Wednesday, 30 October 2013

An autumn Saturday afternoon

The last weekend of October '13 was slated for the clocks going back by one hour and a visit to Norfolk to see a couple of dear friends.

Saturday, after a drive from the Midlands to one of my friends' farm near Old Stratton and a lovely lunch, my friend John and I set off to see Rugby Aviation Group member Gary Reid, who lives not far from John's farm and who has been building a Steen Skybolt in his garage over a number of years (he tells me 10 so far). Below is a picture of a Skybolt and what Gary's might look like after completion in what he hopes will be three years.
Steen Skybolt
We had an hour with Gary and it was surprising for me to hear how many people they had in common amongst friends and acquaintances. A nice introduction for my friend John,  who was impressed with the quality of workmanship and the tea and cake served by Gary's wife Sara.

From here we went to the airfield at Old Buckenham to see someone John knows, but unfortunately this chap had left the airfield just prior to us arriving. So off we went in the direction of another WWII airfield, Tibenham, near to which is Priory Farm, a small airstrip with some hangars and the home of Boeing Stearman restoration specialists Black Barn Aviation.
 It was in their restoration sheds that Martin Shaw's Stearman was rebuilt originally and after his ding illustrated by the picture below.
Martin Shaw surveys the damage of his beloved Stearman

John and I visited one of the hangars, which contained a Stinson Sentinel, the only one on the UK register as well as two beautiful Stearman biplanes, one belonging to Black Barn Aviation's Paul Bennett and the other to a private owner. As with Gary's Skybolt, the quality of workmanship on these American trainers was fantastic. Paul's partner in Black Barn Aviation, Bob Sage explained some of the difficulties in sourcing the right components for the restorations and where they can be found to cost of bringing components into the UK, i.e. shipping an important duties.

Sunday morning the weather was lovely, thought a bit breezy so we wandered around the charming city of Norwich, before meeting up with friend and ex-colleague Alan and his lovely wife Lorna for lunch in the Rare Grill. Whilst waiting for them to arrive we sat in the reception area of the hotel the restaurant is part of (George House Hotel) and spotted Napoleon Solo (The man from U.N.C.L.E.), the actor Robert Vaughn. He is now a frail looking 81-year old, but easily recognisable.
After a lovely lunch, a fond farewell and an uneventful drive back to the Midlands, we arrived home before the storm (that never came).

Theo Claassen
28 October 2013

Annual joint meeting with the Midland Air Museum

For this year's joint meeting, which took place on Tuesday 22 November 2013,  we were very lucky in being able to attract a great speaker, Rod Dean, who has been in the aviation industry for the best part of 40 years.

Rod retired from display flying in the latter part of 2012 and is now restricted to flying aircraft of less then 2000 kg AUW under his NPPL. In his own words “Old age and sin have finally caught up with me and unfortunately the march of time cannot be ignored,”

During that long career he flew Hawker Hunters and SEPECAT Jaguars during his career in the RAF and was the Hunter display pilot in the early seventies. He also flew aircraft such as the Spitfire, Seafire and Skyraider for organisations like Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford, Kennet Aviation at North Weald and Rolls Royce. He also instructed on the North American Harvard and the Scottish Aviation Bulldog.

His lecture was light-hearted, yet factual, informative and well illustrated with some fascinating photographs and it covered his flying career in the RAF, especially the Hawker Hunter, from, amongst others Chivenor in the UK and Aden in the Middle East.
There was never a dull moment and those present were enthralled throughout the evening, which took off shortly after 19:30, made a refuelling stop at around 20:40 and turned finals shortly after 22:15. This was the longest lecture we have enjoyed to date, beating our previous longest lecture, by Eric "Winkle" Brown.

I recall seeing Rod display a then recently restored Hunter F6 at the Classic Fighter Show at Cranfield. This show was organised by an acquaintance of mine, Mark Hanna and was normally staged at Duxford, but due to some runway repairs was moved for this year only to Cranfield. That allowed locally based Lightning T5 XS458 owned by Russell Carpenter ( to take part also and what a bonus that was. When Rod arrived at the airfield and had disembarked from the Hunter I spent about 15 minutes in his company talking about the aircraft and display flying in general. 

As those that were present at this lecture will have experienced, Rod is a charming, very approachable and engaging chap and his lecture, gauging by the round of applause at the end was a great success, so a big thanks to Rod, who said he would love to come back and do another lecture in the future.

Thanks go to Chris Heath of the Rugby Aviation Group for organising the lecture and to Barry James and the Midland Aviation Museum for hosting the event.

Rod Dean

Theo Claassen
Hon Treasurer Rugby Aviation Group
Rugby, 29 October 2013

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Rod Dean photos

Photos of Rod Dean, reunited with his Hunter F6  XF382 from his R.A.F. display years. With the help of Barry James and Gordon Talbot of the Midland Air Museum, prior to our evenings talk.

Barry Jones

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Welcome to our Blog

In order for our members to easily share Aviation information and anecdotes, we have set up this blog.
If you would like to share please contact David George who will let you have the relevant access information.