Hangar grant for wartime Dakota sees airfield museum flying high

Coun Richard Wright (right) presents a cheque for �5,000 to Andrew Scoley, chairman of the Friends of Metheringham Airfield, for the new hangar for the Dakota. EMN-190724-115537001
Coun Richard Wright (right) presents a cheque for �5,000 to Andrew Scoley, chairman of the Friends of Metheringham Airfield, for the new hangar for the Dakota. EMN-190724-115537001

A £5,000 grant from North Kesteven District Council has been made to the Friends of Metheringham Airfield helping to get a hangar project for their precious wartime Dakota off the ground.

The money means that a project to build a hangar for the group’s Second World War Dakota aircraft can go ahead.

Leader of the Council, Coun Richard Wright said: “The council is very proud of North Kesteven’s aviation history and we are delighted to help this project which will take the aircraft away from exposure to the elements.

“Without cover the aircraft was slowly deteriorating making it difficult to maintain in good condition given its age.

“I am also looking forward to NKDC and Friends of Metheringham  Airfield working closer together going forward, on the enhancement of the excellent aviation tourism offer in NKDC.”

The Friends of Metheringham Airfield acquired the Second World War Douglas DC3 Dakota aircraft four years ago, as a donation from the RAF Transport Command Memorial, based at North Weald Airfield, in Essex, where it had 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.

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.

The Dakota was carefully broken into sections and transported on four low-loader lorries, with police escort.

A team of volunteers and experts have been busy restoring the plane since then, but needed to raise over £60,000 to erect a hangar to house the aircraft to preserve it and continue work to get the engines running.

There are only four Dakotas still flying in the UK.

Over the last few months, the band of volunteers has completed essential inspections and anti-corrosion treatment of the underfloor areas. The airframe is generally in remarkably good condition from a corrosion point of view. Some control cables are found to be missing or damaged so that would be a lengthy task and maybe not cost effective.

Some further work has been done in the Radio and Navigators positions to make them more complete. Heating and ventilation trunking has been replaced with a more modern substitute and “aged” so it does not look out of place. Lighting has been set up inside for dull days.

​In March the team visited Coventry Airport to have a look at the progress with the rebuild to flying condition of a 1944 Dakota called “Night Fright” and the teams exchanged some surplus parts.

Sadly the team has had to hand back the set of loaned propellers to their owners and is now looking to locate another set.