LLA's big day
Howard Heeley/Down to Earth Promotions reports from the Lincolnshire's Lancaster Association (LLA) Members' Day, held on 30 September at RAF Coningsby. Photography by the author, Nick Heeley and Crown Copyright
Excellent weather and the fact that it was the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's (BBMF) fiftieth anniversary year drew around 1,700 people to the Lincolnshire base. The LLA was formed in the early 1980s from the Lincolnshire Lancaster Committee (LLC) and was incorporated as a charity in May 1981. The LLC was originally formed in the early 1970s when Lancaster PA474 was moved from RAF Waddington to RAF Colitshall - its stated aim was to see a Lancaster return to Lincolnshire, this aim being realised when PA474 returned to RAF Coningsby in 1976. When PA474 is eventually retired from service, hopefully a long way off yet, the LLA's aim is that it will form part of a memorial museum for the many personnel who never made it back to the county during the Second World War.
The RAF's request for financial assistance to construct the necessary parts to make the fitting of PA474's mid-upper turret possible was one of the catalysts for forming the LLA. Its move into public membership was in response to the many requests to be allowed to help the cause; its popularity is illustrated by the international membership of more than 5,000 people. Not all of them came to Coningsby at the end of September, although it might have seemed like it!
Recognised for providing invaluable support for the BBMF, the LLA has raised funds for many visible aspects of the Flight's activities, including completing the mid-upper turret, deflection cam installation and ammunition tracking for the rear fuselage of the Lancaster and the manufacture of dummy cannons for Hurricane PZ865. Equally important have been the LLA's less visible small and large contributions, including sourcing parts from around the world, provision of a fax machine for the BBMF office, funding GPS satellite navigation systems for the Lancaster and Dakota, a two year project to digitise the maintenance manuals and APs (which at a cost of around £44,000 is estimated to provide the BBMF with annual time savings that are equivalent to the cost of two engineers), and since 2001 they have also been involved in raising funds to return Spitfire TE311 to flight.
Currently funds are being raised to fabricate and fit flame-damper style exhaust stubs and shrouds to the Lancaster and the annual Members' Day at RAF Coningsby provides a valuable fund raising opportunity for this type of project. It also gives the Association's members the chance to have a close look at the aircraft and to meet the personnel. This year was no exception and in the BBMF hangar alongside the various Spitfires and Chipmunks that were not scheduled to fly were a variety of fund raising stalls, each with a strong emphasis on BBMF souvenirs.
Those LLA members that attended this exclusive event were treated to an excellent short flying display, drawing gasps of delight from everyone there. The close formation approach from behind the BBMF display hangar was stunningly low, followed by several formation flypasts and then cameo displays from Spitfire P7350 and Lancaster PA474. Pilots of these two aircraft, Flt Lt Ed Straw, Lancaster and Grp Capt Russ Allchorne, Spitfire are leaving the BBMF at the end of this season, and they gave particularly breath-taking farewell performances with each of their flypasts seeming to be even lower than the opening approach.
As each aircraft landed and returned to the apron area in front of the hangar the gathered LLA members gave rapturous applause to each of the pilots and aircrew members, who were then treated to a celebratory glass of champagne and a well deserved group photograph.
I am proud to be a member of the LLA and well done everyone at the BBMF and the LLA - roll on the start of the 2008 display season!
The hottest buy this year on the BBMF souvenir stalls was the LLA's new DVD entitled "Lancaster at Coventry", a video diary covering the major service of PA474 by Air Atlantique (£13.00 including UK post and packing). Advanced orders were also being taken for the LLA 2008 Calendar, now on sale for just £6.20 including UK post and packing. Orders should be sent to LLA (Sales) Ltd, PO Box 474, Lincoln, LN5 8ZW - with cheques made payable to LLA (Sales) Ltd.
On Sunday 18 November 2007 the Newark Air Museum is staging a special 'open day' when members of the LLA can benefit from reduced rate admission to the museum at a cost of just £3.75 per person, when they show their LLA Membership Card. This will also give them the opportunity to have a free look inside two Avro Lancaster stable-mates the Vulcan and Shackleton, which are both owned by the LLA and on loan to the museum. Timings 10:00 until 16:00; last admission 15:00.
Many thanks to Stuart Stephenson and Peter Chapman of the LLA for their help in preparing the article and to BBMF PRO Jeanette O'Connell for the provision of the additional information and sourcing the Crown Copyright photographs.