Excitement is growing among aircraft enthusiasts as a wartime Douglas DC3 Dakota is set to arrive at an airfield in the area to be restored to fly.
The Friends of Metheringham Airfield have acquired the Second World War 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 the 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 was once assigned to a VIP squadron at RAF Hendon and so is highly likely to have flown Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI to important engagements in its time, as well as possibly serving in the days after D-Day for the Rhine crossing and during 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 to nearby RAF Nocton Hall hospital, according to Tim Taylor, Friends of Metheringham airfield committee member, who has been responsible for coordinating transportation of the seven-tonne aluminium aircraft.
The Dakota has been carefully broken into sections and is due to be transported on four low-loader lorries, with escort, supplied by local haulage firm Denby’s, on Monday. Mr Taylor said: “It should be quite an impressive sight, but it shouldn’t cause too much disruption to local roads, coming up the M11, A1, then A17 to Sleaford and then up the A15 to Metheringham.”
He said: “It has a 96ft wing span, so we have a lorry for each wing, with engine and propeller, another lorry for the fuselage and another with the undercarriage and engine mountings.”
He said it has been a long process of preparation. The RAF Transport Command memorial had planned to restore the aircraft back to airworthiness as a passenger aircraft, but because they are based on an active airfield, it had been quite restrictive for volunteers to work.
Once it has arrived, on Tuesday a team of volunteers and experts will set to reassembling the plane and repainting it 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 restoring the engines to run on the ground is a first priority.
A fundraising campaign has already started. Donations can be made via their website: www.metheringhamairfield.co.uk
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, so we should raise a lot of interest.”
It would be one of three restored dakotas in the county - the others being at RAF Coningsby and at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby. There are only four still flying in the UK.
Built in March 1944 in the USA, it arrived with the RAF in June before being assigned to the VIP squadron.
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.”
John Shipton, another member of the Friends of Metheringham Airfield said: “This original Second World War airframe will be a massive boost to the museum and will highlight the link to RAF Nocton Hall hospital as Dakotas were a familiar sight at RAF Metheringham bringing in the wounded after the D Day landings.