Classic Air Force Rolls Up Its Sleeves


The weekend of 5th and 6th April saw Classic Air Force re-opening for the 2014 season, both at its new museum in Newquay and its traditional home in Coventry. The latter will be good news for Midland aviation enthusiasts; CAF’s Coventry Airbase is the home of their Nimrod and the Shackleton, beautifully restored by the Shackleton Preservation Trust.

“Our opening in Newquay last year was a massive step for us,” said Tim Skeet, the chairman of the charitable trust that supports the Classic Air Force collection. “We were moving from an aviation collection that also showed its aircraft to the public to a completely customer-facing public museum. That’s a huge change, and we had to focus all of our efforts on making the new museum a success. Now that we’ve done that we can turn our attention to re-establishing our traditional base to run alongside the public attraction.”

The Coventry Airbase will offer a quite different experience from that of the Newquay Aerohub. “The Newquay museum is built around its visitors; there are several non-flying aircraft, some of which are open to the public. There’s also a cinema, our new Café de Havilland and a huge display of models, plus a full-motion flight simulator. New for this year we’ve added an in-the-cockpit simulator that allows would-be pilots to take the controls of our aircraft for a flight around the local area.

“Coventry, on the other hand, is our maintenance base. It’s where you’ll see us with our sleeves rolled up, restoring and repairing our collection of rare birds. People will be able to see work in progress on classics like the world’s only flyable Twin Pioneer or the world altitude record-breaking Canberra. It’s more of a dirty fingernail feel, which I believe real enthusiasts will appreciate.”

Both venues feature large, impressive walk-on-board exhibits. Newquay hosts one of the last VC10 in-flight refuellers to retire from RAF service, plus an ex-QinetiQ BAC1-11 flying electronics test platform. Both aircraft are complete and explorable by visitors. At Coventry it’s a similar picture, though in this case it’s the Avro Shackleton and giant Nimrod coastal defence guardians that take centre stage. Coventry also houses the unique DC-6 Diner, a café/restaurant built inside a 1950s Douglas DC-6 Cloudmaster.

Pleasure flights in vintage aircraft, the long-time signature dish of the Classic Air Force, will be available in both Newquay and Coventry.

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