Bill Read gets an exclusive tour of a preserved Nimrod MR2 at the Yorshire Air Musuem. [caption id="attachment_4625" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Nimrod and Victor at Yorkshire Air Musem."][/caption] Close to the city of York is the former RAF Bomber Command Station at Elvington. Closed in 1992, the 20-acre site is now the home of The Allied Air Forces Memorial and the Yorkshire Air Museum [caption id="attachment_4626" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Nimrod XV250 arriving at Elvington."][/caption] The museum currently hosts over 50 historic aircraft, many of which are in working order. One of the most recent additions is a ex-RAF BAe Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol aircraft, XV250, designed for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare as well as as search and rescue missions. [caption id="attachment_4627" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The Nimrod will be open to the public later this year."][/caption] The Nimrod arrived at the museum by air in April 2010 and will open to the public in the autumn. However Aerospace International was given the privilege of an advance private tour by museum director Ian Reed. The museum, in fact, almost end up with two Nimrods: “We were offered a Nimrod MRA4,” says Ian, “But sadly, we had to turn it down, as there was nowhere to put it.” [caption id="attachment_4628" align="alignnone" width="200" caption="Yorkshire Air Museum director Ian Reed on the flightdeck."][/caption] Inside, the aircraft is much as it was when it was in operational service with its anti-submarine mission systems still in place. The aircraft remains in operational condition with its engines still in working order and tested at regular intervals. [caption id="attachment_4629" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Flight engineers station."][/caption] The interior is remarkably roomy, not surprising when you remember that a standard Nimrod crew consisted of two pilots, a flight engineer, navigator and nine weapons systems operators (WSOs) responsible for acoustics and electronic warfare. [caption id="attachment_4630" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Navigator's station."][/caption] The cockpit systems of the MR2 is strictly analogue in nature and include a large control panel for the navigator. Further back down the fuselage is where the surveillance and detection operatives sat which does include more modern avionics – although sadly this area was too dark to allow any photos. [caption id="attachment_4631" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The Nimrod retained the round windows originally seen on the civilian Comet."][/caption] The museum exhibits cover the whole history of flight from its earliest days up to the present day, mostly military but also including civil designs. [caption id="attachment_4632" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="SE5a replica on display."][/caption] Early aircraft examples comprise replicas of Sir George Caley’s 1853 glider, a Wright flyer (both of which have been flown) and a Blackburn Mercury. The museum has also build several replicas of WW1 aircraft, including an SE5A, an Avro 504K and a BE2c. [caption id="attachment_4633" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Halifax 'Friday the 13th' noseart."][/caption] The WW2 exhibits include a Douglas DC-3 Dakota, Waco Hadrian glider and a replica Spitfire and Hurricane. One of the most unique exhibits is a restored ‘Friday the 13th’ Handley Page Halifax Mk III - carefully reconstructed from pieces of several aircraft. A reconstructed de Havilland Mosquito night fighter is currently in an advanced stage of construction while there are also relics of a Junkers Ju88 which crashed close to Elvington in March 1945 which was the last German aircraft to come down over Britain in WW2. [caption id="attachment_4634" align="alignnone" width="200" caption="The English Electric Lightning."][/caption] Post war aircraft include two early versions of the Panavia Tornado fighter, a Handley Page Victor tanker, two Hawker Hunters, Hawker Siddeley Harrier, a Lockheed CT-133 Silver Star, two Gloster Meteors, Gloster Javelin, Fairey Gannet, Dassault Mirage IIIEa, English Electric Lightning and Canberra and a Blackburn Buccaneer. There are also examples of the Saro Skeeter and Westland-Sikorsky Dragonfly helicopters. [caption id="attachment_4635" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Display showing various power-operated gun turrets."][/caption] As well as aircraft, the museum also has a number of specialist exhibitions based in different buildings around the airfield, including the control tower restored to its WW2 condition, the story of RAF Bomber Command, an airman’s billet, air gunners, display, uniforms, the French bomber squadrons and the work of the Royal Observer Corps. There is also an RAF chapel and memorials dedicated to allied Air Forces and Women’s air Services. [caption id="attachment_4636" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Supersonic swing-wing design - Barnes Wallis thought of it first!"][/caption] A new exhibition was opened in 2010 featuring the history of famous local personalities involved in the history of flight, including Sir George Caley, Robert Blackburn, Nevil Shute, Barnes Wallis and Amy Johnson – including a Dambusters raid bouncing bomb. There are also a large number of restored airfield and military vehicles.

The French Connection

[caption id="attachment_4638" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="No346 'Guyenne' squadron, RAF was manned by French personnel and flew Halifaxs."][/caption] A little known fact about Elvington is that, during WW2, it was the base of the only two French heavy bomber squadrons to operate from Britain. The 346 Guyenne and 347 Tunise Squadrons flew 2,834 sorties from Elvington as part of the allied air forces. To commemorate the 66th anniversary of the French squadrons leaving Elvington to return to liberated France in 1945, the Yorkshire Air Museum is organising a major event to be held in York in October. Called the ‘French in York’, the festival will take place between 17-23 October and will include parades, exhibitions, displays (including a Hawker Hurricane in the city centre), lectures and films. There will also be a major business exhibition and symposium held in the main hangar at Elvington with up to 150 national and international companies. [caption id="attachment_4637" align="alignnone" width="200" caption="York Minister will hold a service to commemorate French bomber squadrons."][/caption] The centrepiece of the event will be a special service to be held in York Minster on 20 October to inaugurate a French Air Force Memorial within the cathedral. Around 1,500 visitors are expected to attend and the event will be commemorated with a march, as well as an aerial flypast of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster with nine RAF Tucano trainers and other aircraft, including Rafales from the French Air Force which will fly over from RAF Linton.

Tim Robinson
5 August 2011