Monday, 21 May 2012


Douglas Dakota in the old BEA Livery at Elmdon Airport in 1958 - ©JGD


Members of the Probus Club of Coleshill almost, but not quite, took to the skies for their meeting on 1st May at the Coleshill Hotel.  We welcomed Mr Sebastian Grant a local flying enthusiast and member of the ‘Classic Aircraft Trust’.  This Trust has only recently been formed but is of long standing origins in ‘AIRBASE’ and based at Coventry Airport (Bagington) where they are set adjacent to the ‘Midland Air Museum’ (not very far from the ‘Lunt – Roman Fort if that catches your interest as well).  Follow the A45 from Stonebridge to Toll Bar Island and turn right – Bagington Airport is signed.  (Go through Bagington Village follow signs for AIRBASE).

A Chipmunk and De-Havilland Rapide

The Trust (Airbase) maintain 13 flying veteran aircraft a number growing each year that are owned by the Trust or by its members; in fact they maintain over 30 planes:  it is possible for visitors to actually have a flight or go on a taxiing run.  The main objective is to keep these historic planes flying and experienced staff are busy seeing to this task when not actually restoring an acquisition to air-worthiness.  The neighbouring museum, the ‘Midland’, only has static – (display) – aircraft on show that do not have airworthiness certification.  Several of the Trust aircraft can be seen at flying displays around the country such as Cosford and Duxford in the summer months.

Vampire jet fighter
AIRBASE was founded by Mike Collett on Jersey in 1969 initially with one (later three) Cessna Aircraft running an air-taxi service between the Channel Islands, the Mainland and the Continent.  Trading under the name of Air Atlantique later moving to Doncaster Aerodrome in the early 1970’s where they were responsible for the local flying club and expanded operations as a taxi service between various UK domestic airports whilst maintaining the original Channel Islands and French connections.  Two DC3 Dakotas where purchased in 1974 and Sebastian told us the history and many uses of the Dakota (the wartime military C47).  AIRBASE currently maintains three Dakota Aircraft (ex-RAF) that saw service in World War Two and the Berlin Airlift.

Jet Provost Trainer
If you are organising ‘a-bit-of-a-do’ and want an unusual destination check out AIRBASE because they have a DC6 ‘Skymaster’ Aircraft (no longer air worthy) that is completely fitted out as a restaurant, seating up to 40; the prices are very comparable with most ‘pub-restaurants’!  The DC6 can also be hired for business conferences/meetings or a simple cuppa during your visit.  Please note AIRBASE is closed on Monday’s and Tuesday’s.  Bagington Airfield, where AIRBASE uses two of the original ‘Hangers’, was built in the Second World War and was used by a Polish Squadron flying Hurricanes.  Should the weather be typically British (wet!) you can walk around the hangers, the Visitor Centre and Shop or see film clips of their aircraft if the onsite cine-theatre is open.

Sebastian must be complimented on his presentation; the bulk of it consisted of photographs of the 30 odd aircraft that can be seen, both static and flying at Coventry along with all technical details enthusiasts could wish for as well as the life history of each example.  These were of excellent quality and many where aerial shots showing the planes in flight from several angles that brought back memories galore for our former RAF members.  Without the photographs much of what was said would mean little to readers who were not present at the talk but to give a flavour amongst many aircraft shown the following pictures (and others) are shown on the AIRBASE web site:

Gloster Meteor T7 Jet Fighter

The Chipmunk: this was the RAF’s best known trainer plane of the post war years.  Sebastian explained that as the RAF still has two of these aircraft as operational consequently AIRBASE had to paint theirs in a none-RAF livery as shown.  Apparently these RAF owned Chipmunks are used to train pilots for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (Spitfires and Hurricanes).  The De-Havilland Rapide following the Chipmunk was a 1930’s passenger carrying biplane very popular and many examples were made and are still flying - quite often appearing in TV Drama’s (Poirot).  The De-Havilland Vampire the RAF’s Jet Fighter was introduced too late see service in WW2 but remained in service and later as a Trainer until 1966.  The Gloster Meteor was the first operation Jet Fighter initially introduced in 1943.  The T7 version came out in 1949 and this version, owned by the Trust has been newly restored it first flew for the public at Duxford on October 16th 2011

Tiger Moth
As well as World War Two aircraft (that are getting rarer by the year) Sebastian showed us some examples beginning with jets:  they currently fly two Gloster Meteors that were originally built in Coventry in the 1940’s it is appropriate that these can still be seen in the skies over the city.  We saw two Venom Jet Fighters that were a derivative of the Vampire as well as Jet Provost trainers followed by an Avro-Anson which is only still flying example in the United Kingdom.  De Havilland were also recognised in their ‘Dove’ Aircraft that, as we heard, made use of the very popular ‘Gypsy’ Engine  If you do make a visit look out for the Canberra Bomber and the Nimrod.  As we reported there were too many examples to include them all.  AIRBASE also hires Aircraft out to Film and TV Companies for use in period productions and it was noted that the DC6 Diner last flew in 2006 when it appeared in ‘Casino Royale’ (Daniel Craig’s debut as James Bond).  Currently under restoration and shortly to take its place as a non flying display is a Shackleton that will have working engines that will enable visitors to go for taxiing rides on the airfield.

It was a most unusual and different talk and we thank Sebastian for his time and trouble in visiting us.  No doubt we will be discussing a club outing to AIRBASE to see for ourselves.

For readers with a passion for veteran/classic or rare aircraft check out the Internet Web Sites such as and AIRBASE is also available on Twitter and Facebook.

Jerry Dutton

Press Officer

No comments: