by Richard Paver
On June 14th, I was invited to Duxford to attend Norman Chapman’s 100th birthday party. Norman was one of the pioneering engineers in the UK warbird movement, and for many years he restored, maintained and provided engineering services (of every kind) in support of Robs Lamplough’s fleet of historic aircraft. He is best known for leading the restoration of Robs’ combat-veteran P-51D Mustang Miss Helen, a project which he started at Duxford in 1977 and arguably one of the most significant UK projects, since it essentially ‘kicked off’ the whole UK warbird restoration movement.
At Norman’s 100th birthday party this week, we took a group photograph featuring all of Robs Lamplough’s original ground support team and ground crew. Miss Helen’s first post-restoration flight took place on May 5th 1987, with Lloyd Hamilton at the controls. The team photo, shown above, features from left to right: Pete John (Miss Helen’s display pilot, now retired), Robs Lamplough (Miss Helen’s original owner – she now belongs to Robert Tyrell), Ian Arnold (original ground crew), Norman Chapman, Keith Rodwell (original ground crew), Tracy Power (original ground crew), Malcom Chapman (original ground crew), and John Hart (Miss Helen’s engineer, now retired).
Norman started his aviation career during WWII, working on Bristol Blenheims with the RAF’s No.71 Maintenance Unit – in both the Battle of France in May 1940 and the Battle of Britain in July-October 1940! Post-war, he worked for many aircraft owners and also spent many years working alongside Sir Freddie Laker, maintaining aircraft in the Laker Airways fleet. He also provided engineering services to many warbird owners throughout the 1980s and 1990s, working on a wide variety of different types. He is a remarkable man with a remarkable history!
Many thanks indeed to Richard Paver for this story. We will be featuring another of his articles, which features Miss Helen, in the coming days.