AirBase Museum - Coventry

June 18th, 2011

All photos © Ruud Leeuw

The last true bastion of propliners in the UK, or even in Europe for that matter, can be found at Coventry. Radial-engined skytrucks have long lingered here in commercial operations, much longer than expected. Now it does seem that a new future for these classic aircraft have been safeguarded at Air Atlantique's Airbase museum at Baginton Airport, Coventry.
Some of the aircraft are airworthy and on certain days a flightseeing trip can be booked; other aircraft are ground-bound, but have their engines in working order or are in stages of restoration.

DC-6A G-SIXC has been converted to a restaurant and bar, adding a new dimension to a visit to this splendid museum.
The former freighter has again been outfitted with windows and the Six still has all four R-2800 engines in place. Reservations can be made on 024 7688 2604.

Cold War jet fighters are also part of the Airbase collection, but these are not represented on below pictorial report; however, a link is provided at bottom page for the Airbase website and photos of most of the jet aircraft can be found on my Flickr.com website (also link on bottom page).
For opening times of the Airbase museum check their website.

Hopefully below report will provide a modest contribution in honoring this mecca of propliners and aid in convincing enthusiasts to plan a visit and support aviation history here. Enjoy!

Update! Roger Syratt wrote the following update sep.2012:
"The doors of this museum will be closed as of 01Oct12, prior to the move to Newquay (EGDG), the former RAF St. Mawgan, and I managed to glean some news about the resident propliners.

Possibly the most surprising news is that DC-6A G-APSA will be removed from the Airbase/Classic Flight compound on 2nd October and towed to another part of the airfield. It was said that the aircraft will be in the care of Julian Firth and John Instone who are planning a fund-raising campaign to enable it to be overhauled and restored "to a level like the Red Bull DC-6."

DC-6B G-SIXC, 'The DC-6 Diner', will remain at Coventry but there was a rumour that it has been purchased by the new owner of the airport and may be moved to an alternative site.

Dakotas G-AMPY/KK116 and G-ANAF will remain in Air Atlantique ownership, but will be leased to Reconnaissance Ventures Ltd. (RVL) who will operate them on an oil dispersant contract out of either Coventry or East Midlands.
The former, which has been fitted with the black rudder from G-ANAF, will be the first to be operational as it is a role that it has performed previously, but work has also commenced on the latter which has already had the belly radome, a relic of its past employment as an electronics test bed for Racal, removed, along with the engines which have gone for overhaul.

Dakota G-AMRA is currently on overhaul and will be going to Newquay with the rest of the Classic Flight aircraft, apparently there is the possibility that it will be used for passenger carrying again but only "A to A" traffic, i.e. it would have to always return to the place of departure and not land away."

UPDATE:
This was been posted on the Classic Air Force Facebook page 17Jul2013.
"It is with much sadness that we report the sale of Douglas DC-3 G-AMRA. She will be leaving us late in July (maybe early August) for a new home in Germany where she will be used for pleasure flying over Berlin.
G-AMRA joined the Air Atlantique Group on October 21, 1981 G-AMRA and remained with the organisation for the next three decades. It will be sad day when she flies away for the final time…
Her imminent departure makes us all the more steadfast in our efforts to raise money to keep the rest of the fleet secure in British skies. The Classic Aircraft Trust charity needs more support, to raise more income, to keep these aeroplanes safe. We remain indebted to the support given by members of the Classic Air Force and if you are not yet a member we hope you will take this opportunity to join via www.classicairforce.com/membership
Sponsorship is being actively sought, but as you'll no doubt appreciate there is no glut of money washing around at the moment to support these aircraft.
As such we need to take any opportunity we can to ensure the longevity of the fleet as a whole, and sometimes that involves making difficult decisions. And this is what we had to do recently when we received an offer to buy one of the stalwarts of the Air Atlantique / Classic Flight / Classic Air Force fleet."
./end quote

Update! March 2014:
When CAF moved its exhibition to Newquay - Cornwall Airport this time last year Coventry Airport took over the Diner.  Time moves on and with CAF now opening its engineering facility at Coventry for public viewing every weekend this summer the Diner has reverted to its original operator.  Visitors to the Diner can also view two great patrol aircraft of the last century Shackleton and Nimrod of the Shackleton Preservation Trust.
CAF President Mike Collett said: "We are also basing a Dragon Rapide at Coventry for the summer for pleasure flights and it just seemed logical put the ‘plane, aircraft maintenance and diner under a single management team. We are finding that visitors want to take a flight over the Warwickshire countryside, view the aircraft we are restoring in the hangar, and then of course refresh themselves".

Update! May 2016:
Both the activities at Newquay as well as the re-opening of the Airbase at Coventry have been terminated.
More info at the bottom of this page. Enjoy the images first, as a tribute to wonderful years!

 

DC-6 Diner G-SIXC
DC-6A/B G-SIXC (c/n 45550/1032).
Its flying days are over, but this fate isn't half bad either!
On Saturday Aug.24th 2002 I chartered G-SIXC to bring in a sparepart for a grounded airliner at Amsterdam..

DC-6 Diner G-SIXC
No food served between 15:00 - 18:00, which allowed me to photograph the empty 'restaurant'.

DC-6 Diner G-SIXC
Since my priorities took me to the AirBase aircraft first, I was too late to enjoy any food. When I asked for a half-pint Guinness (my code for driving) I was told they didn't do halfs... So I left little money at the DC-6 Diner and as a food-and-drinks establishment I think they will need to change if they want this restaurant to make some money..?

DC-6 G-SIXC
Don't think many crews can have envisaged children's chairs stationed up front!

Cockpit G-SIXC

DC-6 Diner G-SIXC
I really had to run to get my pictures before a tremendous downpour would put a stop to things.

 

 

AirBase Coventry air museum
In recent months at least two L.188AF Electras were ferried to Buffalo Airways in Canada, but I think the flying days of G-FIJV (c/n 1129) are over and the scrapman will be invited for termination. It was last flown on 04Jan2007.
C/n 1129 started its career with Western Airlines (N7143C), flew with Int'l Jet Air (CF-IJV) and NWT Air (C-FIJV) before crossing the Atlantic for Air Contractors (EI- HCE) in Ireland and ending up here with Atlantic Airlines (25Sep98)

AirBase Coventry air museum
Douglas DC-6A G-APSA (c/n 45497/995); for its history see my page SIXES
G-APSA will be put in the hangar during the winter 2011/2012 for a thorough inspection in order to assess the costs of placing this magnificent airliner back in the air. We keep our fingers crossed..

AirBase Coventry air museum

AirBase Coventry air museum
Douglas DC-3 G-AMPY, C-47B with c/n 15124/26589 and decorated by Air Atlantique in period RAF Transport
Command livery and tailnumber KK116.

AirBase Coventry air museum
Douglas C-47B G-AMRA (c/n 15290/26735).
Its history has been described on my DC-3 (3) page.

Trevor Bailey, Classic Flight Director, told Tony Merton Jones, Editor of Propliner Magazine (see his report in issue 126, summer 2011) that tentative negotations have taken place with the Civil Aviation Authority in the hope that a dispensation from the many requirements previously outlined for upgrading the DC-3 for full public transport operations (evacuations chutes, lockable cockpit door, aisle lighting, etc) would be forthcoming in order to allow the aircraft to carry out local pleasure flights only.
If agreement can be reached then G-AMRA, which already is in passenger configuration, would be the aircraft chosen for the task.
Let us hope the CAA can show understanding and permit this operation to take place in the summer of 2012.
Meanwhile, it is intended to use G-AMRA on taxy rides experiences at Coventry Airport on certain days throughout the summer. (See Update on top of page..).

AirBase Coventry air museum
AirBase Coventry air museum
Shackleton AEW.2 WR963 is not airworthy but the engines are regularly run, which provides for a very nice display.
The port inner Griffon engine has recently been sold to a company in the United Arab Emirates for a non-aviation purpose,
a replacement has been fitted but the propellors still need to be put in place.

"The operation and maintenance of this old cold war warrior is done by us, the Shackleton Preservation Trust, a task that has been ongoing since 1994.
Our immediate plans for WR963 are that we intend to have the aircraft capable of fast taxiing by the end of the year, to provide Airbase with yet another unique experience. The replacement engine on the port inner position is a fresh one with no hours run, one of precious few that was left in storage. As you can guess we’re eager to get the propeller (also zero time) fitted and get all four engines running at once. We have just had the pneumatic systems rebuilt, but still have plenty more to do.
At time of writing she is the only Avro Shackleton in the world that runs - be that due to rising fuel costs or mechanical issues. It’s a sad fact, but we’re proud to be keeping the legend alive for the time being.

I’d be grateful if you could add a link to our website, it is:
www.shackleton963.co.uk "
Rich Woods
Shackleton Preservation Trust [25Jul11]

AirBase Coventry air museum
Lockheed PV-1 Harpoon N500LN is owned by Tony Phillippi / TP Universal Exports (Eagan,MN). Besides c/n 5560 Mr Phillippi also owns Lockheed Howard 500 N500HP (c/n 500-105)

The Lockheed-Vega Ventura was a development of the Vega models 21 and 23 and the Lockheed L18 Lodestar and 32. The four designs were amalgamated as the L37 Ventura, which was planned as a light bomber.
The type first flew as the Ventura I on July 31, 1941 and entered service with the Royal Air Force the following May. The US Navy put it into service as the PV-1 in October 1942.
Wartime production reached 3,028 but with VE-Day in 1945 many were sold on to the secondhand market. About 30 Venturas were upgraded by Howard Aero as Super Venturas, while 25 became Howard 500 executive transports.
The L15 Harpoon was a major redesign of the Ventura, most noticeably with its increased span of 75ft, compared with 65ft 6in. The Harpoon first flew on December 3, 1943 but concerns over the wing meant production was held up while a new design was tested. Only 535 PV-2s were built, late production aircraft being designtaed PV-2Ds with extra forward-firing guns.
Several air forces used the Harpoon after the war, including Japan, the Netherlands and Italy. The type lived on into the 1970s as a flying fuel tanker but now only a handful are still airworthy with museums and private owners.
The Howard 500 N500LN is one of a small number of post-war executive conversions still flying.
Source: www.oldprops.ukhome.net


AirBase Coventry air museum
Then the rain really started, so I quickly moved into the display hangar..

 

 

AirBase Coventry air museum
AirBase Coventry air museum
G-APRS has her outer wings removed, recently new internal wing spars have been fitted. Once some new wing braces have been manufactured, then it is hoped to complete her airframe overhaul. While the Alvis Leonides engines also need to undergo a thorough inspection, Air Atlantique is confident G=APRS will be restored to full airworthiness.

The Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer was a British STOL transport aircraft built by Scottish Aviation Limited at Prestwick Airport, Scotland, during the 1950s. It was designed with both civil and military operators in mind. It was conceived as a twin-engined version of the Pioneer light transport.
Powered by two Alvis Leonides 531 radial engines, the Twin Pioneer was a high-wing cabin monoplane with a triple fin and rudder assembly and fixed tailwheel undercarriage. The prototype Twin Pioneer, registered G-ANTP, first flew at Prestwick Airport on 25 June 1955.
In 1958, the 33rd aircraft was used as a prototype for the Series 2 with Pratt & Whitney Wasp R-1340 radial engines which had been ordered by Philippine Air Lines. A Series 3 aircraft was also developed to use the improved Alvis Leonides 531 radial engine.
One Twin Pioneer served as a STOL training aircraft with the Empire Test Pilot School (ETPS) at RAE Farnborough for many years. In 2009, Air Atlantique of Coventry currently operates it on public flights in civil markings, retaining its ETPS colour scheme.
Wikipedia, more...

AirBase Coventry air museum
deHavilland DHC-1 Chipmunk 22A G-APLO (c/n C1/0144). Previously EI-AHU and also wore serial WD379/K.
The black paintjob is of recent years. G-APLO is believed to be the only example of its type in the world appearing on an Air Operator's Certificate for the carriage of one fare-paying passenger on an aerobatic loop-the-loop pleasure flight!

AirBase Coventry air museum
Percival P40 Prentice 1, G-APJB / VR259/M (c/n PAC/086)

The Percival Prentice was a basic trainer of the Royal Air Force in the early post-war period, contemporary with the de Havilland Chipmunk. It was a low-wing monoplane with a fixed tailwheel undercarriage. Front seating was in a side-by-side configuration with a rear seat provided. Wikipedia, more..

 

AirBase Coventry air museum
Auster J-1 Autocrat G-AJRE (c/n 2603).
It was built 1947 and has a Blackburn Cirrus Minor II engine.

AirBase Coventry air museum
Avro 652A Anson T21, G-VROE / WD413 of The Air Atlantique Classic Flight.
This is a flying museum in as such that most of the aircraft are airworthy. My last air show here dates back to 2003!

AirBase Coventry air museum
Fleet 80 Canuck, G-FLCA. It is thought to be the only Fleet 80 in Europe.

The Fleet Model 80 Canuck is a Canadian light aircraft featuring two seats in side-by-side configuration. The Canuck was designed for the flight training, personal use and light commercial roles. A total of 225 Canucks were built by two manufacturers during its thirteen year production run, with the majority being built by Fleet Aircraft between 1945 and 1947.
Wikipedia, more..

 

AirBase Coventry air museum
Chrislea CH3 Super Ace 2, G-AKVF (c/n 114).

AirBase Coventry air museum
Private Percival Proctor 5, G-AKIU. Recently restored and apparently also available for flights as part of the Air Atlantique Classic Flight! I found a Dutch connection: on 14Sep1962 it suffered engine problems at Amsterdam's Schiphol (source: H.Dekker). Captions on photos at Air-Britain's ABPIC photosite indicate a rebuild at Coventry for decades...

AirBase Coventry air museum
This is Yak-11 G-BZMY, which arrived here at Coventry on 10Jun2011 and is to stay for a few of months. I have yet to find out what the significance is of the red lettering, translated as 'maliy teatr - frontu', but a photo on ABPIC provided the owner (Griffin Aviation), type (Yak-C11) and c/n (171314). This Yak-C11 is also referred to as '1, White'.

AirBase Coventry air museum
G-ANAF (c/n 16688/33436), the "Thales Testbed" with the spherical radar, seen undergoing maintenance.
The page dedicated to my visit to Coventry in 2003 shows G-ANAF in different livery and HERE in temporary colours.

 

 

AirBase Coventry air museum
A brief visit outside the rain had passed, which allowed a quick snap of deHavilland DH.114 Heron 2B, G-AORG (c/n 14101)

 

 

AirBase Coventry air museum
deHavilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide 6, G-AIDL/TX310

In her RAF colours, Delta Lima represents the de Havilland Dominie, the military version of the Dragon Rapide. She was built in 1946 by Brush Coachworks at Loughborough against MoS Contract No: 6 / Aircraft / 5072/C20a with RAF serial TX310.
DeHavilland took delivery of her at Witney on 7 May 1946, registering her under G-AIDL, the registration she retains to this day. She was bought by Eric Gandar-Dower for his Allied Airways operation. Gandar-Dower named her The Wanderer, using her primarily as his personal aircraft.
The airline was nationalised and absorbed into BEA, but Gandar-Dower managed to keep Delta Lima as his personal transport until 1950.

Sadly for Gandar-Dower, his much-loved Rapide was now under the eye of the authorities. She was seized in early 1950 by the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire while at de Havilland. The aircraft, together with a spare engine, was auctioned in April and sold to Goodhew Aviation who put her up for resale. She was purchased in September by Fox's Glacier Mints.

In 1959 she was converted to Dragon Rapide Mk.6 specification, moving to Wolverhampton in 1961 under the ownership of Andrew Flatley. She was re-registered to the Midland Metal Spinning Company in 1962.

In 1967 she took up parachute duties for the Army Parachute Association at Halfpenny Green, joining that unusual group of aircraft that land with fewer passengers than they took off with. Parachute aircraft tend to be worked hard, and it's a testament to the reliability and strength of the Rapide that she came through the experience unscarred.

By 1977, Delta Lima was looking forward to a well-earned retirement, and she was duly transferred to Southern Joyrides at Biggin Hill, beginning her long career as a pleasure aircraft. She moved to Caernarfon in 1986, initially working for Snowdon Mountain Aviation, then for Air Caernarfon.

She was bought by Atlantic Air Transport (part of the Air Atlantique Group) in 1995.

[Source: www.classicflight.com/DeltaLima]

 

AirBase Coventry air museum
Obviously under restoration, I would be grateful if someone could put an identity to it.
Could this be Rapide G-AKRP (c/n 6940)?

AirBase Coventry air museum
deHavilland DH.104 Dove 8, G-ARHW.
Manufactured in 1961 and equipped with deHavilland Gipsy Queen 70 MK 3 piston engines. Well, they are off now...

AirBase Coventry air museum
Hunting Percival P.66 Pembroke C.1, G-BXES / 'XL954'
G-BXES is presently undergoing a major overhaul and it is hoped to see her back in the air by the end of 2011.

AirBase Coventry air museum
Auster J/1 Autocrat, G-JAYI.
A nice 3-seat touring and training monoplane.

 

 

AirBase Coventry air museum
The Lockheed L.188 Electras are seen here in dwindling numbers and perhaps buyers for these will show up too some day.
The L.188CF in Atlantic colours is G-LOFB (c/n 1131), the one in Reeve Aleutian markings is C-FIJV (remarkable: compare that to G-FIJV above, confusing) and 'the other one' is G-BTP?. Perhaps BAe G-BTPF (c/n 2013).

L.188 Electra G-LOFE
Lockheed L.188CF Electra G-LOFE (c/n 1144).
G-LOFE was doing engine run-ups earlier, unfortunately the Boeing 737 was blocking my view then.

(Update: in April 2013 G-LOFC left Coventry for Canada, for a new future with Buffalo Airways; it was the last operational L.188 in Europe as G-LOFE had departed Coventry for the same new owner on 23Mar13
The hulks C-LOFB and G-CIJV were still reported at Coventry during April 2013).

 

 

Mike Collett on the move by the museum to Newquay (Cornwall), as represented by Chris Wagstaff on Classic-Propliner (Yahoo) forum (july 2013).

Chris: "I contacted Mike Collett regarding the sale of G-AMRA and this is what he told me.  Looks much more promising for the future of at least one of the remaining Daks and also the rest of the civil aircraft in the fleet."

Mike: "Yes, G-AMRA is going to Air Service Berlin to replace G-AMPZ. They will keep RA flying and our motto is "keep them flying!" The reason we let ASB have her was because we have two other DC3, G-AMPY and G=ANAF which will be coming off lease within a year, and probably G-ANAF within 6 months, and with the best will in the world we cannot really keep THREE DC-3s going.

The CAA still hadn't made their minds up about how we could continue to operate the type on our AOC - due to EASA complications - and it was clear that we would not be able to do any pleasure flying this summer in G-AMRA, so why not let G-AMRA go to a good home and let G-ANAF - the very first Dakota we bought - be the prime passenger aircraft instead.

That is our plan, and the article written in the Classic Air Force newsletter misrepresented the position.

There is no doubt that the move to NQY will provide a better future for all the aircraft in the fleet, simply because there are a lot of visitors to Cornwall every summer and their admission fees will allow a lot of money to
be spent on the Classic Air Force aircraft. The Twin Pioneer, Dove and one Rapide (RP) still need a LOT of work to get them flying again, and they will be flying by next year. We are all working flat out to do our bit for
classic aviation, and naturally your response, and presumably others, because you mention that others are upset, is a great disappointment to all of us. We actually went to Australia to buy two more Twin Pioneers to enable
our example to continue flying."

MY INDEX PAGE TO PRESERVED AIRCRAFT

MORE PHOTOS OF MINE TAKEN AT THIS MUSEUM ON -FLICKR.COM- WEBSITE

On 30th September 2012 AIRBASE @Coventry was closed.

In 2013 it made a fresh start as 'Classic Air Force' museum at former RAF base St Mawgan, near Newquay in Cornwall.
SEE MY 2013 REPORT. Pity it did not last...

 

 

 

Airbase at Coventry closed its doors on the last weekend of October 2015. An era of propliners flying at Coventry came to an end.
Classic Air Force: The End
The year 2015 brought the end to the Classic Airforce. The rent of the hangar at Newquay in Cornwall put a stop to that enterprise and the 2015 re-opening of the Airbase at Coventry lasted only a few months. It was not to be.

Press Release, august 2015:
Historic Aircraft Collection to be Sold
International Buyers Looking to Acquire Classic British Machines

Europe's largest collection of post-war classic aircraft is to be sold. The Classic Air Force, which operates over thirty planes, including the world's oldest flyable jet, is actively inviting offers from interested organisations and individuals. The move follows the announcement by CAF's founder, Mike Collett, that he intends to retire.

Now 72, Collett co-founded the Air Atlantique group in 1977, a freight and pollution control company that at one time owned the world's largest fleet of WW2 Dakota freighters.

The Classic Air Force stable is unusual in that it focuses mainly on the Cold War years, an era ignored by most other historic collections. Most of its aircraft are either flyable or in the final stages of restoration to flight. They are a frequent and popular sight at air shows, and are regularly to be seen in the skies above the Flight's headquarters at Coventry Airport. Highlights include two Gloster Meteors – the T7, which is now the world's oldest flyable jet, and the NF-11 night-fighter, which is the world's only example still flying. The collection also boasts the actual Canberra that achieved a world altitude record of 70,310 feet (21,469 metres) in 1957."

"The CAF operation at Newquay ceased earlier this year and the 'flyables' went back to Coventry. The majority (if not all) of the static aircraft were then taken over by some of the Cornish CAF volunteers who have set up their own organisation based at Newquay Airport called Cornish Heritage Aviation Centre.
See: www.cornwallaviationhc.co.uk"

Things looked hopeful when the Classic Air Force reopened its Air Base facility at Coventry again on 02May2015, but the adverse weather conditions that day held a dark promise…

But..
"...our Shackleton is not part of the fleet, we are just housed there with our long time friends at CAF.
Our activities to return her to flight will continue."
Avro Shackleton WR963
www.facebook.com/avro.shackleton

Aircraft were auctioned by Bonhams at Goodwood on 12th September 2015.
The first five aircraft on offer at the auction were the Chipmunk, Proctor, Rapide (Delta Lima - the RAF schemed a/c), Vampire T.55 and the Anson.
Not all aircraft reached their reserve price and thus a sale was not made. But the Dragon Rapide found bidding stopped at UKL 110.000,- sold to Cirrus Aviation of Clacton (reg'd 26Nov2015).
The other aircraft were offered for sale through the Classic Air Force website and some have found a new owner by the time I write this update (May 2016).
However DC-3's G-AMPY and G-ANAF remain at Coventry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.airbasecoventry.com
Pleasure flights can be booked through www.classicflight.com

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Atlantique_Classic_Flight

 

 

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Created: 17-juli-2011