send the organisations or individuals name and a short description of their achievement to secretary@justtesting.co.uk telling us why you think they merit the award. Don’t forget your email address and telephone number so that we can get back to you for more details if we need to.

The award will be presented at the Annual General meeting in June so the closing date for entries is 20th April 2020.

Bookings open for the first Aviation STEM Conference

Sorry, but due to Corona virus, RAF Halton have cancelled this event.

We will re-schedule when things settle down again. Stay Safe!

Do you want to deliver STEM but not sure where to start?

STEMing The Rot is a one-day conference, part of Aviation Heritage UK’s Stopping the Rot series, and explores how STEM is changing and discusses what tomorrow’s museum staff and volunteers might like to do.

STEM in Aviation is possibly one of the biggest growth areas for us in recent years. The Heritage Lottery Fund and many other funding providers now demand a STEM element in applications


Hear from a diverse range of speakers and have the chance to take part in discussions exploring:

  • different approaches to delivering STEM
  • how Museums and Groups can stay relevant and meet the needs of today’s curriculum
  • sharing STEM ideas and successes – and even a few things that didn’t go so well
  • how STEM fits in with funding applications
  • practical STEM ideas that you can use

This conference is for everyone who cares for STEM and it’s importance to young people from ages 4 to 16. It aims to showcase successes, inspire ways forward with sharing STEM ideas and promoting them to a wide variety of new and established audiences.

Speakers include:

Rosalind Azouzi                Royal Aeronautical Society

Bill McGrath                     Trenchard Museum

Shelley Hancock              STEM Ambassadors

Amy Seadon                     Aerospace Bristol

Katherine McAlpine           Imperial War Museum

Toni Hunter                     The Aviation Experience Company

Susan Raikes                   Science Museum

Mike Odd                         RAF Museum

Virginia Smith                  Brooklands Museum

Dempster Hamilton           RAF Model Flying Association

STEMing The Rot

The Trenchard Museum, RAF Halton, Wendover, Buckinghamshire HP22 5PG

Thursday 19th March 2020

10.30am to 16.30pm

Attendance is Free. Lunch is included.

Book now at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/steming-the-rot-tickets-94840393169?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

Harrier Test Bed on the move

A unique Harrier jump-jet testbed, saved by The Helicopter Museum (THM) at Weston-super-Mare from being scrapped eight years ago, is going on loan to the Hucknall Flight Test Museum (HUFTM) under the jurisdiction of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, after the museums reached agreement on restoring the aircraft and displaying it at the Rolls-Royce site in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

 The unusual aircraft was especially built in the early 1980s to test a Rolls-Royce Pegasus turbofan engine modified with plenum chamber burning (PCB), intended to substantially increase the power for the proposed supersonic P1154  “Super Harrier”.  The Pegasus engine installation was further fitted with a pair of reheat units, taken from a Tornado combat aircraft.  Many of the component parts of the engine used in the PCB Harrier project were also developed and manufactured on the Hucknall site.  The HUFTM is therefore a highly relevant location for this unique heritage artefact to finally go on display.  The work actually required the cannibalisation of two Harrier airframes, the wing of T2 XW264 married to the fuselage of GR.1 XV798, with an extended steel cage centre section and gantry attachments added to enable the composite aircraft to be hung at various angles in an especially built suspended rig at the MoD Proof and Experimental Establishment at Shoeburyness, Essex.  This test rig was very similar in concept to the original tethered gantry arrangement used for the pioneering initial flights of the famous Flying Bedstead at Hucknall, in the early 1950’s.

Testing in the rig began in 1983 and continued through 1986 but in the event the P1154 project was cancelled and, although PCB research continued for application to newer VSTOL projects, the Harrier testbed was abandoned.  In 1994 it was salvaged by volunteers and placed in storage with the Bristol Aero Collection, but the closure of their Kemble base in 2012 saw the aircraft threatened with being scrapped.  Instead The Helicopter Museum stepped in and it was transported to Weston-super-Mare for continued storage, pending plans to build a new hangar and construct a new gantry to properly display the unique exhibit. 

Unfortunately funding for this project had to be put on hold due to other priorities but last year saw volunteers at the Hucknall Flight Test Museum offer to take on the restoration project and, importantly, place the aircraft under cover.  An agreement has since been reached to transfer the Harrier, initially on a three-year loan, and the aircraft was transported to its new home on 30th January.

Chairman of THM, Elfan Ap Rees, said “We are delighted with this arrangement, which will see the continued conservation of this important development in VSTOL technology and give visitors the Hucknall Flight Museum, a real and unusual aircraft to view when they visit the centre”. 

A HUFTM spokesman said “After many months of negotiation and numerous challenging administrative hurdles, we are now absolutely delighted to have acquired this totally unique exhibit under a loan agreement with THM and we now need to undertake a considerable amount of preparation work at Hucknall before we present it to visitors. 

An official RRHT exhibit inauguration media event is planned at Hucknall for Summer 2020.

Marham’s Victor XH673 looking for a new home

The decision has been taken to allow up until the end of Feb 2020 for serious, costed and plausible offers to be received for the Marham Victor, XH673.

The aircraft will come free of charge but will have to be moved at the receiver’s expense. Any successful bidder will need to demonstrate that they have the financial means and practical capability to effect such a move.

The Spring and Summer months would present the best opportunity to carry out the move activity and a time scale for this can be negotiated.

Between now and the end of Feb, DESA will carry out a ‘scrapping survey’ in the event no workable bids are received. If the aircraft is to be scrapped, then Marham wish to preserve the tail fin and mount it as an appropriate memorial to the Victor force – in a similar location to where the aircraft is now.

Thanks to Richard Flagg for the photo.

Interested? Contact the Secretary for details of how to apply.

Aviation Archive Conference open for bookings

‘To Infinity and Beyond?’

Preserving and Promoting the Records of Britain’s Aerospace and Aviation Industries

12 February 2020

Aerospace Bristol

10:30-16:00

£10 plus VAT (£12), including lunch

The archives of Britain’s aerospace and aviation industries chronicles stories of design, advances in science and technology, and the business of international and space travel, all with the aim of perfecting man’s dream to master powered flight.

This one-day conference is for everyone who cares for the industry’s paper-based and electronic collections, both large and small. It aims to highlight these records’ importance and inspire ways forward in preserving and promoting them to a wide variety of new and established audiences.

Speakers include:

  • Keynote Speaker: Prof. David Egerton, Kings College London and author of “Britain and the Aeroplane”
  • Michael Lombardi, Boeing archivist and historian.
  • Graham Rood on Farnborough Air Sciences Trust’s work to rescue and promote the Royal Aircraft Establishment collections.
  • Amy Seadon on Aerospace Bristol’s projects to engage children with STEM.
  • Ally McConnell on how Gloucester Archives won a large grant to make Dowty’s archives more accessible.
  • Andrew Lewis on working with Brooklands Museum’s volunteers.
  • Howard Mason on the business drivers for maintaining and exploiting the BAE Systems network of archives.

Plus there will be an opportunity to visit the new Aerospace Bristol galleries and archive, and see the National Aerospace Library’s conservation volunteers in action.

The conference will also introduce the Aerospace and Aviation Archives Initiative (AAAI) and its work. The AAAI comprises representatives from organisations, museums and corporate collections and aims to promote the preservation of, and access to, Britain’s records relating to aerospace and aviation. One of its first jobs is find out more about our aerospace and aviation archives collections and delegates are encouraged to take part in this quick survey.

Discussion on the day will encourage delegates to help shape the future work of the AAAI. More information about the AAAI can be found via https://www.aviationarchives.uk.

The conference has been generously supported by The Royal Aeronautical Society Foundation.

To book, visit: https://www.aerosociety.com/events-calendar/to-infinity-and-beyond-preserving-and-promoting-the-records-of-britain-s-aerospace-and-aviation-industries/.

Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre signs agreement with the Royal Air Force Museum


Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre (MASHC) is pleased to announce it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Royal Air Force Museum to establish a partnership to foster the interests of MASHC and the Royal Air Force Museum through collaborative programmes and other shared learning opportunities.

The aim of the partnership is to strengthen cooperation between MASHC and the Royal Air Force Museum in order to enhance each organisation's programmes and provide an opportunity for staff and collections development.



Ron Morris, Chairman MASHC, Clare Carr, RAFM, Maggie Appleton, CEO RAFM, Alan Doe, MASHC

Both Museums value their shared interests and goals and will continue to build on the relationship already established, developing this partnership in order to achieve the best outcomes for visitors. MASHC and the Royal Air Force Museum will actively seek opportunities to share collections where practicable and will consider Special Partnership Loan Terms where possible.

Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre Chairman Ron Morris said “This is a great step forward for MASHC to be aligned in a partnership with the Royal Air Force Museum. The opportunity to be able to share collections and gain experience from this partnership will greatly enhance the quality of experience visitors to our museum will get. The impact of Montrose Air Station in the development of the RFC and RAF and the place it holds in aviation history is significant and relationships like this with the Royal Air Force Museum only strengthens our ability to draw visitors to Montrose to learn about the history and legacy of the RAF in Scotland.”

RAF Museum CEO Maggie Appleton says: "We are delighted to be strengthening our ties with Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre. At the RAF Museum it is our duty to share the RAF’s stories with the world through our archives, collections and exhibits. Further to that, we also see it as our responsibility to work with other organisations to both learn from them and share our own experience of running a Museum and engaging with audiences. We look forward to this deepening of our relationship with our friends at MASHC."