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“A Fairey Cometh! A Fairey Goeth! Fairey ‘nough?

September 10, 2019

The Coming

 

As most “Joystickers” will know by now, a flyable Canadian-built Fairey Swordfish (HS554) has recently arrived at White Waltham.   Hopefully, it will not be too long before it graces the air over Berkshire.  

 

It will no doubt be civil-registered and what better regn letters could it carry than, G-TSRI.

 

This regn.is, of course, derived from the original designation of the pre-WW2 Swordfish ie   “Torpedo Spotter Reconnaissance I”  (ie Mk. I).   The Swordfish prototype first flew on 21st March 1933 from the Great West Aerodrome on the A4 and now known better as, London Airport.

 

As others will be aware, Fairey had a factory at Hayes; a test airfield at Great West Aerodrome and with the development of Heathrow, moved test flying inititally to Heston and eventually to White Waltham.

 

At White Waltham, from May 1950, the Fairey Aviation Company had a Swordfish  Mk. II “hack”, G-AJVH” (ex LS326) and it flew around the county & country for many years. It now operates, when serviceable, with the RN Historic Flight (RNHF) out of RNAS Yeovilton.

 

As said earlier, not too long before we hear that Bristol Pegasus clattering around the sky!

 

The Going

 

It would appear that White Waltham’s long-resident XA459 Fairey Gannet ECM.6 (Electronic Counter Measures version) is about to depart, reportedly to an organisation “Up North”.  Originally built as an AS.4 at Fairey’s Stockport factory in 1956, it served operationally with the RN until 1966 when it left 831 NAS based at RAF Watton to become an Instructional Airframe.  After a number of years, and owners (incl. the Cardiff Aircraft Museum), it was roaded to White Waltham in November 2006 with the idea of making her a “Gate Guardian” ie at the airfield long-associated with test flying the Gannet.    The mooted intention was to place her on what is now the New Car Park on the LHS as you drive into the airfield.

 

I was associated with bringing back to the Museum of Berkshire Aviation at Woodley the other ex Cardiff Museum Gannet ie T.5  XG883.   The T.5 is still extant there, but has always required continuous maintenance by a team of people, especially as it is outside.

 

Such a team never existed at White Waltham and it has remained stored largely untouched twixt a couple of hangars over by the Film Company.   Early on I, for one, was asked to look into methods of protecting the aircraft for posterity.  Really, in this country aircraft need to be under cover otherwise they become subject to tin-worm and corrosion especially if they are ex RN ie operating in a sea water environment.  That includes seaside airfields…like Cardiff.  

 

I had long been impressed by the Finns who have a number of singleton aircraft protected from the elements in relatively inexpensive pergolas.   In effect the aircraft sits on a concrete-type plinth inside a wood/glass building.  Some pergolas are adapted to hold a little Museum and in the summer months a small associated cafeteria.  Lectures & presentations are held there as well.   Sometimes the aircraft is moved/shuffled in such a way that small functions can be held in the building.    When I investigated the costs back in 2008/9 they were circa £18-20,000.  They are relatively simple, effective, and cheapish to design and construct.  One weighs the outlay against the value (over time) of the aircraft to be protected. The costs are recovered/written off over a number of years

 

Here are two examples in Finland.   One contains a Finnish AF Me109 ……….

….and another, a Valmet Viima (I think there used to be one of those at Booker)

 

 

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© Mike Ashfield for the Joystick Club

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