Arriving at RAF Fairford on Friday, 19 July, was one particular aircraft that few people unconnected with the project would have expected to be present at the 2013 Royal International Air Tattoo. Karl Drage spoke to Midair Squadron owner Mike Davis about the return to flight of Canberra PR9 XH134 / G-OMHD.
Prior to that morning it had been almost seven years since XH134 had flown for the last time, when she, along with XH131 and XH135, were delivered to Kemble (now the Cotswold Airport) following retirement after more than 45 years of Royal Air Force service and having been acquired by Mike Davis.
“We only received the permit yesterday evening”, a very proud Mike tells me, “and she flew for the first time since retirement this morning and then again a little later on. Aside from a very minor compass issue, which was resolved within minutes, she’s behaved flawlessly.”
The return to the skies came after a 24-month restoration at the Cotswold Airport under the care of C2 Aviation, including the significant introduction of an electric starting system to replace the previous AVPIN-cartridge method.
“The C2 Aviation team has done a tremendous job on the aircraft and the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) was extremely pleased with the way the work has been carried out and documented. Prior to the issuance of the Permit to Test, the only item identified as outstanding was that we were one set of AVTUR markings short on the fuselage. Out came the paint pot and stencil and three minutes later we were good to go! We’ve got 14 more sorties to carry out in the test phase, including some high-level stuff, but we are hopeful of being able to make the aircraft available for some airshows towards the end of the 2013 season.”
Mike retains custody of XH135 at Cotswold Airport, which has been used as a source of spare parts for ‘134, while XH131 has since returned home to Northern Ireland, where she was built by Short Brothers in 1959. As such, XH134 remains the world’s only airworthy example of the Canberra PR9. Midair Squadron also owns Hawker Hunter T7s G-XMHD (perhaps best known as Kemble’s ‘Blue Diamonds’ aircraft, XL577) and the recently acquired G-VETA.
“Digital blueprints have been taken of the markings and colour schemes on all three aircraft so they can be returned to their former glories at some point in the future, but, for now, we’ll paint all three aircraft up in a homogeneous paint scheme that commercial entities will then be able to sponsor for displays at all manner of events within the UK and beyond. Interest has already been significant and dialogue remains on-going with a number of global brands.”
The Midair Squadron will formally launch later in the year when more details will be available on www.midair-squadron.com
Look out for an extensive article on the XH134 story in Issue 20 of Global Aviation Magazine.
Karl Drage extends sincere thanks to Mike Davis and to Lucy Parsons of Inter Relations & Co.