Historic warbird could take to the skies again

The Dakota safely lowered onto the low loader trailer ready for its long journey to Metheringham. EMN-151117-100921001
The Dakota safely lowered onto the low loader trailer ready for its long journey to Metheringham. EMN-151117-100921001

A wartime aircraft which could have carried Winston Churchill and King George VI, has arrived at an airfield museum in the area.

The Friends of Metheringham Airfield have acquired the Second World War Douglas DC3 Dakota aircraft as a donation from the RAF Transport Command Memorial, based at North Weald Airfield, in Essex, where it has been partly restored to its original military colours and serial number KG651. It had last flown in 2000 when it was used as a spray aircraft by a pollution control company.

Airborne again. The Dakota fuselage is lowered by crane onto the lorry trailer. EMN-151117-100932001

Airborne again. The Dakota fuselage is lowered by crane onto the lorry trailer. EMN-151117-100932001

The historic warbird, built in 1944, was once assigned to a VIP squadron at RAF Hendon and is highly likely to have flown Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI to engagements, as well as possibly serving in the days after D-Day for the Rhine crossing and the Battle of Arnhem troop landings.

RAF Metheringham is better known as a Lancaster bomber aerodrome, but in the latter days of the war is documented to have seen a number of Dakotas ferrying wounded soldiers after the D-Day landings to nearby RAF Nocton Hall hospital, according to Tim Taylor, a Friends of Metheringham Airfield committee member, who has coordinated transportation of the seven-tonne aluminium aircraft.

The Dakota was carefully broken into sections and transported on four low-loader lorries, with police escort. Mr Taylor said: “It has a 96ft wing span, so we had a lorry for each wing, with engine and propeller, another lorry for the fuselage and another with the undercarriage and engine mountings.”

The wings and engines arrived on Monday evening and the main fuselage arrived at Metheringham yesterday (Tuesday) after some delays in loading and securing the escort, explained Mr Taylor.

The RAF Transport Command memorial had planned to restore the aircraft back to airworthiness, but based on an active airfield, it had been quite restrictive for volunteers.

A team of volunteers and experts will now set to reassembling the plane but will need to raise £300,000 to restore it to fly. They will also need money to erect a hangar to house the aircraft and will aim to at least get the engines going to do taxi runs.

Mr Taylor said: “We have lots of ex-RAF and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight engineers that are familiar with the aircraft and have worked on them all their lives.”

He said the plane finally arrived at about 4pm yesterday and the team got straight onto unloading and reassembling on its wheels as they only had the services of a specialist engineer for one day.

There are only four Dakotas still flying in the UK.

Mr Taylor said: “It is hugely exciting, It is a Second World War aircraft for the museum and the long term restoration project will be of great interest.”

Donations can be made via: www.metheringhamairfield.co.uk