Historic: Vintage Aircraft

 The Wright Flyer, peformed the first powered flight on 17 December 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. This picture was uploaded by AirSpace user Rear Loader


How to enjoy aircraft: Pore over old aircraft photographs, revisit the news and features written at the time by Flight since 1909, wander around aircraft museums admiring aircraft restorations. But perhaps the most fulfilling way, for the aviation-minded, is to experience them still gracing the skies. An experience many would describe as bringing tears to their eyes, goosebumps and tingling of the hairs at the back of the neck as they watch these iconic engineering feats grace the skies once more and often on the air show circuit.

In the UK, the RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Shuttleworth Collection restore vintage aircraft so that thousands of spectators can still enjoy them in all their flying glory.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight  performs flypasts at notable events, such as the recent wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with its old warbirds; the Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfires.

The Shuttleworth Collection, in Bedfordshire, UK is home to a range of vintage aircraft, dating from Edwardian aircraft, some on display and others that are well maintained so that they can perform at aerial displays.

The Shuttleworth Collection was founded in 1928 by an aviator, Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth, although he died in 1940 flying in a Fairey Battle.

Four years later his mother formed the Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth Remembrance Trust "for the teaching of the science and practice of aviation” with the aim of restoring as many aircraft as possible to flying condition, in line with the founder's original intention.

According the Collection’s website, a team of nine full time and some volunteer engineers maintain and restore the aircraft. Many of the engineers are members of the 3,000-strong Shuttleworth Veteran Aeroplane Society (SVAS).

Some of the most notable aircraft in the collection are the five Edwardian aeroplanes.

The oldest, with British civil registration G-AANG, is the Bleriot XI (still with original engine), which dates back to 1909 - six years after the Wright brothers' aircraft and it is the world's oldest airworthy aeroplane.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight formed in 1957 at Biggin Hill and it's fleet now consists of four Spitfires, two Hurricanes, one Lancaster bomber, (this is one of only two flying, the other flying in Canada), a Chipmunk and a Dakota. 

Many in the RAF felt that the service’s greatest  Battle Honour should continue to be commemorated and to keep the last remaining examples of the legendary fighters which had won the Battle of Britain – the Hurricane and Spitfire – in the air.

The website of the BBMF says that the pilots feel privileged and humbled to be able to fly the iconic war aircraft of the Second World War.

"There is no doubting that the aircraft are the stars but if it were not for the engineering and administrative staff on the Flight the hangar doors would never open. They are the unsung heroes and I ask that you remember their significant contribution when you see us in the skies over Great Britain.

"We are very well aware that we have been entrusted with the nations’ aviation heritage and we will do our utmost to keep these beautiful and priceless machines where they belong: in the air!" 

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