Restoring vintage aircraft at Fishburn Airfield As you travel on the busy A177 between Sedgefield and Coxhoe, you could be forgiven for missing a small white sign pointing the way to the Aviator Café. Follow this sign and it will take you down a narrow concrete road to Fishburn Airfield, one of the area’s best kept secrets. As well as being a working airfield , it’s also the home of the Aircraft Restoration Group. Stephen McGuire, an expert in aircraft electrical systems, took some time to explain.
The Aircraft Restoration Group restores civilian and ex-military aircraft and plans to open a small museum on the site. The three main aircraft currently being restored are a De Havilland Dove, a Sea Vampire and a Venom.
The Dove was built in 1952 for the German Aviation Authority. Its main role was to calibrate airfield landing aids and radio equipment. It’s a wonderful example of British wartime engineering, with its bonded structure, fabric ailerons and variable pitch propeller.
The Sea Vampire is based around the 1946 De Havilland design. This particular aircraft was built for the Royal Navy as a pilot trainer for carrier operations. It is powered by a Rolls Royce Goblin mark 3 jet engine providing 3,500 pounds of thrust, giving a maximum speed of 540 mph.
The Venom is a single seat fighter-bomber and was retired from Swiss military service in 1984. It continued to fly in the UK in civilian hands until 1998.
Regular ‘open cockpit’ days give an the opportunity to view the aircraft, sit in the pilot’s seat, and feel like a real air force pilot ready to patrol the skies. Along with military vehicle and vintage car enthusiasts, a Wings, Wheels and Nostalgia weekend will take place on Saturday 1st and 2nd August.
A Romney Hangar, gifted by a generous local benefactor, is currently being erected and will become a workshop and storage facility providing protection from the weather. This hangar was the last one used in County Durham by the Bevan Boys during World War Two. The group would be grateful if anyone can provide information about its history.
The volunteers, aged from early teens to ninety, have a range of experiences, from complete novices to experienced aircraft engineers. Four of the group are ex-RAF engineers, two experienced on airframe & mechanical systems, and one as an engine specialist. Another member of the group is an ex-RAF fighter pilot, Flight Lieutenant Paul Heasman, who has recently finished training RAF pilots on the Hawk T165 and is starting a new career with Cobham at Teesside Airport.
Would you like to get involved?
Volunteers don't need any specific skills just a willingness to learn and get stuck in. However, any DIY experience, especially carpentry (there is a surprising amount of wood on aircraft frames), would be a boon and a willingness to use a paint brush would definitely help. Stephen, who lives in
Sedgefield, served for 12 years in the RAF, looking after electrical systems such as flight and engine monitoring instruments. Like all of the volunteers, he is keen to share his knowledge.
Under expert guidance, the younger members of the group are working to restore a Rallye light aircraft - a great project to join for young people thinking of a career in engineering.
The group meets on Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays throughout the year, from 10am until around 3 or 4pm.
If you are interested in getting involved, or just curious and want to find out more, then please get in touch.
Phone: 07812 406762
Facebook: Aircraft Restoration Group