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Charity takes charge of vintage naval aircraft to keep them airborne

26 April 2021
Four classic Fleet Air Arm aircraft have been formally handed over to an aviation charity to keep them airborne.

The core of what was the Royal Navy Historic Flight has been transferred to Navy Wings at RNAS Yeovilton.

With the MOD concentrating on spending money on front-line aircraft, it has gifted the historic collection – valued at around £1.4m – to the charity.

The aircraft are to naval aviation what the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is to the RAF: a working, flying memorial to all those who have served – and sacrificed their lives – in the Royal Naval Air Service and Fleet Air Arm.

The aircraft handed over to Navy Wings include one of only two flying Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers in the world (W5856), a Hawker Sea Fury (VR930), the last post-war piston-engine fighter, an Armstrong Whitworth Seahawk (WV908) from the dawn of the jet era, and a de Havilland Chipmunk (WK608).

In addition two incomplete airframes - one Swordfish (NF389) and a Chipmunk – have also been gifted to Navy Wings.

To help the charity maintain its family of aircraft and assist the transition the Royal Navy will provide some grant funding over the next five years.

Otherwise Navy Wings relies on public donations and air show fees to keep its machines in the skies.

The aircraft can now play a full part in the wider cultural and heritage sector at a national level, showcasing the story of naval flying at air shows and events up and down the country and continuing to be a source of inspiration and pride to wide audiences for many years to come

Rear Admiral Martin Connell

Commodore Jock Alexander, the charity’s chief executive, said it was crucial Navy Wings stepped in to take responsibility for the vintage aircraft.

“With reduced funding the aircraft were in danger of being grounded and their presence in the air lost forever to the Nation,” he said.

The Head of the Fleet Air Arm, Rear Admiral Martin Connell, said the transfer of the six aircraft meant their long-term future was “now assured”.

He continued: “The aircraft can now play a full part in the wider cultural and heritage sector at a national level, showcasing the story of naval flying at air shows and events up and down the country and continuing to be a source of inspiration and pride to wide audiences for many years to come.”

The ‘new’ aircraft join an existing collection of a Wasp helicopter, second Sea Fury, T6 Harvard and Stinson Reliant trainers, and a Sea Vixen interceptor from the mid-60s (sadly permanently grounded following a heavy landing four years ago).

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