Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum & Marc Arys - Translation: Marc Arys  sbap 2015

July 4, 2015, a sunny Saturday in Coventry area. This was the home of the Baginton Air Pageant. Baginton is located on the North side of the regional Coventry Airport and is the home base of the Midland Air Museum and the Classic Air Force trust, organizers of this air pageant. All along the day, the public had the opportunity to visit the hangars and some aircraft like the impressive Nimrod or the amazing Avro Shackleton but also to admire a little air display of wonderful historic aircraft such as a Gloster Meteor pair. Classic Air Force is a charity-based aircraft preservation organization located in Coventry, West Midlands and Newquay, Cornwall. Specializing in classic aircraft from between the end of the Second World War and the end of the Cold War, it preserves notable and rare aircraft from this period. Classic Air Force is the public face of The Classic Aircraft Trust, which was set up in 2012 specifically to manage the preservation and museum activities. The organization's main site is at Coventry which hosts the main maintenance and restoration facilities as well as the majority of the airworthy fleet.

History

The Classic Air Force is a charity-based continuation of Classic Flight, which itself was a development of Air Atlantique. Originally set up as an air taxi operation in 1969, the company adopted the Air Atlantique brand in 1977 when it began charter operations with the Douglas DC-3 that were to become its signature. In 2006 the classic aircraft operation was turned into an entity in itself with the creation of the Air Atlantique Classic Flight. In 2012 it was decided to apply for charitable status to allow the preservation of historic and rare aircraft beyond the lifetimes of its founders. The Classic Aircraft Trust was established, and it is this body that now manages the operation. The Trust secured a lease on a large curtilage of land within Newquay Cornwall Airport's growing Aerohub. Most of the aircraft of the Classic Flight have been donated to the charity and several additional machines have been obtained. The Newquay site opened as an aviation museum on March 31, 2013.

Operations

Most of the Classic Air Force aircraft are still flying. Many of the aircraft display at airshows and participate in fly-pasts around the UK, as well as overseas.
The trust offers pleasure flights in the De Havilland Dragon Rapide and Percival Proctor, but also aerobatic flights in the Chipmunk. A new type to be added to the pleasure-flying fleet started its debut in May 2015, the De Havilland Dove, more commonly known in RAF service as the Devon. Between 2012 and 2013 the main base was at Coventry Airport which was primarily the organization's maintenance and restoration location, but since April 2014 it has been open to the public at weekends, with free entrance. While this site is in principle a working area, two static display aircraft are open for public tours. These are the Avro Shackleton and Hawker Siddeley Nimrod. Coventry had been the only base used by Air Atlantique and Classic Flight. Operations only moved to Newquay upon the birth of the Classic Air Force in 2012. Between 2013 and March 2015 the main frame was transferred to Newquay Cornwall Airport, in a 70,000 square foot Hangar 404 capable of housing 25 of the trust's aircraft. The hangar was previously used to house 3 Royal Air Force Hawker Siddeley Nimrods. The museum opened on March 31, 2013, and is open to the public between April and October, although this can be variable. Smaller buildings house a large model display, a bookshop, a cafe, a gift shop and other aviation-related displays and activities.
However during early March 2015 it announced it was moving to a landside portion of Newquay airport, so the airworthy aircraft were moved back to Coventry. Further during the latter part of March it was announced that the Newquay section was to be closed down during 2015 and the designation of the main stay was moved back to Coventry. Classic Air Force then began operations at the original Coventry home base, effective of May 02, 2015, when they had a specially-organized airshow, called "Airbase gets Airborne". Future airshows are planned and these are outlined on their website.
As a charity, the trust raises most of its money from the visitors to the museum, as well as through fees for membership of the Classic Air Force.

The Avro Shackleton Preservation Trust and WR963

Both WR963 and WL790 were bought at an auction by the Shackleton Preservation Trust, founded by David Liddell-Grainger. The intention was that a Shackleton would be flown as a display aircraft at airshow events in the UK. Spares were also purchased to support this idea but unfortunately at that time there was little co-operation from British Aerospace (who held the Design Rights) and the CAA and sadly this project died. The Shackletons were handed over to Air Atlantique to find a way to return one to flying status in civilian ownership.
WL790 was prepared and flown to the USA in 1994, and flew on for another 14 years - an outstanding job by all concerned. WR963 was not so lucky becoming a source of parts to some extent for her more able sister. In 1997 the Shackleton Preservation Trust was reformed to restore WR963 at Coventry, under the watchful eye of Sqn Ldr John Cubberley. Nobody could predict then that in less than a decade WR963 would be growling down the runway, almost at the point of flight. At that moment it was once again looked seriously at the possibility of flying a Shakleton in the UK and feasibility studies started. In 2012 the Civil Aviation Authority was approached and answers found to questions as to the viability of flying a Shackleton. The long standing spar life issue remains the only thing keeping WR963 grounded.
With this in mind, WR963 was registered as G-SKTN, and fundraising started... Currently, it is possible to see the WR963 starting the 4 engines, each equipped with counter rotating propellers and make some impressive run up's, simply a delight to watch and to hear. Let's hope that one day the Shakleton will fly again. To be continued...

Douglas DC-6B (Cargo) (Serge Van Heertum) Douglas DC-6A (Cargo) (Marc Arys)
De Havilland DH-114 Heron 2B (Serge Van Heertum) Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer Srs3 (Serge Van Heertum)
Avro 652A Anson T21 (Serge Van Heertum) Douglas C-47B Dakota 4 (DC-3) (Serge Van Heertum)
Former radar testbed for both Racal and Thales (Marc Arys) Now fitted with two side-mounted spraying booms and air-driven pump 
underneath the fuselage
(Marc Arys)
De Havilland DH-89A Dominie in maintenance (Serge Van Heertum) English Electric Canberra B2/6 (Serge Van Heertum)
Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR2 (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
Percival (Hunting) P-66 Pembroke C1 (Serge Van Heertum) Hunting P-84 Jet Provost T3A (Serge Van Heertum)
De Havilland Vampire T-55 (Serge Van Heertum) De Havilland (FW Emmen) Venom FB50 (DH-112) (Serge Van Heertum)
Hunting P-84 Jet Provost T3A (Serge Van Heertum) Douglas C-47B Skytrain (DC-3) (Serge Van Heertum)
 Taylor JT.2 Titch Series III (Serge Van Heertum) Fleet 80 Canuck (Serge Van Heertum)
Chrislea CH-3 Srs 2 Super Ace (Serge Van Heertum)  Strange control wheel... (Serge Van Heertum)
Beagle A-61 Terrier 2 (Serge Van Heertum) Rans S-6ES Coyote II (Serge Van Heertum)
Avro 696 Shackleton AEW2 (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
Percival P-44 Proctor 5 (Serge Van Heertum) Miles M65 Gemini 1A  formerly OO-CDP (Marc Arys)
De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk Mk22A (Serge Van Heertum) Auster J-1 Autocrat G-JAYI formely OO-ABF (Serge Van Heertum)
North American P-51D Mustang IV (Serge Van Heertum) AgustaWestland AW-109E Power Elite (Marc Arys)
BAC 84 Jet Provost T5A (Serge Van Heertum) De Havilland Vampire T-55 (Serge Van Heertum)
Gloster (Armstrong Whitworth) Meteor NF11 (Serge Van Heertum) T.7 and NF11, a fantastic pair display (Marc Arys)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Marc Arys) Gloster Meteor T.7 (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Marc Arys)
De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk Mk22A (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) Percival P-44 Proctor 5 (Serge Van Heertum)
De Havilland DH 104 Dove 8, built as a C1 Devon (Serge Van Heertum) (Marc Arys)
De Havilland DH-89A Dominie (Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
Back to the hangar (Serge Van Heertum) End of a real pleasant day at Baginton Airfield (Serge Van Heertum)
British Aerospace ATP and Lockheed L-188C Electra wrecks at other side of the airport (Serge Van Heertum)

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