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)

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.

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."

Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Congratulations to AHUK Members Ulster Aviation Society and Morayvia.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK, the MBE for voluntary groups.

The awards for Ulster Aviation Society near Belfast and Morayvia near Inverness were announced on 2nd June 2018 with the official release of the 2018 recipients in the London Gazette.

A record 250 voluntary groups from across the UK will receive a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for their work in their communities in this years list.

The unique UK national honour was created by Her Majesty to mark the Golden Jubilee in 2002 and to recognise the outstanding contributions made to local communities by groups of volunteers.

See the full list of winners (MS Excel Spreadsheet, 31.7KB) .

Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, said:

"Everyone who has received this award should be incredibly proud. Their service, commitment and care has a profoundly positive impact on communities throughout the country and I am delighted they have been recognised with this prestigious award.

The record number of recipients this year is testament to the strength of the voluntary sector and I am sure this trend will continue into the future. If you know any organisations that deserve to be recognised, make your voice heard and nominate them for next year."

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service Independent Committee Chair, former broadcast journalist Sir Martyn Lewis said:

"This year’s record number of Queen’s Award awardees are a powerful testimony to the remarkable achievements and innovative ideas which characterise volunteering in the UK. They prove that, more than ever, volunteers beavering away at grassroots level are the active lifeblood of our communities, identifying all kinds of problems and issues and tackling them with enthusiasm, talent and a high degree of success.

The recipients of the Queen’s Award are at the very top of a formidable volunteering movement in the UK involving millions of our citizens, and going from strength to strength."

Any volunteer-led group made of two or more people can be nominated for the award. Visit the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service website for more details.

Nominations for the 2019 awards close on 14 September 2018.

Brooklands Museum Wins Coveted Museums + Heritage Award

Brooklands Museum in Surrey has won the prestigious Museums and Heritage Award for Permanent Exhibition, seeing off stiff competition from some major national institutions such as the Science Museum Group and Natural History Museum. The award was announced at a gala awards ceremony in London and presented by the Reverend Richard Coles.

The award was for the ambitious Brooklands Aircraft Factory and Flight Shed, a major £8.4M project that involved dismantling, restoring and relocating a Grade 2 Listed WWII Bellman Hangar and reinterpreting it inside as an aircraft factory. As well as restoring and re-profiling the section of original 1907 Race Track where the Hangar once stood, the project also included constructing a new purpose-built Flight Shed to display live aircraft with a new archive store and workshop beneath. The Aircraft Factory and Flight Shed opened to the public in November 2017.

On why the Judges chose Brooklands as the winner, they said: "This new exhibition has it all – it's immersive, creative, people-focused. It is astonishing in its risk-taking, has great volunteers at its heart and challenging in the way it has so brilliantly brought its collection alive." Also, Bold inspiring and interactive - made even more special by great people!"

The competition saw a broad range of entries from remarkable achievements of national institutions to projects crafted with limited resources and those championing their staff and volunteers who work hard to deliver inspiring visitor experiences. The Permanent Exhibition category included National Army Museum, Ashmolean Museum, London's Natural History Museum and part of the Science Museum Group, "Wonderlab" on the shortlist. Other categories included Volunteer of the Year, Educational Initiative, Marketing Campaign and Project on a Limited Budget.

Entry to the new exhibition spaces is included in the general admission price to the Museum which is open daily. The whole experience is enhanced and brought to life by volunteer stewards and demonstrators, some of them former employees of the Brooklands factories (which employed 14,000 people from surrounding towns and villages at their peak). The volunteers share their own reminiscences making every visit unique and which is a highlight for most visitors.

Brooklands Museum Director and CEO, Tamalie Newbery said, "We are absolutely thrilled to have won this award from Museums and Heritage for our Aircraft Factory and Flight Shed project. After years of planning, fundraising and the dedication and hard work of our Volunteers, Staff and supporters, we have produced a visitor experience that really is unique and fully deserving of the incredible heritage that Brooklands is famous for."

The Museum has seen record visitor figures for the same period since the new facilities opened.

Brooklands is also currently one of five finalists for the Art Fund Museum of the Year Award which is the world's biggest museum award and will be announced on 5th July.

All Party Parliamentary Group – Aviation Heritage

Representatives from the UK’s network of heritage museums and vintage flying associations have met with parliamentarians at Westminster for the first meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group’s (APPG) new heritage aviation working group.

The formation of the new working group comes at a difficult time for the sector, which has seen the number of airshows organised in the UK decline by nearly 40% in the last year alone, according to the Imperial War Museum.

Heritage Aviation plays an essential role in supporting the rest of the £60.6bn UK aviation sector and the broader economy. Airshows and heritage museums inspire young people to pursue highly skilled careers in the sector and to develop the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills our economy desperately needs.

The meeting touched upon the many challenges facing the sector, with attendees focussing on the stringency of CAA regulations on swept-wing aircraft and the high fees the Ministry of Defence charges when transferring retired aircraft to museums. The difficulties facing Britain’s many innovative small heritage engineering firms were also discussed in significant depth.

The working group aims to assist the sector by providing a strong voice in Parliament for the regulatory and legislative reforms needed to ensure heritage aviation is once again brought back to health.

The meeting saw members elect Robert Courts MP as the Parliamentary Chair of the group, and Dr Robert Pleming as Sector Chair. Robert Pleming is Chairman of Aviation Heritage UK, the representative body for aviation museums and aircraft collections in the UK, and is Chief Executive of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust – which restored and operated the world’s last airworthy Vulcan bomber jet.

Grant Shapps MP, Chair of the all-party group, said: “I’m delighted to have our fourth Working Group established, looking specifically at the issues facing the UK’s valued heritage aviation sector. The working group pulls together experts from across the country, who will consider these issues in depth and present recommendations to Parliament and Ministers.

“Everybody wants to see heritage aviation flourish in the UK, not least because of the important role it played in both World Wars. We all know somebody who was part of Britain’s heroic military efforts, whether in the air in a Spitfire or on the ground. That’s why the parliamentary group takes this work so seriously.” 

Robert Courts MP, newly-elected Parliamentary Chair of the group, said: “I am delighted to be the Parliamentary Chair for this new working group concentrating on Aviation Heritage, as part of the APPG on General Aviation. This is a significant step in addressing the challenges facing Historic Aviation and strengthening national support. Most importantly, it is an important way for Members of Parliament and leaders in the field to recognise the major economic and educational contribution of this sector – and to work for changes in law and procedure.

“This new work group, sitting within an existing and thriving APPG, will serve as the voice of aviation heritage in Parliament for both the flying and museum communities. MPs and sector leaders will be able to work together to support the UK’s aviation heritage, and I look forward to working with everyone to make a real difference.”

A full work programme detailing the group’s priorities and strategy will be released in the next few weeks on the All-Party Parliamentary Group’s website.

£1.9 Million HLF Grant

The Heritage Lottery Fund awards £1.9million grant to the DE Havilland Aircraft Museum

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a grant of nearly £2 million to the “de Havilland Aircraft Museum in the 21st Century Project”, a significant investment in Hertfordshire’s aviation heritage.

The museum, at Salisbury Hall, London Colney, applied for the grant three years ago to enable it to build a large new hangar to provide covered space for its exhibits and a range of community and education facilities.

After learning of the National Lottery funding decision, the museum chairman Alan Brackley said: “The Trustees of the museum are delighted that the HLF has awarded them £1.9 million to build the new hangar.

“Thanks to the money raised by the National Lottery players the project will not only safely display several important aircraft exhibits inside the new building away from the rigours of the British weather, including the DH Comet 1a, the world’s first passenger jet airliner, and DH Sea Vixen, but it will be able to offer the local community an exciting venue for meetings, conferences, parties, learning and other social events.”

The National Lottery funding will enable the museum to move on to the next phase of its development programme and construction work on the new hangar is expected to begin in July and completed in 2019.

“The Museum needs to fund-raise a further £250,000, before we get the National Lottery’s permission to start the building works,” added Mr Brackley, “so all support is very welcome and donations made through our website or at the Museum.”

Planning permission for the project was granted by Hertsmere Council in 2016.

The museum, which attracts several thousands of visitors each year, is the oldest aviation museum in Britain and concentrates on the many types of aircraft and engines built by the de Havilland Aircraft Company at its Hatfield factory in Hertfordshire.

It is based in the grounds of Salisbury Hall, a Tudor mansion, which during the Second World War was used by de Havilland as its secret design centre for its “Wooden Wonder” Mosquito twin-engine multi-role aircraft.

The prototype Mosquito is one of three examples of the type on display, more than can be seen at any other museum in the world. In fact the Prototype is the only surviving WW2 twin-engine prototype aircraft to be displayed on the site where it was designed and constructed.

Since the museum was formed by the then owner of historic Salisbury Hall, Walter Goldsmith, and its small hangar opened to the public in 1959 it has acquired more than 20 iconic de Havilland aircraft.

This led to the construction of a second, larger hangar which was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1984.

Acquisitions and donations of further aircraft were soon to make more covered display and restoration space a priority.

“We are a working museum where visitors can watch restoration work being carried out and can get up close to the aircraft. It is run by volunteers, some of whom were among the many thousands of people who worked for de Havilland,” said Mr Brackley.

Aviation Heritage Awards

The 2017 Aviation Heritage awards, which attracted over 30 nominations, were presented at the 50th anniversary meeting by BAPC/AHUK President Tony Edwards.

The individual award was won by John Sharpe, Chairman of the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection for his leadership in setting up the BDAC and re-establishing it at Old Sarum when they had to move from their original home at Boscombe Down.

The group award was won by The Duxford Aviation Society for their educational work with young people and especially with overseas students.

The first ever Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to a very surprised John Kenyon at the end of his presentation on the history of the BAPC.

Lifetime Achievement Awards were also presented to:

  • Jim O’Donnell, Aviation Preservation Society of Scotland
  • Hugh Newell, North East Land Sea and Air Museum
  • John Davidson, The Aeroplane Collection
  • John King, Croydon Airport Society

for their dedication to the advancement of aviation heritage and preservation over many years.