A wartime Dakota aircraft that may have flown Winston Churchill and the King has arrived in Metheringham.
Engineers battled high winds and fading light last night (Tuesday) until 9pm to reassemble the main body of the plane once it had arrived in pieces on the back of lorries at its new home, Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre, after travelling in convoy under police escort from North Weald aerodrome in Essex.
The convoy had been delayed setting off, meaning it arrived in darkness. Engineers were working in high winds with cranes by the light of spot lights. Sadly the fuselage suffered some damage from a bollard just 10 miles from its destination, but the first aim now is to make sure it is weather proof.
The members of the Friends of Metheringham Airfield chipped in to cover the transport costs and now need around £60,000 to acquire a hangar to store it while it is restored.
The Second World War Douglas DC3 Dakota aircraft is a donation from the RAF Transport Command Memorial, whose volunteers were struggling to complete the restoration task.
Built in 1944, it was once assigned to No24 squadron for VIPs 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 ferrying wounded soldiers to nearby RAF Nocton Hall hospital.
The team of volunteers and experts with experience from the RAF and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, will now need to raise £300,000 to restore it to fly, or at least get the engines going to do taxi runs.
Chairman of the Friends, Andy Marson, expected it to attract a lot of attention as a static exhibit and as a classroom with school children allowed to climb aboard when the museum reopens next spring.
He said of the damage: “As a static exhibition it is repairable, but to get it back to flying condition it is some serious damage and we will have to talk to the insurers.”
He himself has been a navigator in the Dakota with the Battle of the Britain Memorial Flight until retirement and said: “The Dakota is the biggest Meccano set in the world. They came in parts with no main spar, so the whole thing just bolts together. They were designed to come in crates from the USA and had Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft stencilled on the outside - hence the nickname, Dakota. Its design was so way ahead of its time for the 1930s where many planes were still using canvas and wood, whereas this was all aluminium. Even now they are being used in parts of Africa.”
He said it is rare to find one that saw active service in the RAF during the war.
If anyone can help supply a hangar or would like to donate towards the project you can donate via their website: www.metheringhamairfield.co.uk
* Watch the video as Andy Marson talks about the project.
* Read the previous story about the project here.