September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Last Friday, on a glorious sunny afternoon, all work stopped at Coventry Airport”s maintenance area when the Battle of Britain”s Memorial Flight (BBMF) Avro Lancaster PA 474 City of Lincoln, emerged from an Air Atlantique hangar after a six-month overhaul.
The wonderful sound of the four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines was heard again as the aircraft came to life for the first time since landing at the airport on 2 October 2006. Virtually every system and component was removed for inspection by specialist engineers and the engines themselves were returned to RAF Coningsby, home of BBMF, for maintenance. During the winter months, the paint finish was stripped back to bare metal to allow a detailed examination of the aircraft skin.
”Papa Alpha” as she is affectionately known, is one of only two Lancasters remaining in airworthy condition of the 7,377 built (the other being in Canada). She normally flies only about 100 hours annually and last underwent a ”heavy” check eight years ago. This is the first time that the RAF has used a civilian organisation for such work.
”I am immensely proud of the way our engineers have dealt with the work," said Air Atlantique chairman Mike Collett. ”Most were not born when the aircraft was actually put together (1945). The same dedication and skill that goes into the maintenance of our own Classic Flight”s Dakotas and Rapides has been turned into real enthusiasm for Avro”s wonder bomber. They have worked very closely with the Memorial Flight”s staff, a real team effort.”
”Papa Alpha” is expected to fly for the first time after the overhaul on Tuesday but as one member of the team noted: ”We”ve put an enormous amount of effort into the overhaul. The aircraft will not get airborne until every single system and ancillary has been checked. These old flying machines can be temperamental, especailly after their innards have been pulled to pieces.”
Seen in the background of our photograph is Air Atlantique”s own Avro Shackleton, a development of the Lancaster that remained in service with the RAF until 1990.