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Herald and Hunter - civilian and military types to serve at Norwich's airport/airfieldCity of Norwich Aviation Museum

Gary Parsons visits a growing collection beside Norwich's prospering airport

The City of Norwich Aviation Museum was founded in the 1970s - not by a bunch of aviation fanatics, as one would expect, but by a group of Norwich busmen. All original members have long since retired but from the initial group the 'Eastern Counties Aircraft Association' was formed in 1979 (Eastern Counties being the local bus company of the time).

A registered charity today, the museum operates under a Board of Trustees, the Chairman for who is local builder Derek Waters. Located on the Northern side of Norwich Airport, the museum occupies an area of land near to the new control tower constructed in the 1980s, and is accessed through a dead-end lane from Horsham St Faiths village - although the exhibits can just be seen from the Airport proper, it's still a three-mile drive! The current site is rented from the Airport on a ten-year lease and funding is being sought from the National Heritage Lottery Fund for an extension and construction of a hangar. In the near future it is planned to move the workshop to create more exhibition space.

Avro Vulcan XM612
Biggest exhibit is, of course, Vulcan B2 XM612, delivered in 1983 for the sum of 5,026 with the retirement of the type from RAF service. Built in 1962, this was the 76th Mk 2 built, entering service with 9 Squadron in 1964 and was one of five aircraft chosen to take part in the Falklands conflict in 1982. Although the type never served in Norfolk it represents the V-Force with which Marham played a key role - first with the Valiant, then the Victor. Now resident at Norwich for twenty years, it has had one re-paint and is undergoing her second - a daunting task for any preservation group. The rear undercarriage doors, flying control surfaces and airbrakes are especially prone to corrosion due to their high level of magnesium and have been re-skinned in the past. The re-paint is expected to take two years to complete, using synthetic automotive paints that are longer-lasting and more durable than the military original. Despite being grounded for twenty years, the electrics are still fully functional and the aircraft is 'sparked-up' occasionally throughout the year. Entry into the cockpit is usually permitted on other days for a small extra charge (subject to staffing levels).

One claim to fame the museum enjoys is that it was the very first aviation-related one to register with the Museums and Galleries Commission. Today, each museum should have an 'acquisition and disposals' policy, in other words a theme in which to display its exhibits. Naturally, Norwich's theme is 'recording and preserving the history of aviation in Norfolk' and all current acquisitions are targeted thus - obviously their next target is a Jaguar, which is just becoming available for disposal to museums. Funding is always an issue, as with many such aviation museums, and is entirely self-generating topped up with grants from Norfolk County Council and Broadland District Council, whose help is greatly appreciated.

Westland Whirlwind HAR Mk 10 XP355
On permanent loan from its owner, XP355 is currently painted in RAF Air Sea Rescue colours. It is under long-term restoration.

The museum's first acquisition was an Avro Anson, sadly destroyed in the gales of 1987. Following the Anson was Whirlwind XP355, then the Mystere from the ex-French Air Force disposals of the late seventies and a Sea Vixen, later sold for funds to buy the Hunter from Wales with which Norwich Airport (then RAF Horsham St Faith) is well remembered.

Norwich also had a Javelin until recently, but it was privately owned and the owner was asking some 6,000, an unrealistic sum as far as the museum could afford, despite many of its members helping with its upkeep and restoration. It was eventually sold to the Yorkshire Air museum at Elvington and moved in the summer of 2000.

Just by the gate grows a small Scottish pine - a symbol of the friendship that exists between the museum and the Dumfries & Galloway Museum in Scotland. Derek Waters and his counterpart David Reid share a strong friendship and the two museums try to help each other as much as possible.

Displayed in the extensive exhibition hall is this Desert Storm momento from RAF MarhamCentral to the indoor exhibits is the RAF 100 Group memorial room, funded by the 100 Gp Association. The Group played a major part in the Second World War, flying from airfields in and around the Norwich area, and was the pioneer of electronic warfare. Flying exclusively from Norfolk airfields, 100 Group consisted of bomber support units flying converted bomber types packed with electronic countermeasures. These would fly missions to confound the enemy radar and electronic intelligence gathering. Other 100 Group units flew radar equipped Mosquito and Beaufighter night fighters, hence the Group's motto 'Confound and Destroy'. Every year a reunion is held for the remaining airmen and groundcrew who served with the associated squadrons.

With a well-stocked shop, tea and coffee facilities and a wealth of indoor exhibits, Norwich's museum is well worth devoting a couple of hours for a visit if you're anywhere near the area. Visit their website here.

Handley Page Herald G-ASKK
Dassault Mystere Mk 4
Gloster Meteor F8 WK654
Lockheed T33 Shooting Star
Hawker Hunter F51 XE683
One of only two Heralds left in airline trim, G-ASKK was built 1962 under an order by Maritime Central Airways that was cancelled after it was built. It flew on lease with Autair before being bought by Sadia Airlines of Brazil and later came back to the UK being used by British Midland, BUA, BIA and Air UK in 1980. In 1985 the museum purchased it from Air UK for the princely sum of 1, in whose colours the aircraft is displayed today. It was restored inside and out by Museum members during 1999/2000. The interior contains a picture of every one of the 50 Heralds ever built.

On loan from the USAF. It is currently painted in the colours of the French Air Force display team 'Patrouille de France' but will be changed in the near future. It still retains its engine and along with the Vulcan is one of the most complete airframes the museum possesses.

Operated by 247, 46 and 85 Squadrons at RAF West Raynham and was used as the gate guardian at RAF Neatishead. On disposal in 1995 the aircraft was bought by the museum and is currently being restored. Donated to the Museum on 31 May 1986, this aircraft was was with the French airforce (nothing is known of its history/units) and was flown into Sculthorpe prior to being transferred to the Turkish air force. Having had temporary Turkish markings painted on, it suffered engine problems and was unable to leave with the others. Its delivery was eventually abandoned and when CNAM collected it a year later, the engine was lying on the grass beside the aircraft. It has recently been finished in the colours of the 47th TRW based at RAF Sculthorpe following a sponsored restoration. Delivered to the RAF in July 1955 and later acquired by the Danish Air Force as serial E409. Bought by the CNAM from the Cardiff Air Museum and is now painted in RAF colours of 74 (Tiger) Squadron, RAF Horsham St. Faiths. During the re-paint no less than 23 coats of paint were removed!
Fokker F27 Friendship G-BHMY
Hunter XG172/8832M
Lightning F53 ZF592
Currently the only complete F27 to be preserved in the UK. Built in 1962, it was ordered by ANA of Japan as JA 8606. It later served with two other airlines before commencing operations for Air Anglia and Air UK in 1980. Was in service until as recently as 1998, when it was placed in storage until donated by the airline to the museum in late 2000. It is currently being restored for which propellers have recently been acquired. First flown on 27 August 1956, XG172 had a varied career with the RAF before being retired in 1984 as a ground instructional airframe at Cosford and later Scampton. It was entered into the April 1995 Philips auction and was sold to Ipswich-based aircraft collector Richard Everett, and moved to its new home a few months later. In October 1997 the aircraft was delivered to North Weald for a full restoration to flying condition, but work was slow and the aircraft was put in storage whilst efforts were concentrated on another Hunter. In mid-2000 Barry Pearson acquired the aircraft and the aircraft was placed in storage pending an intended move to Exeter, but in January 2001 the aircraft was moved by road and placed on loan to the City of Norwich Aviation Museum. It is being rebuilt as a Hunter FR10 and is being restored by a team of engineers from RAF Coltishall. More detail can be found here. First flown in June 1968 and delivered to the Royal Saudi Air Force in 1969, returning to the UK in 1986. It is currently on loan to the museum from a local enthusiast, John Sheldrake, who is restoring it with the intention of displaying it in 74 (Tiger) Squadron markings. Unfortunately it has suffered from salt-water corrosion through being stored on the South Coast for a number of years.


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