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DIAMOND DELTA DAY

10 DECEMBER 2011

 

 
 
  The Gloster Javelin ( seen above on in a painting on the cover of The Aeroplane magazine ) first took to the air on 26 November 1951 followed some nine months later in August 1952 by the Avro Vulcan ( seen below at an air display at Staverton in 1973 )  and thanks to the dedication of enthusiasts and the generosity of supporters and the general public, a handful of these classic aircraft are still preserved sixty years on.  
 

 

  
 

On Saturday 10 December 2011 The Jet Age Museum  joined forces with the Vulcan To The Sky Club to celebrate two iconic delta winged British aircraft. 

The Gloster Javelin ( seen above in a painting on the cover of The Aeroplane magazine ) first took to the air on 26 November 1951 followed some nine months later in August 1952 by the Avro Vulcan ( seen below at an air display at Gloucestershire Airport, Staverton in 1973 )  and thanks to the dedication of enthusiasts and the generosity of supporters and the general public, a handful of these classic aircraft are still preserved sixty years on. 

 
 

 

  
  The Gloster Javelin ( seen above on in a painting on the cover of The Aeroplane magazine ) first took to the air on 26 November 1951 followed some nine months later in August 1952 by the Avro Vulcan ( seen below at an air display at Staverton in 1973 )  and thanks to the dedication of enthusiasts and the generosity of supporters and the general public, a handful of these classic aircraft are still preserved sixty years on.  
 

  Indeed, as can be seen by the picture of the queue waiting in the low winter sunshine to enter the Vulcan cockpit at The Flying Shack in Bamfurlong Lane, the fundraising celebration from 1000 to 1600 was a great success.  Out of the cold wind, too, both The Jet Age Museum and the Vulcan To The Sky Club had merchandise, raffle tickets and gifts on sale while The Flying Shack itself offered trial flying lessons and vintage pleasure flights.  
 

 

  
 

More specifically, The Jet Age Museum was fundraising to build a permanent home for its collection, which includes a Javelin at Gloucestershire Airport and the Vulcan To The Sky Club was hoping to add to the thousands of pounds already raised towards the charity that has restored the world’s only airworthy example of the Avro Vulcan.

 
 

 

  
  More specifically, The Jet Age Museum was fundraising to build a permanent home for its collection, which includes a Javelin at Gloucestershire Airport and the Vulcan To The Sky Club was hoping to add to the thousands of pounds already raised towards the charity that has restored the world’s only airworthy example of the Avro Vulcan.

Chairman of the Jet Age Museum, John Lewer said “We’re very much looking forward to fundraising with the Vulcan To The Sky Club.  We share a passion for preserving Britain’s aviation heritage. The museum has planning permission, the support of the Airport management team and 250 000 towards our goal.  We need a further 20 000 to be able to complete the project.  The final legal arrangements are being made and we expect to be able to tender the building project shortly.  It’s vital that the momentum behind our fundraising is kept up to make the dream a reality.”

Ian Homer, on behalf of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, commented, “We have always been blessed with terrific public interest and support. That continues today with the growing strength of a dedicated supporters’ club who actively promote our aims and contribute greatly through their endeavours with vital fundraising year on year.”

In 2012, the Vulcan will make a spectacular Diamond Jubilee tour. With the blessing of Buckingham Palace, XH558 ‘The Spirit of Great Britain’ will celebrate sixty years of British achievement in the year that is also the Diamond Jubilee of the Vulcan aircraft type. Throughout the Diamond Jubilee tour of at least 30 destinations, XH558 will carry a bespoke, leather-bound Book of Good Wishes containing names and messages from individuals, families and businesses who have subscribed to the Salute. At the end of the season, the book will be presented at Buckingham Palace.

Sarah Abbott, Vice Chair of the Club said: “The Vulcan has many links with Gloucestershire so it is great that we are able to work with the Jet Age Museum on this day of celebration of two Diamond Jubilees. It is also a great opportunity to raise much needed funds for both Avro Vulcan XH558 as we promote 'A Salute to her Majesty' and the Jet Age Museum as they move towards the exciting stage of construction of the new museum building for their important collection - preserving and promoting Gloucestershire’s rich aviation history.

 
 

 

  
 

"Kids CAN play in Biggles," read the sign," We just ask for a small donation to our Gloster Gamecock project fund"  In fact it wouldn't be a Jet Age Museum fundraiser without the little biplane, as “Biggles” regularly appears at air and transport shows and is a popular attraction with children.  Chris Radford and Keith Eagles constructed Biggles in 1995 over 12 weekends, initially as a publicity stunt to appear in the Gloucester Carnival parade mounted on top of a Range Rover. Chris's son Tom, aged 10 at the time, piloted the aircraft.

 
 

 

  
  "Kids CAN play in Biggles," read the sign," We just ask for a small donation to our Gloster Gamecock project fund"  In fact it wouldn't be a Jet Age Museum fundraiser without the little biplane, as “Biggles” regularly appears at air and transport shows and is a popular attraction with children.  Chris Radford and Keith Eagles constructed Biggles in 1995 over 12 weekends, initially as a publicity stunt to appear in the Gloucester Carnival parade mounted on top of a Range Rover. Chris's son Tom, aged 10 at the time, piloted the aircraft.  
 

 

  
 

Unfortunately the salt air at Rhoose badly corroded XM569 so that when the Wales Aircraft Museum later closed only the cockpit section could be saved.  This was initially by The Planets leisure centre in Woking where the cockpit section was painted silver and mounted on fins to resemble a rocket.  However, new owners loaned it to The Jet Age Museum from 1997 where the silver paint was removed to reveal the more accurate camouflage underneath.  A framework was also constructed to allow access via the ventral hatch behind the bomb aimer's blister, as would have been the case when the aircraft was in service, rather than via an unauthentic side entrance.

 
 

 

  
  While Avro Vulcans have already appeared within the pages of Gloucestershire Transport History, the popular Jet Age Museum cockpit section has its own remarkable story to tell. 

The first Vulcan to be issued with an RAF identity in the XM series, Blue Steel missile carrier B2 XM569 was completed at Avro's Woodford plant in Cheshire on 4 January 1963 with the longer, narrower jet pipes associated with the 201 and later 202 variants of the Rolls Royce Olympus engine.

Delivered to 27 Squadron at RAF Scampton on 1 February 1963 and later absorbed into the Scampton Wing, it was returned to Woodford in December 1965 for conversion to freefall bombs and then moved back service at Scampton in August 1966. 

XM569 then moved to RAF Waddington on 17 November 1966 and was further exchanged with the Cottesmore Wing on 19 January 1968 before the Wing moved to RAF Akrotiri on 26 February 1969. On 4 July 1974, XM569 was transferred back to 27 Squadron at Scampton (still as a B2) but returned to Waddington with 9 Squadron on 23 November 1976 prior to serving with 50 Squadron from June 1979, 101 Squadron from September 1981 and 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron from August 1982.

XM569 was thus a 50 Squadron machine when it appeared at the RAF Mildenhall Air Fete 0n 29 May 1982 and ultimately received saddle bomb-bay tanks and drum tanks.  Having served with all four Waddington squadrons, the Avro Vulcan was to become even more well known to the public after being sold to the Wales Aircraft Museum on 21 January 1983 and making its last flight to Cardiff Airport on 2 February 1983.

Unfortunately the salt air at Rhoose badly corroded XM569 so that when the Wales Aircraft Museum later closed only the cockpit section could be saved.  This was initially by The Planets leisure centre in Woking where the cockpit section was painted silver and mounted on fins to resemble a rocket.  However, new owners loaned it to The Jet Age Museum from 1997 where the silver paint was removed to reveal the more accurate camouflage underneath.  A framework was also constructed to allow access via the ventral hatch behind the bomb aimer's blister as would have been the case when the aircraft was in service, rather than via the unauthentic side entrance cut into some preserved Vulcan cockpits.

 
 

 

  
 

As both the Meteor F8 and Javelin 9 and their wider historical context have been discussed in A Model History of Gloster Aircraft, it was good to be able to take a closer view of these two preserved airframes within the Jet Age Museum collection.

 
 

 

  
  As both the Meteor F8 and Javelin 9 and their wider historical context have been discussed in A Model History of Gloster Aircraft, it was good to be able to take a closer view of these two preserved airframes within the Jet Age Museum collection.  Although the best place for the conservation of an historic aircraft is under cover, a museum or hangar is often too dark or cramped to allow satisfactory pictures to be taken.  Happily, Diamond Delta Day allowed visitors the opportunity both to stand back from the Meteor and Javelin and to get close enough to take detailed photographs. 
 

 

  
 

Gloster Meteor F8 WH364 was delivered new to 601 City of London Squadron Royal Air Force from Moteton Valence on  4 February 1952 and served with the "Millionaire's Mob" until 1957, after which it served with 65 Squadron at the RAF Malta station flights of Safi, Takali and Idris.

 
 

 

  
  Gloster Meteor F8 WH364 was delivered new to 601 City of London Squadron Royal Auxilliary Air Force from Moreton Valence on 4 February 1952 and served with the "Millionaire's Mob" until 1957, after which it served with 65 Squadron at the RAF Malta station flights of Safi, Takali and Idris. 
 

 

  
 

WH364 last served with 85 Squadron at RAF Binbrook and took part in the RAF Golden Jubilee Display at RAF Abingdon on 15 June 1968 before being retired from flying as instructional airframe 8169M on 23 August 1971 and becoming the gate guardian of 5 MU at RAF Kemble a year later.

 
 

 

  
  WH364 last served with 85 Squadron at RAF Binbrook and took part in the RAF Golden Jubilee Display at RAF Abingdon on 15 June 1968 before being retired from flying as instructional airframe 8169M on 23 August 1971 and becoming the gate guardian of 5 MU at RAF Kemble a year later. 

As such, WH364 - the Meteor on a stick - became a landmark for my childhood journeys with my parents to see my grandparents, although these had long ceased by 1992 when the jet fighter was purchased by Eddie and Paul Brown of Meteor Flight with a view to returning it to the air. This did not prove possible, but Paul Brown did lead the team that restored WH364 to 601 Squadron markings ( complete with red and black tail stripes ) on behalf of former Gloster test pilot Peter Cadbury who then presented it to the Jet Age Museum.

 
 

 

  
 

As early as the mid 1920s Lord Trenchard, the first Chief of the Air Staff, envisaged the idea of auxilliary squadrons for the Royal Air Force that he had founded in 1918.  These would be staffed by amateur pilots who could be rapidly deployed in time of war and the first auxilliary squadron - number 601 - was, according to legend, created by Lord Edward Grosvenor at the gentleman's club White's and restricted to club members.

 
 

 

  
  As early as the mid 1920s Lord Trenchard, the first Chief of the Air Staff, envisaged the idea of auxiliary squadrons for the Royal Air Force that he had founded in 1918.  These would be staffed by amateur pilots who could be rapidly deployed in time of war and the first auxiliary squadron - number 601 - was, according to legend, created by Lord Edward Grosvenor at the gentleman's club White's and restricted to club members.

This was so that the new officers would be of sufficient presence not to be overawed by him and of sufficient means not to be excluded from his favourite pastimes of eating, drinking and White's itself.  Recruitment was by consuming port and gin to see if candidates could still behave like gentlemen when drunk but Lord Grosvenor - youngest son of the first Duke of Westminster - still expected the well heeled, sportsmen, adventurers and self made men who passed the test to become part of an elite fighting unit. 

Under their next commander, Sir Philip Sassoon, 601 Squadron gained a reputation for flamboyantly wearing red socks or red silk lined jackets, blue rather than black ties, driving fast cars and, as they were wealthy enough to afford movie cameras, filming their escapades.

601 Squadron was formally incorporated at RAF Northolt on 14 October 1925 and first flew Avro 504K biplanes from May 1926.  Among their Gloster built aircraft were Gauntlets (November 1938 to March 1939) and Hawker Hurricanes from March 1940 to January 1942. 

 
 

 

  
 

Based at RAF Tangmere during the first part of the Battle of Britain, 601 Squadron suffered heavy losses including Billy Fiske, an American bobsleigh champion who pretended to be Canadian to join up.  He became the first American combatant to die in World War II on 17 August 1940.

 
 

 

  
  Based at RAF Tangmere during the first part of the Battle of Britain, 601 Squadron suffered heavy losses including Billy Fiske, an American bobsleigh champion who pretended to be Canadian to join up.  He became the first American combatant to die in World War II on 17 August 1940.

Rhodesian Roger Bushell, meanwhile, was also shot down in 1940 but was captured in France and later masterminded the mass breakout of prisoners of war from Stalag Luft III.  Executed by the Gestapo after recapture, he provided the inspiration for Richard Attenborough's Group Captain Bartlett in the 1963 film "The Great Escape".

More happily however, Max Aitken was credited with adding 16 enemy aircraft to the 601 Squadron tally before taking over from his father as Baron Beaverbrook, chairman of Express Newspapers.  The first Lord Beaverbrook had also been Minister for Aircraft Production in Winston Churchill's cabinet.

After a short period with Bell Airacobras, 601 Squadron converted to Supermarine Spitfires until the arrival of their first jets - De Havilland Vampire F3s - in November 1949.  However, the Gloster Meteor F8 was to be their last aircraft from August 1952 until the Royal Auxiliary Air Force disbanded in March 1957.

 
 

 

  
 

Just as WH364 had kindly been towed to the area below The Flying Shack courtesy of the Gloucestershire Airport authorities, so Gloster Javelin FAW9 spent Diamond Delta Day excused from its normal duties as gate guardian near the car park.

 
 

 

  
  Just as WH364 had kindly been towed to the area below The Flying Shack courtesy of the Gloucestershire Airport authorities, so Gloster Javelin FAW9 spent Diamond Delta Day excused from its normal duties as gate guardian near the car park.

XH903 was in fact the 65th of 85 Javelin FAW7s built by the Gloster Aircraft Company under contract Acft/11329/CB7(b) of 19 October 1954.  It was completed in early 1959 and was delivered from the Gloster factory at Hucclecote on 27 February to 19 Maintenance Unit at RAF St Athan.

After service acceptance checks with 19 MU it was assigned to 23 Squadron at RAF Coltishall and detached to RAF Horsham St Faith - later Norwich International Airport - on 1 May 1959.

 
   

 

 

 
 

XH903 came back to Gloster’s Moreton Valence factory on 1 June 1960 for changes to systems and equipment and replacing the Sapphire Sa7 engines with the reheated Sa7R .

 
 

 

  
 

XH903 came back to Gloster’s Moreton Valence factory on 1 June 1960 for changes to systems and equipment and replacing the Sapphire Sa7 engines with the reheated Sa7R .

Now completed as a Javelin FAW9, it was delivered to St Athan on 5 January 1961 and on 14 February to 33 Squadron at RAF Middleton St George. Ten days later it went to RAF Leuchars on loan to 29 Squadron, returning to 33 Squadron on 3 March.

33 Squadron had been founded on 12 January 1916 as a part of 12 Squadron Royal Flying Corps based at Filton and spent much of the rest of the Great War with BE2C biplanes based in Lincolnshire as home defence against German airships.

In February 1930, 33 Squadron became the first RAF unit to fly the Hawker Hart light bomber and continued with Sidney Camm's remarkable biplane until February 1938.  This era was commemorated by the hart's head badge made official by King Edward VIII in May 1936 and seen on the tail of XH903.

Later Gloster equipment for 33 Squadron included Gladiator biplanes from February 1938 to October 1940, Hawker Hurricanes from September 1940 to December 1943 and Meteor Night Fighters from 1 October 1957 to August 1958.  33 Squadron then converted to Javelins from April 1958 until disbandment on 18 November 1962, after which 33 Squadron briefly became a Bristol Bloodhound SAM missile unit in the late 1960s and in 2011 flies Westland Puma helicopters from RAF Benson.

 
 

 

  
 

In October 1962, 5 Squadron, then flying the Javelin FAW5, began to convert to the FAW9 variant and took on charge most of 33 Squadron's aircraft, including XH903. Re-equipment was completed by 21 November and coincided with the Squadron's move from RAF Laarbruch to RAF Geilenkirchen and assignment to 2 ATAF, XH903 gaining the code "G" at this time.

 
 

 

  
 

In October 1962, 5 Squadron, then flying the Javelin FAW5, began to convert to the FAW9 variant and took on charge most of 33 Squadron's aircraft, including XH903. Re-equipment was completed by 21 November and coincided with the Squadron's move from RAF Laarbruch to RAF Geilenkirchen and assignment to 2 ATAF, XH903 gaining the code "G" at this time.

5 Squadron had been founded in 1913 and one of its Avro 504s became the first British aircraft to be shot down in World War I.  Briefly a Hawker Hurricane Squadron in World War II, it operated Armstrong Whitworth built Meteor NF 11s from 1959.  In 2011 5 Squadron operates twin engined R1 Sentinel surveillance aircraft, based on the Bombardier Global express business jet.

 
 

 

  
 

XH903 flew with 5 Squadron until 20 September 1963 when it suffered a Category 3 accident. This resulted in its withdrawal from use until repairs were completed , the aircraft returning to 5 Squadron on 10 April 1964.

 
 

 

  
  XH903 flew with 5 Squadron until 20 September 1963 when it suffered a Category 3 accident. This resulted in its withdrawal from use until repairs were completed , the aircraft returning to 5 Squadron on 10 April 1964. 
 

 

  
 

On 7 October 1965 5 Squadron disbanded as a Javelin unit and XH903 was flown to 27 MU at RAF Shawbury on 15 October for storage. It was struck off charge on 2 December 1966 and allocated to RAF Innsworth for display on 23 August 1967, receiving the maintenance serial 7938M.

 
 

 

  
  On 7 October 1965 5 Squadron disbanded as a Javelin unit - later reforming with the English Electric Lightning F6 - and XH903 was flown to 27 MU at RAF Shawbury on 15 October for storage. It was struck off charge on 2 December 1966 and allocated to RAF Innsworth for display on 23 August 1967, receiving the maintenance serial 7938M.

XH903 was delivered to the Gloucestershire Aviation Collection (now known as The Jet Age Museum) on 19 May 1993, and fully cosmetically restored - including the white ladder indicators on the port nacelle - at RAF St Athan in 2003 for that years Royal International Air Tattoo which celebrated 100 years of heavier than air flight.
 
 

 

  
 

XH903 was delivered to the Gloucestershire Aviation Collection (now known as The Jet Age Museum) on 19 May 1993, and fully cosmetically restored at RAF St Athan in 2003 for that years Royal International Air Tattoo which celebrated 100 years of heavier than air flight.

 
 

 

  
 

Among the light aircraft ready to offer trial flying lessons and pleasure flights was Skyranger Swift 912S G-CFRM, a development of one of the World's most popular kit built aircraft.  Over 1 100 Skymasters are flying in the World today and the Swift, optimized for the Rotax 100 bhp 912 ULS piston engine, has a smaller, more heavily loaded wing for higher cruise speeds and a more comfortable ride in turbulent air.  It can, however, still take off from a grass runway of less than 65 metres, climb at 1 200 feet per minute and with a 450 Kg load has a stalling speed of 33.5 knots.

 
 

 

  
  Among the light aircraft ready to offer trial flying lessons and pleasure flights was Skyranger Swift 912S G-CFRM, a development of one of the World's most popular kit built aircraft.  Over 1 100 Skymasters are flying in the World today and the Swift, optimized for the Rotax 100 bhp 912 ULS piston engine, has a smaller, more heavily loaded wing for higher cruise speeds and a more comfortable ride in turbulent air.  It can, however, still take off from a grass runway of less than 65 metres, climb at 1 200 feet per minute and with a 450 Kg load has a stalling speed of 33.5 knots. 
 
 

 

 
 

Like the 1993 vintage Pegasus Quasar IITC weight-shifting microlight G-MYJJ seen at the rear of G-CFRM, Pegasus Quantum 15 G-MYRT was built in 1994 by Solar Wings Aviation Ltd with a ROTAX 582-40 engine driving a pusher propeller.

 
 

 

  
  Like the 1993 vintage Pegasus Quasar IITC weight-shifting microlight G-MYJJ seen at the rear of G-CFRM, Pegasus Quantum 15 G-MYRT was built in 1994 by Solar Wings Aviation Ltd with a ROTAX 582-40 engine driving a pusher propeller. 
 

 

  
 

Auster Aircraft Limited began life in 1938 as Taylorcraft Aeroplanes ( England ) Limited making light observation aircraft designed by the Taylorcraft Aircraft Corporation of America at the Britannia Works at Thurmaston, near Leicester.

 
 

 

  
  Auster Aircraft Limited began life in 1938 as Taylorcraft Aeroplanes ( England ) Limited making light observation aircraft designed by the Taylorcraft Aircraft Corporation of America at the Britannia Works at Thurmaston, near Leicester.

Its first product, the Taylorcraft Plus C, was an American Taylorcraft Model A redesigned to meet more stringent British Civil Aviation standards.  Re-engined with a Blackburn Cirrus Minor I, this was known as the Taylorcraft Plus D while the Plus Cs similarly re-engined on impression into Royal Air Force service on the outbreak of War in 1939 were designated Plus C2.

The 11th Taylorcraft Plus C was evaluated by the Air Ministry in 1939 and in 1941 an order was placed for 100 examples of a militarised version - the Auster I - to be used as an Air Observation Post (AOP) to work with the Army in directing artillery fire.  By 1945 over 1 600 high wing Taylor Auster monoplanes had been built for British and Canadian armed forces with the firm's HQ and drawing office moving to a house called "The Woodlands" outside Thurmaston while wings and fuselages were built at Syston and aircraft assembled and flown at Rearsby aerodrome.

During World War II The Auster AOP was gradually developed into a Mark V version and continued to serve with a number of air arms including the Army Air Corps from 1957.  By the mid 1960s however the AOP role was increasingly being taken over by small helicopters.

The company changed its name to Auster ( the name of the Roman god of the south wind ) on 7 March 1946 and all production moved to Rearsby.  This included two examples of the crop spraying Agricola aircraft which had low rather than high wings although the traditional tail-dragging high wing Austers continued as mail planes, private aircraft and even as the ski fitted Auster Antarctic which assisted Sir Edmund Hillary and Dr Vivian Fuchs in their South Pole expeditions of 1957.

A number of ex British Army Austers were also bought back by the company and upgraded for sale as the Auster 6A Tugmaster glider tug or luxury three seat Auster 6B which became known as the Beagle A.61 Terrier 1 when Auster merged with Beagle Aircraft in June 1961. The established high-wing Auster format developed to create the Terrier series and the nosewheel variant, the Airedale.  The Auster name was finally dropped from Beagle-Auster Aircraft Ltd  in 1968.

G-ASAJ, carrying the Army serial WE569 as pictured above, was first flown in October 1961 as  one of 45 Beagle A.61 Terrier 2s with a wider span tailplane, wheel spats and a metal propeller.

 
 

 

  
 

Two Czech Republic built Aerotechnik EV-97 Eurostar aircraft were also on display, a similar machine having visited the 2011 Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford. G-CEHL was built in 2006 with constructors number 2928 and a reciprocating Rotax 912-UL engine while G-SHMI has the constructors number 3013.

 
 

 

  
  Two Czech Republic built Aerotechnik EV-97 Eurostar aircraft were also on display, a similar machine having visited the 2011 Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford. G-CEHL was built in 2006 with constructors number 2928 and a reciprocating Rotax 912-UL engine while G-SHMI has the constructors number 3013. 
 

 

  
 

Two Czech Republic built Aerotechnik EV-97 Eurostar aircraft were also on display, a similar machine having visited the 2011 Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford. G-CEHL was built in 2006 with constructors number 2928 and a reciprocating Rotax 912-UL engine while G-SHMI has the constructors number 3013.

 
 

 

  
 

Air Atlantique's 1948 vintage Percival P-40 Prentice T1 G-APJB carried the RAF serial VR259 and is currently the only airworthy example of its type in Britain with an air transport certificate.

 
 

 

  
  Air Atlantique's 1948 vintage Percival P-40 Prentice T1 G-APJB carried the RAF serial VR259 and is currently the only airworthy example of its type in Britain with an air transport certificate.

Designed to meet Air Ministry Specification T.23/43, the Prentice was the first all-metal aircraft to be produced by Percival, the prototype TV163 flying from the firm's Luton Airport factory on 31 March 1946.  Early trials resulted in revised rudder and elevator designs and the introduction of upturned wing tips.

An unusual design feature was the provision for three seats. While the instructor and pupil were equipped with dual controls in a side-by-side arrangement in the front, and a second pupil sat in the rear seat without controls to receive "air experience". Both pupils could communicate with the instructor and night flying training was to be carried out in daylight by means of amber screens incorporated into the canopy and the use of special goggles. The amber screens were folded back when not in use. 

Over 370 Prentices were delivered to the RAF between 1947 and 1949 but as the Percival factory was concentrating on production of the proctor and Merganser light transport aircraft, production was sub-contracted to the Blackburn Aircraft works at Brough. 

Although intended as a replacement for the de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane as a basic trainer, its 251 bhp de Havilland Gipsy Queen 30 Mk 2 inline engine meant that the Prentice was underpowered and the type was replaced in RAF service from 1953 by the Percival Provost with a 550 bhp Alvis Leonides radial.

252 redundant RAF Prentices were bought by Freddie Laker's Aviation Traders Ltd in 1956 and scrapped, apart from 28 which were converted to civilian  four-seaters and one which was even modified to take seven passengers.  Among the four-seaters was G-APJB, which was sold to the Herts and Essex Aero Club in 1960 and then served with the County Borough of Southend on Sea until 1966.

 
 

 

  
 

 
 

 

  
  The brown element of the livery and the registration G-BRWR immediately made me think of my interest in British Railways Western Region but this single engined two seater was in fact a 1946 vintage Aeronca 11AC Chief, built by the Aeronautical Corporation of America in Middletown, Ohio as their construction number 11AC-1319 and first registered as N9676E.

Aeronca was founded in Cincinatti on 11 November 1928 with the backing of the influential Taft family and became the first builder of commercially successful general aviation aircraft.  By the end of production in 1951 Aeronca had built 17 408 aircraft in 55 models although disaster struck in 1937 when the factory at Lunken Airport was flooded.

Production restarted at Middletown on 5 June 1940 with the 7AC Champion flight trainer being followed by the 11AC Chief, reusing a name first applied to an Aeronca design of the 1930s and also sharing up to 80% of components.

Aeronca was also one of the first light aircraft manufacturers to use a moving assembly line although due to the volume of 7AC Champion production 11 series aircraft - including the later 11BC Chief and 11BC Super Chief - were mainly put together at Dayton Municipal Airport, Vandalia.  Also available as seaplanes, the Aeronca 11 series were powered by Continental engines and introduced the McDowell mechanical starter derived from the automotive industry.

Aeronca has now become a division of Magellan Aerospace, producing aircraft, missile, and space vehicle components at the same location adjacent to Middletown’s Hook Field.