After spending much of the summer in the hangar, under the expert care of Heritage Aviation Services, the Vampire returned to the skies yesterday in support of Coventry Airport. An unofficial fly-in was planned for the day, with many aircraft scheduled to arrive and show their support for the airport as closure of the planning consultation nears. Unfortunately the weather put a dampener on the arrivals, but we were able to make use of a gap in the weather to complete a short local sortie.
It was however hugely encouraging to see the massed support from pilots, engineers and enthusiasts alike at both the Coventry Aero Club and on the apron outside of our Hangar. We were also lucky enough to be joined by ITV News who were covering the day, and growing awareness for the cause
Over the last few weeks, WZ507 has been in the hangar at Coventry under the expert care of Heritage Air Services for annual maintenance. This is essential in keeping the Vampire in perfect working order allowing us to continue to operate the aircraft safely. The good news is that in the last week, ‘507 emerged from the hangar and flew a successful post-maintenance check flight on a fantastic summer’s day.
With the Vampire now flying once again, and with a great weather forecast for Wales, we decided to fly the aircraft for a weekend in Llanbedr – something we’d been planning for a good while. We were also lucky enough to be joined by Swords Aviation’s immaculate Jet Provost T.52 from Nottingham and a Nanchang CJ6 from White Waltham. With favourable weather in Snowdonia, we also took the oppurtunity to visit the valleys between Dolgellau and Machynlleth known as the Mach Loop on the transit.
The views were spectacular and the beaches from Barmouth to Llanbedr looked lovely in the summer sun. On arrival at Llanbedr we were pleased to meet the very helpful airfield team and to show some keen enthusiasts around the aircraft.
We enjoyed the food put on by Max at the Pilots Hatch Cafe (we recommend it to anybody arriving by road or by air) and the fantastic views from the airfield. It was however all too soon time to return home to our respective bases, and we joined up with the Jet Provost T.52 to go and have another look at the valleys of mid Wales on the way home.
We had a great weekend and we’d like to say a special thank you to the airfield team at Llanbedr, and Max at the Pilots Hatch Cafe for making sure we had such a pleasant stay. We hope to be flying the Vampire at Coventry again in the coming weeks.
2020 certainly wasn’t the year that we were hoping for, and of course we were very much restricted this year by the ever-changing COVID rules in place. While we were very limited in our operation, we were however lucky enough to be able to fly WZ507 a number of times throughout the year. Having flown in January, the Vampire then spent most of the first half of the year in the hangar, before resuming operations in June as the national restrictions were eased.
As restrictions continued to be eased through the summer, we flew a number of local sorties from Coventry. Late September marked the 100th Anniversary of the de Havilland Aircraft Company, and a plan was put together to fittingly mark the occasion by flying the Vampire to Wales for a flight around the well-known “Mach Loop” – a system of picturesque valleys between Dolgellau and Machynlleth often used for military aviation training. On the 26th September, the stars aligned and we had good weather at Coventry, as well as in Snowdonia, and that afternoon the unique sound of the Vampire was heard in Wales once again. Thanks go to the controllers at Birmingham for their help in planning a direct return to Coventry through their zone.
October was the month that we held another of our evening photographic events, and this year we teamed up with the Shackleton Aviation Group. Testament to the strong support and enthusiasm for vintage aircraft, places for the event sold out within 48 hours! Before the event started, a unique opportunity to mark de Havilland’s centenary year presented itself as a Chipmunk and Gypsy Moth were also out on the apron, and with many thanks to their respective owners – we were able to line the aircraft up. Not only that, but as the Chipmunk returned to its Old Warden base, we put together a formation of de Havilland Vampire and Chipmunk for a short Air-to-Air photoshoot.
As the Vampire returned to Coventry, a small number of photographers and enthusiasts arrived at the airport for our evening event. The Shackleton fired up its Griffon engines before sunset, followed shortly after by the much anticipated start of the Vampire’s Goblin engine in the dark, before a short taxy to a parking position near to a puddle to allow for some different photographs to be captured.
And finally, to bring to a close 2020, on the 30th December – after a break in the dark and dismal conditions of the previous days, we took the opportunity to fly a formation sortie with our friends from Swords Aviation in their combat veteran Jet Provost T.52, over the Leicestershire area.
Below is a video from that flight, including views of Bruntingthorpe and of our arrival back into Coventry.
We have a lot of exciting plans for what we hope will be a much better year in 2021. More details on those when we can!
A couple of weeks ago, we were treated to some rare winter sunshine, co-inciding nicely with a Vampire flight, so we took the oppurtunity to get some photographs of WZ507 airborne over Draycote Water. The winter sunlight worked well in helping to generate some stunning images – courtesy of Thomas Nicklin, which we shall share below!
Later in the day, photographers and enthusiasts arrived for our evening event with the aircraft, alongside Almat Flying Academy, for a view of the Vampire up close under the setting sun. We were lucky enough, and very grateful, to have Jet Provost T.5 XW325 and a Piper Cub join us for the evening also. We enjoyed meeting and talking with those who attended, and hope you all enjoyed the evening!
The lighting allowed for some fantastic photographs of the aircraft to be taken, and the unique Goblin engine start seemed to go down well also. We will post some of our photographs here, and include some of the range of other fantastic photographs we have received soon.
Now that the aircraft is out of maintenance and has been flying recently, on Saturday 7th December, we will be holding another evening event with the Vampire, at Coventry. A chance to get up close to the aircraft, and to photograph it from afternoon, through sunset and into dark. Serviceability permitting, we will start the aircraft at dark, giving a great chance to witness the characteristic Goblin start! Afterwards, enjoy pizza with the crew…
On Monday, the Vampire was seen (and heard!) flying around mid-Wales, while we took in the fantastic scenery of Snowdonia; particularly the hills and valleys around Machynlleth, known as the Mach Loop. The good weather was a welcome rarity, especially at this time of year.
The conditions needed for flying in such an area are fairly light winds (strong winds can often cause severe turbulence around mountains), good visibility, of course meaning no hill fog – which can be common in the winter months. Luckily the day’s weather forecasts and observations were good, and we were able to fly.
Some photographers who were on the hills managed to get some fantastic photos!
And of course, here is some footage from the cockpit, showing some of the great scenery in the area and highlighting the great visibility from the Vampire cockpit (with some exterior footage courtesy of Roger Jepson and Laird McLeod).