With Remembrance Sunday falling this weekend, it is perhaps fitting that the UK Ministry of Defence has announced two new initiatives to support operations of the Avro Lancaster, Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire aircraft which equip the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF).
Expressions of interest were sought by 10 November from companies interested in conducting a landing gear modification to the flight’s Spitfire fleet, with this to value up to £500,000 ($950,000). The work will focus on the design and production of new wheels to accommodate replacement tubeless tyres, and an invitation to tender for the work will be issued in late January 2007. A total of 20 wheels in two sizes will initially be acquired to fit the single Mk IIA, Mk VB and Mk IXE Spitfires now in use, plus two MkXIXs.
The MoD also last month awarded Retro Air of Dursley, Gloucestershire, a spares-inclusive contract worth a potential £2 million to support the engines for the BBMF’s five Spitfires, two Hurricanes and one Lancaster. The agreement will cover “the repair and overhaul of [Rolls-Royce] Merlin and Griffon engines and selected major engine components”, it says.
Retro Air, which describes itself as “the foremost British company in warbird piston engine overhaul and refurbishment”, also held the previous engine support contract for the BBMF. The flight, which also has one Douglas Dakota and two de Havilland Canada Chipmunks in its inventory, is stationed at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. The base is also home to the RAF’s newest strike aircraft, the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Having confirmed production orders worth almost £2 billion since July to equip the RAF with BAE Systems’ Nimrod MRA4 and Hawk 128, it is important that the MoD continues to find the resources to support the activities of the BBMF for many years to come. Lest we forget.