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It’s been a little while since last my last post, mainly because of the last minute re-writes, editing, and photo captioning stages of my latest book Birmingham Airport Through Time, which was released by Amberley Publishing on 15 June, and also because my ‘to-do’ list at home had stretched to a second sheet of paper. This has had the effect of putting me back on to the graveyard shift for researching and writing for the up and coming  projects. I usually try, despite perhaps being ‘on a flow with work’ or taking a break playing Scrabble online, to shut down the pc by 01.00 because our eldest cat (he is nearly 20 years old, mostly deaf and doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer) is in the habit of walking backwards and forwards over my head any time between 03.15 and 03.45 to wake me up for fusses and tummy time.

Stumbling around with half-closed eyes to carry out his requests usually wakes the other cats (we have five – all rescues) and it’s not often much before 05.00 that I can fire up the pc again to send and reply to emails before a pre-breakfast stab at the current project for an hour or so. Most of the cylinders are not firing at that time of day so it’s mostly re-reading the last piece of work done, although I spend a fair amount of time in Photoshop to repair or enhance photographs for future projects.

Pitches and enquiries have been put in for work contracts for 2018 – and there is quite a bit out there to be had in the Local and Military History line! Drop me a message if you want a link to a couple of those.



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‘Dare Devil Ken’ Malin was only two years old when he first drove his car (which was originally painted red and gold) around the Coventry Bees Motorcycle Speedway Team circuit at Brandon on 7 August 1933, and from that night on, he became the Brandon Mascot, entertaining fans in the tiny petrol car at the beginning of races. Ken was presented with Brandon Speedway Supporters Cup by Tommy Farndon in 1936.

The car was built between 1932 and 1933 by Jen’s father James Malin, who fitted it with a two-stroke 250cc (225cc side-valve) Royal Enfield motorcycle engine – which was important in the UK as it was the largest engine which a ‘learner’ could ride without passing a test.

Around 1935, Ken had performed his next stunt, driving around Jack Wall’s ‘Wall of Death’ in Rugby. At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the car was put into storage and stayed in store until 1962, when Ken got it going again for his youngest son, David, who was three years old….a bit of repeated history going on.

The car went back into storage in 1964 until 2008, when Ken took it down to Devon to work on it again, and now its permanent home is Coventry Transport Museum.

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The official opening of the British Historic Aircraft Museum (as it was first known), situated on the boundary of Southend Airport, took place on 26 May 1972, with Air Marshall Sir Harry Burton in attendance accompanied by a small RAF delegation, all of whom flew in aboard de Havilland Devon VP981.

Ministry of Defence officials had been very co-operative and supportive of the museum, which was never intended to run in competition with Hendon or any other museum, and had made several aircraft available at ‘knock down prices’. With these, the likely donation of a Bristol Britannia donated by Monarch Airlines, and negotiations being in progress for the acquisition of a de Havilland Comet, plans were soon in hand for an extension to be added to the sixty-foot tall museum building. As it was, the museum also displayed more than their collection of flying machines, with rare First World War engines and propellers from the Imperial War Museum, Rolls-Royce Merlin and Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah engines from the Second World War, and engines donated by British Air Ferries, along with bombs and other armaments, personal souvenirs donated by well-known local pilots, both civil and military, and rare photographs and maps, etc, to provide an authentic and often nostalgic backcloth to the aviation collection.

The museum closed its doors on 27 March 1983 after only eleven years because of the lack of visitors and rising costs, and its aircraft and aviation artefacts were sold at auction on 10 May where just over £175,000 was raised. The Blackburn Beverley (which when received by the museum was one of the last two airworthy aircraft of the type and was intended to act as a ‘walk-around’ museum) was the only aircraft not to sell, given its condition of general fatigue after years of neglect and attack by the elements of weather, and was eventually scrapped on site by a JCB over the weekend from 7 April 1989. A further seven years would lapse before plans were unveiled to build a Fitness Centre on the site together with landscaped gardens.

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For the second year running, the Shoreham Airshow will not be staged out of respect for the families of the eleven people who were killed when a vintage 1955 Hawker Hunter T7 (WV-372) jet fell to the ground during a rolling manoeuvre, destroying a number of vehicles and bursting into flames during the airshow on 22 August 2015.

The vintage jet aircraft crashed during a display at the Shoreham Airshow

The findings of an 18-month probe by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) to determine the cause of the crash and make safety recommendations to prevent similar incidents were published on 3 March,  and does not “apportion blame or liability”.

21 safety recommendations made by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) have been accepted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which include a review into whether changes should be made to the minimum distance required between the public and display aircraft, and a review of guidance for air show organisers, including how they carry out risk assessments.

Flight trials carried out following the crash indicated that the pilot could have pulled out of the ‘loop the loop’ stunt up to four seconds after the aircraft reached the top of the loop, but that the pilot of the jet failed to achieve sufficient height. An investigation by Sussex police concluded in July 2016 that the pilot, Mr Andrew Hill of Sandon, near Royston, would be charged with possible endangerment pursuant to Article 138 (Endangering safety of any person or property) of the Air Navigation Order 2009 and also manslaughter by gross negligence.

Mr Hills’ display authorisation permitted him to carry out aerobatics at a minimum altitude of 500ft and the normal technique would be to enter the loop at an airspeed of at least 350 knots and use maximum engine thrust to achieve a height of at least 3,500ft at the apex, but he flew at just 185ft at a speed of just 310 knots, reaching only 2,700ft at the top of the loop. Mr Hills survived the impact when he was thrown clear from the plane during the crash, although he was in a critical condition. He was discharged from hospital the following month.

Cockpit footage during the flight showed Mr Hill “alert and active”, with no suggestion he had passed out, investigators said. Aviation specialists have speculated that Mr Hills may have become confused during the manoeuvre because he usually flew a Jet Provost, for which the height and speed would have been correct, being smaller and lighter than the Hunter.

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Having written a few aviation-based books, I have learned a great deal from research and from stories from aircraft crew as well as Flying School trainers. These, coupled with the reports via AAIB investigations into many of the unfortunate incidents that have occurred over the years, have led me to the conclusion that there are two basic rules of flying that have to be picked up quite quickly and adhered to at all times by people in control of, or wanting to learn to be in control of, an aircraft:

1. Try to stay in the middle of the air.
2. Do not go near the edges of it.  The edges of the air can be recognised by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.

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Manchester’s airport’s history dates back to 1911 when an aerodrome was established at Trafford Park. Between then and 1935 (when the site at ‘Ringway’ was developed for use) there had been four other locations, all of which were abandoned as aircraft became larger to meet increasing passenger numbers and required longer landing strips and more facilities.

Terminal 2 is on the left with Pier 'C' of Terminal 1 at the top of the photograph.

Terminal 2 is on the left with Pier ‘C’ of Terminal 1 at the top of the photograph.

The airport today is both the first and last impression of Manchester and the North West of England that international visitors will see, and as the UK’s third busiest airport (and the busiest of the non-London airports), the quality of the airport’s facilities is constantly under revision to meet the needs of the customers and the airline partners, transport providers and businesses across the North of England and in the most responsible and cost-effective way.

It also has a direct impact on the local area and is proactive in listening to and working with its neighbours and its stakeholders, and as it expands, it creates more jobs for local people and helps to provide skills development and training they may need.

A ten-year plan was given the go-ahead by Manchester City Council in March 2016 for the demolition of Terminal 1 and the expansion of Terminal 2 to increase the size of the security hall, add new retail outlets and eateries, and provide more self-service check-in facilities, thus making it the primary terminal. Laing O’Rourke was selected in July 2016 as the preferred bidder for the £700m overhaul and expansion of the terminal, beating off BEGGI UK which is currently working on ‘Airport City’.

The plan also includes new stands and piers as well as improvements to Terminal 3 and a direct link provided by airside transfer facilities to and from Terminal 2 to meet the increase in demand. The transformation will ensure that the airport plays its part in driving economic growth and developments as a key part of the UK transport infrastructure.

In the new book ‘Manchester Airport Through Time’ from Amberley Publishing (978-1445663906), the history of what is now the third largest International Airport in the UK is unfolded and supported with a balance of period and contemporary original photographs.

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John Fishwick Leeming (8 January 1895 – 3 July 1965), a businessman and early aviator, along with nine friends, founded the Lancashire Aero Club (LAC) – the oldest established flying club in the country – at Alexandra Park Aerodrome in 1922. Daily scheduled flights were already being made to Croydon Airport by Daimler Airways, and Leeming wanted to impress the vision of growing success for this local airport on the minds of businessmen and councillors.

Alexandra Park Aerodrome hangars in 1923 looking West

Alexandra Park Aerodrome hangars in 1923 looking West

He had already designed and built his own single-seat high-wing monoplane glider with the help of friends and fellow glider builders Tom Prince and Clement Wood, but when the wartime lease ended in 1925, so did his hopes for Alexandra Park. The club moved to Woodford Aerodrome upon invitation from the Avro Aircraft Company (where there was also a good source of spares).

John F Leeming, a director of Northern Air Lines Ltd (in the top hat) with a delegation of Manchester’s Civic officials at Croydon receiving the licence for Manchester’s aerodrome from Sir Samuel Hoare on 22 April 1929

John F Leeming, a director of Northern Air Lines Ltd (in the top hat) with a delegation of Manchester’s Civic officials at Croydon receiving the licence for Manchester’s aerodrome from Sir Samuel Hoare on 22 April 1929

There, the club acquired its first two powered aircraft – de Havilland DH.60 Moths. LAC were requested to vacate Woodford at the start of the Second World War and moved to Barton, where all of their aircraft were impounded for the duration of the war. Post-war, the club started up again, initially using Auster Autocrat and de Havilland Tiger Moth aircraft. LAC moved to Kenyon Hall Farm (near Wigan) in 2007, which has a single 580m by 30m grass strip (23/05), and is where they currently operate flying seasons between March and late October.

The aerodrome was closed to air traffic on 24 August 1945. Under the terms of the land lease laid down by Maurice Egerton, the 4th Baron Egerton of Tatton, flying was to cease within five years of the end of the war. The ancillary buildings that had been erected for training RAF personnel were converted to provide accommodation for around 100 single constables of the Manchester City Police because of a desperate shortage of housing for families of men returning from the war. Avro moved to Woodford airfield, and the hangars were demolished. The site remained undeveloped until the Hough End playing fields were laid out in 1945. A plaque commemorating the aerodrome’s existence hangs in the sports pavilion.

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