South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum gifted a Jetstream aircraft
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South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum gifted a Jetstream aircraft

It was with great pleasure that the South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum (SYAM) received an offer to gift us a Jetstream, an RAF multi-engined training aircraft, from Bedford College. They had bought the aircraft, serial number XX495 coded ‘C’, in 2005, shortly after its retirement from RAF service, to use in their aviation engineering training courses.

This particular aircraft was part of the flight serving at RAF Finningley when it closed in 1996. It then moved to RAF Cranwell. Before it was based at RAF Finningley, it was based at RAF Leeming (North Yorkshire) until 1979. Forty years ago on April the 30th, all the Jetstreams at Leeming moved to join 6 Flying Training School (6 FTS) at Finningley. Of particular significance to SYAM, is that one of the Museum’s current volunteers, Mick Andrews, was part of the ground crew looking after these aircraft and he moved to Finningley along with them. There he remained keeping the Jetstreams flying for the next eight years until he left the RAF. Although it won’t be flying anymore, Mick is looking forward to helping look after it again.

For all the above reasons, particularly its local connection, the Museum trustees confirmed that we would be delighted to accept this gift and it would be a great addition to the collection for just a lot of volunteer hours work and the transport costs, not inconsiderable but definitely a good investment.

With a few weeks to formulate the plan and arrange the transport, much midnight oil was burnt. The manuals had to be consulted to find out exactly which nuts and bolts would need to be removed and what equipment would be required to, firstly, get it out of the building it was in, and then loaded onto the two trucks to bring it ‘home’.

Once the plan was agreed, transport was booked with Chris Wright (Baildon) for two lorries with lifting gear. The Museum has often used Chris’s range of transport to move its aircraft as we can always rely on lots of help and advice from their experienced drivers, this time Andrew and Paul. Moving an aircraft without causing massive damage is not the easiest of tasks so it is important that everyone can work together.

On two trips down to Bedford, SYAM volunteers, Bill, Naylan, James and Steve, spent more than 60 man-hours preparing the aircraft for the move. One of the more ‘interesting’ bits was the actual removal from the building with the tail having less than six inches (15 cm) clearance, even when the fuselage was tipped half way out. This required the very skilful operation by the drivers to lift the nose and get the tail under the doorway.

After an early start for loading, a few hours drive later, XX495, ‘Charlie’, arrived at the Museum. The whole process, except the door bit, now had to be done in reverse to get the wings and fuselage back together to stand on its undercarriage, before the lorries with their lifting gear could leave. That all went smoothly and ‘Charlie’ now sits next to another former Finningley twin engined trainer, the HS125 Dominie, XS735 ‘Romeo’. Although both of a similar size, one was for pilot training (Jetstream) and the other for navigation training (Dominie). They also have distinct differences due to the Jetstream having propellers and the Dominie having jet engines.

Whilst there is still a lot of refitting of panels and equipment to do, it is expected that the Museum will be able to open their latest aircraft to the public on the next ‘Open Cockpit’ weekend on the 20th/21st/22nd of April (Easter), when there will be nearly 30 aircraft open for visitors to get into.

The Museum now houses quite a collection of ex-Finningley types, including the Chipmunk, Bulldog, and Jet Provost pilot trainers, not to forget the restored Vulcan bomber cockpit.

The Vulcan is usually open to visitors most Wednesdays and Saturdays when the volunteers who restored it are in attendance. There are a couple of Jet Provost cockpits among those which are open every day.

Watch us on ‘Facebook’ to see how things are progressing.