Carlisle Lake District Airport
At the outbreak of the Second World War on 1 September 1939, the runway of RAF Kingstown, the only airbase in the Carlisle area, was too small to accommodate bomber squadrons, so a new airstrip was constructed at Crosby-on-Eden. The new facility which became operational, initially as a training base, in February 1941 was designated RAF Crosby-on-Eden. The first unit stationed there was No. 59 Operational Training Unit, which provided day training for Hawker Hurricane pilots.
Coastal Command took over in August 1942 and began training long-range fighter crews on Bristol Beaufort and Bristol Beaufighter conversion squadrons, as well as teaching air-gunnery and nighttime flying. In August 1944 the base came under the command of 109 OTU, a transport command operating Douglas Dakotas but once the war ended the RAF station was superfluous.
It was closed in 1947 with the airfield transferring to civilian hands to continue as a municipal airport. It wasn`t until many years later, following the site`s acquisition by Cumberland County Council that it was renamed Carlisle Airport. After a short refurbishment programme it was licensed in 1961 for training purposes and civilian flights to destinations including London, the Channel Islands, Belfast and the Isle of Man. Scheduled services did not prove profitable, however, and they eventually ended. Since May 2009, the airport has been owned by the Stobart Group on a 150-year lease, expiring 2151. Between December 2014 and September 2015, a £12 million freight distribution centre was built on the south-eastern corner of the site, which is now leased to Eddie Stobart Logistics.
Most of the original RAF structures remain intact today although the runway`s length and weight prevent some types aircraft, especially larger types landing. Carlisle Airport still sees a fair amount of military traffic each year, whether landing or pilots doing go-arounds or touch-and-goes while training. The airfield often becomes a temporary helicopter base during large-scale military exercises such as Joint Warrior.
On 4 July 2019, scheduled passenger flights returned to Carlisle for the first time in more than 25 years thanks to Loganair. Airport owner Stobart Group had planned to relaunch services in June 2018, but faced problems recruiting sufficient numbers of air traffic control staff. Now Scottish-based carrier Loganair has launched routes to Dublin, Belfast and London Southend from the airport which is a gateway to the Lake District, northern England and Scotland`s Borders Region.
It`s hoped the new flights will encourage thousands of tourists to use Carlisle Airport as a springboard for exploring the surrounding countryside which holds numerous attractions. (Above image © Mirror Group).
23-24 August 2019
On the afternoon of Saturday 24 August 2019, on the way back from Manchester, I popped in to Carlisle Lake District Airport for the first time to check out the new terminal and the Solway Aviation Museum. Two Loganair Estonian-registered Saab 340Bs were basking in the sunshine, one of which ES-NSD is now in the airline`s tartan colour scheme. The other, ES-NSC had been covering flights from Glasgow for a time before moving south but I didn`t manage to photograph it closer to home. Both aircraft are owned by NyxAir, a passenger charter carrier based at Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport (TLL). Operations began in August last year. The only other aircraft on the apron was Gulfstream Aerospace G650 8P-ASD (ex N645GA), a noteworthy visitor registered in Barbados.
A couple of locally-based light aircraft were up circuit-bashing. SOCATA TB-10 Tobago G-BGXD (below) was one of several residents parked at the General Aviation terminal which is on the far side of the airfield next to the Museum.
Solway Aviation Museum
The Solway Aviation Museum has a fairly small but impressive collection of mainly military aircraft and unlike most museums, visitors are encouraged to go inside many of the planes and check out their interiors. It`s a rare chance to sit in the cockpits of a Canberra and Vulcan bomber amongst others. The staff, all enthusiastic volunteers, are very friendly and only too happy to give you the low-down on individual aircraft. Access to the Vulcan is only possible during one of the guided Vulcan tours which run throughout the day. The museum occupies two buildings, one housing the reception, shop and indoor exhibits with the other serving as an indoor aircraft restoration centre. The displays charting the incredible aviation heritage of the airport and the surrounding area, including RAF bases across the border in Dumfries and Galloway, are particularly interesting. A visit here is highly recommended and I hope to return in the not too distant future and peruse the exhibits at a more leisurely pace.
English Electric Canberra T.4 WE188. During its career, this particular aircraft served at RAF Hemswell, RAF Waddington and RAF Upwood, ending up at Samlesbury before being acquired by the museum. I remember passing the latter aerodrome which is located near Blackburn, Lancashire, in its heyday when Canberras, sometimes well into double figures, were present. The Canberra was the first aircraft designed and built wholly by English Electric. Samlesbury was a busy WW2 airfield and in the years after the conflict ended, aircraft such as the De Havilland Vampire, the Canberra, and the English Electric Lightning were built on the site.
Parts for the Anglo-French Concorde and the ill fated BAC TSR2 project were also produced there. When English Electric merged to become BAC and later British Aerospace, it worked closely with the nearby sister plant at BAE Warton, and the former BAE factory in Preston on building the Sepecat Jaguar and Panavia Tornado.
The Canberra was initially designed as a first-generation jet-powered medium bomber and first flew on 13 May 1949, entering service with the RAF in May 1951. A total of 900 were built in the UK, 49 in Australia and 403 in the USA, in the case of the latter two countries, under licence. Throughout most of the 1950s, the Canberra could fly at a higher altitude than any other aircraft in the world. In 1957, a Canberra established a world altitude record of 70,310 feet (21,430 m). In February 1951, another Canberra set another world record when it became the first jet aircraft to make a non-stop transatlantic flight.
In addition to being a tactical nuclear strike aircraft, the Canberra proved to be highly adaptable, serving in varied roles such as tactical bombing and photographic and electronic reconnaissance. Canberras served in the Suez Crisis, the Vietnam War, the Falklands War, the Indo-Pakistani wars, and numerous African conflicts. In several wars, each of the opposing sides had Canberras in their air forces. Military operators included Argentina, France, India, New Zealand, Rhodesia, South Africa and Sweden. The RAF retired the last of its Canberras in June 2006, 57 years after its first flight. Several US examples (Martin B-57s) still remain in service with NASA, performing meteorological work.
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom was an all-weather interceptor / fighter-bomber originally developed for the US Navy. During the aircraft`s production run between 1958 and 1981, a total of 5,195 were built and F-4s saw extensive use with not only the US Navy but also the US Marines and US Air Force. The F-4 proved itself during the Vietnam War and in addition to being the principle US air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, it was found to be equally efficient in the ground-attack and reconnaissance roles. The F-4 was also widely exported and served in the air arms of Australia, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Iran, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and of course the United Kingdom. Phantoms remained a major component of US military air power throughout the 1970s and 1980s during which time many were based in England at bases such as Alconbury and Lakenheath. Although F-4`s were gradually replaced with F-14s, F-15s, F16s and F/A-18s, Wild Weasel versions of the Phantom, used to suppress enemy air defences, remained in service until 1996.
The Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm both had their own versions which differed from their American counterparts in that they were powered by the British Rolls-Royce Spey engine and had British-made avionics. The UK was the only country outside the United States to operate the Phantom at sea, launching them from HMS Ark Royal. The museum`s example is Phantom FGR.2 XV406 in the colours of 228 OCU, RAF. Initially, the FGR.2 was used in the ground-attack and reconnaissance role, primarily with RAF Germany, The superiority of the Phantom over the English Electric Lightning in terms of both range and weapon load, combined with the successful introduction of the SEPECAT Jaguar, meant that, during the mid-1970s, most of the ground attack Phantoms in Germany were redeployed to the UK to replace air defence Lightning squadrons.
When I visited the museum an intrepid band of volunteers were in the process of reattaching underwing drop-tanks to the aircraft.
The path from the reception building leads past this cluster of aircraft to the Vulcan bomber.
The Hawker Hunter was developed in the 1950s as a single-seat fighter but fighter-bomber, reconnaissance and two-seater training versions were also produced. Almost 2,000 Hunters were built and although introduced at the height of the Cold War, Hunters remained in service with the RAF and Royal Navy in non front-line squadrons until the early 1990s. Like the Vampire (see below), the Hunter was widely exported and customers included India, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Chile and Iraq. This is Hawker Hunter F.51 E-425, an ex-Danish Air Force example. It was one of a batch of 30 built for the Danes as a daytime interceptor, light bomber & trainer. This particular aircraft first flew in 1956, and was delivered to Esk.724 based at Karup, Jutland, in 1958.
The Hunter F.1 became operational with the Royal Air Force in July 1954. It was the first high-speed jet aircraft equipped with radar and fully powered flight controls to go into widespread service with the RAF. The Hunter was designed as a replacement for the Gloster Meteor, the Canadair Sabre, and the de Havilland Venom jet fighters.
A number of shortcomings in the initial design came to light but these were addressed resulting in a superb, highly capable aircraft that was extremely popular with its pilots. On 7 September 1953, the modified first prototype broke the world air speed record for aircraft, achieving a speed of 727.63 mph (1,171.01 km/h; 632.29 kn).
Initially, low internal fuel capacity restricted the Hunter's performance, giving it only a maximum flight endurance of about an hour. To address the problem of range, a production Hunter F.1 was fitted with a modified wing featuring bag-type fuel tanks in the leading edge and "wet" hardpoints. The resulting Hunter F.4 first flew on 20 October 1954, and entered service less than 6 months later. A distinctive Hunter feature added on the F.4 was the pair of blisters under the cockpit, which collected spent ammunition links to prevent airframe damage. The Hunter was used by two famous RAF display teams; the Black Arrows and the Blue Diamonds. On one occasion the `Arrows made a record breaking loop with a formation of 22 aircraft.
The Gloster Meteor was the first operational British jet fighter and although the Germans had several types of jet propelled aircraft in service towards the end of World War 2, this was only Allied jet fighter to see combat during the conflict. The British Meteor made its maiden flight in 1943 when the war was at its height and commenced operations on 27 July 1944 with 616 Squadron RAF. The new jet was initially used to counter the V-1 flying bomb threat and following some technical issues, especially with jamming guns, the first two V-1 "kills" were made on 4 August. By war's end, Meteors had accounted for 14 flying bombs.
The next-generation Meteor F.4 prototype first flew on 17 May 1945, and went into production in 1946 by which time 16 RAF squadrons were already equipped with Meteors. Because of increased demand, F.4 production was divided between Gloster and Armstrong Whitworth. The majority of early F.4s did not go to the RAF: 100 were exported to Argentina, seeing action on both sides in the 1955 revolution. In the 1950s, Meteors were developed into effective photo-reconnaissance, training and night fighter versions, the latter type including Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF.14 WS832, which is now on display at Carlisle. NF Mk.14 was the final night fighter version of the Meteor, featuring an improved clear-vision sliding canopy and slightly more powerful engines than the earlier NF Mk.12. The NF Mk.14 also featured an auto-stabiliser, which much improved its stability at high altitude and was the first night fighter variant to carry ejector seats. The Meteor NF Mk.14 began to be replaced by the Gloster Javelin during 1957, with the last UK-based squadron changing over during 1959. From then until 1965 a number of NF Mk.14s served as trainers.
Percival Sea Prince T.1 WP309. The Sea Prince is a version of the Percival Prince, a family of small twin radial engined transport aircraft, the first of which made its maiden flight on 13 May 1948. An improved version of the Prince 3 with an increased wingspan and engine and undercarriage modifications was developed for the Royal Air Force as the Percival Pembroke. The Sea Prince, based on the Prince 3, was produced in three versions for the Royal Navy with the T.1 having a longer nose housing radar, twin-wheeled main undercarriage and lengthened engine nacelles.
The Sea Prince T.1 was used primarily for radar, navigation and anti-submarine warfare training. A total of 41 T.1s were built for the Royal Navy along with just three C.1 and four C.2 transport versions. These were land-based only and not COD (carrier on-board delivery) capable. Sea Princes operated in both roles from 1954 to 1972 and as a navigation trainer until 1978, when it was replaced by the Prestwick-produced Handley Page Jetstream.
Another iconic aircraft from the Cold War era is the English Electric Lightning. I still remember the noise they made on takeoff at the Leuchars Battle of Britain airshows during the early and mid-1970s. The Solway Aviation Museum has Lightning F.53 ZF583 on display which is an ex-Royal Saudi Air Force example, serial number 53-681. It last flew on 14 January 1986 and arrived at its current location in January 1989. It`s now in the colours of 11 Squadron RAF.
Below: The first of 734 Jet Provosts produced flew in June 1954, taking to the air from the manufacturer`s factory at Luton Airport. The type was designed as a jet trainer and it remained in use with the Royal Air Force from 1955 to 1993. It was originally developed by Hunting Percival from the earlier piston engine-powered Percival Provost basic trainer, and later produced by the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC). In addition to multiple RAF orders, the Jet Provost, often with light armament, was exported to many air forces worldwide. The design was also further developed into a more heavily armed ground attack variant under the name BAC Strikemaster.
Jet Provost T.4 XS209/29 8409M was one of the 185 aircraft ordered from Hunting Percival by the RAF. It was fitted with the more powerful Armstrong Siddeley (later Rolls Royce) Viper Mk-22 engine. She was delivered to RAF Manby on the 4th February 1964, which was home to the College of Air Warfare. The following year, the College formed a Jet Provost T.4 aerobatic display team named `The Magistrates`. The team's planes were painted in standard silver-orange colour scheme. The team was renamed prior to the start of the 1968 display season and became `The Macaws` from the first letters of the Unit, MAnby College of Air Warfare. The planes, including the Solway Aviation Museum`s example, were painted in grey and red special livery. In 1969 the team`s aircraft were repainted in white, red and grey with a parrot painted at the nose. As well as entertaining the crowds at UK airshows, the Macaws visited other countries including Germany and France but were disbanded in 1973.
Hawker Siddeley HS.121 Trident 1C G-ARPP first flew on 12 February 1965 and began operations with BEA later that month. It became part of the British Airways fleet in April 1974 and flew until 23 February 1983 when it was withdrawn from use and scrapped at Glasgow Airport, ending up on the fire dump to serve as a training aid for the airport fire and rescue service. Over the years that followed, the airframe was gradually reduced with the tail section being the first to go. The remains were cut-up and removed in the summer of 2003 with the nose ending up in the care of the Dumfries & Galloway Aviation Museum. The nose was transferred to its current location in July 2006 where it now serves as an outdoor exhibit near the museum buildings.
Below: Sikorsky S.55 WV198/K is the sole survivor of the original Sikorsky built Whirlwinds and is the only example to be preserved in a UK museum. This ex-Fleet Air Arm Whirlwind HAR.21 started out as a Sikorsky HRS-2, Serial No. 55-289, with the US Navy having been built in 1952 and delivered in October of that year. It was transferred to the UK soon after, however, and allocated its British military serial WV198. It immediately moved to the Far East and was assigned to HMS Perseus, a Colossus-class light fleet aircraft carrier, and served during the Malayan Emergency, better known in military circles as `Operation Firedog`.
On return to the UK in 1957, this helicopter was based at RNAS Donibristle, Fife, then Culdrose and Lee-on-Solent, eventually becoming an instructional airframe. It also spent time with the Gosport Sea Scouts then served as a training aid at the National Fire School, Chorley. Apparently WV198 also had a starring role in the Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket (1987) as US Marines HRS-3 130191! It was transferred to its current location in November 1992.
Above: This may be the cockpit of DHC Chipmunk T.10 WB670.
The RAF`s "V bombers" , the Vickers Valiant, the Avro Vulcan and the Handley Page Victor, comprised the United Kingdom's strategic nuclear strike force during the 1950s and 1960s. `V Force` reached its peak in June 1964 with 50 Valiants, 70 Vulcans and 39 Victors in service. Now the RAF Museum at Cosford, Shropshire, is the only place in the UK where you can see an example of Great Britain`s three iconic `V` Bombers together. The Valiant, BK.1 XD818 is the only remaining full example of its type left in the world although several Vulcans and Victors remain preserved. The Solway Aviation Museum`s star attraction isAvro Vulcan B.2 XJ823 which was delivered to No 27 Squadron at Scampton on 20 April 1961. It also served at RAF Coningsby, RAF Waddington and Akrotiri in Cyprus.
During the Falklands War of 1982 Vulcans such as this one mounted raids which, at almost 6,600 nautical miles (12,200 km) and 16 hours for the return journey, were the longest-ranged bombing missions in history at that time. Codenamed Operation Black Buck a total of five strike missions were successfully carried out, the most-famous being the bombing attacks on Port Stanley airfield, the Island`s capital. The attacks were launched from Ascension Island with Victor tankers providing support. Other missions targeted Argentine facilities including radar installations and the raids convinced the invaders to remove their fast attack jets from the Islands and station them at distant bases on the mainland. The museum`s Vulcan was based on Ascension Island during the conflict, serving as a back-up aircraft.
The small Restoration Hangar is crammed with aircraft, this one being the Mignet HM.14 Flying Flea, BAPC-231 / G-ADRX. The Flying Flea (Pou du Ciel literally "Louse of the Sky" in French) is a large family of light homebuilt aircraft first flown in 1933. The odd name comes from the French nickname for the Ford Model T motor car, "Pou de la Route" or "Louse of the Road" because Henry Ford's economy car was so common. Henri Mignet dreamed of creating a Model T of the air, an aeroplane for the common man, hence "Pou du Ciel." In the English translation, the term became "Flying Flea." Shortly after the plans appeared in 1934, many enthusiasts in Europe and the USA began to build their own aircraft. In 1936 it was estimated the cost of construction was approximately £75 and that some five hundred examples were under construction in Britain. During the late 1930s, however, many Fleas crashed when pilots were unable to recover from shallow dives, resulting in some deaths. As a result, Flying Fleas were grounded and even banned from flight permanently in some countries.
On the right above is Slingsby TX.1 Grasshopper `WZ784`. This British primary training glider was built by Slingsby Sailplanes as the T.38 for the Royal Air Force. The design is based on the pre-World War II German SG 38 Schulgleiter, modified to use the wing design of the Slingsby T.7 Kirby Cadet glider. The design was cheap to manufacture and the glider could be easily dismantled for storage. The type was used by Air Training Corps Squadrons between 1952 and the late 1980s. The RAF designated the glider the Grasshopper TX.1, and the first order was for 65 aircraft, which were delivered in 1952 and 1953. It was later followed by two further orders for an additional 50 aircraft with the final delivery was made in 1963. Launch was achieved through the use of a V-shaped bungee or elastic rope pulled by a team of helpers or a powered winch.
Above: Chipmunk WB584 is actually a composite. The original aircraft was constructed as a Chipmunk T.10 by de Havilland at Broughton, Chester, and became operational with the Royal Air Force on 28 March 1960. Just over 10 years later, on 1 December 1960, it was withdrawn from flying duties to become an instructional airframe at RAF Turnhouse, Edinburgh, having been allocated the maintenance number 7706M. Sometime in 1963 it moved to the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune where it remained for many years before being transferred to Carlisle. In 2009, it was mated to the rear fuselage of Chipmunk WG303.
This is de Havilland Vampire T.11 WZ515. The Vampire was the first single engine jet fighter to enter service with the RAF. The prototype made its maiden flight on 20th September 1943 and F.1s entered service in April 1946. In 1948 these were replaced by the more capable F.3s. Ground attack, night fighter and two-seater training versions like this one followed.
The Vampire became the first jet aircraft to land and takeoff from an aircraft carrier and was the first jet aircraft to make a crossing of the Atlantic. Vampires served with various Air Forces around the globe and carrier-capable Sea Vampires were produced for the Royal Navy.
Cessna 152 G-BNNR and Montgomeire Benson B-8M Gyrocopter G-BRHL. Slingsby Grasshopper TX.1 WZ784 (not photographed) is also on display in the Restoration Hangar.
Bede BD-5B G-BDTT. This unusual-looking aircraft was designed by American Jim Bede who first introduced it to the market in kit form in the early 1970s. The BD-5 was originally intended to be built from moulded fibreglass with a Perspex canopy, but was later designed and built of aluminium to facilitate ease of construction and provide extra strength.
Due to the compact fuselage, the engine could only be fitted in the space behind the pilot. The museum`s example has its propeller removed which gives the plane the appearance of a jet but there was a jet-powered variant, designated rather unimaginatively the BD-5J.
Despite a healthy order book only a few hundred of the kit versions were actually completed due to the company's bankruptcy in the mid-1970s, although many of these aircraft are still airworthy today. The BD-5J version holds the record for the world's lightest single-engine jet aircraft, weighing only 358.8 lb (162.7 kg).
Auster J/5L Aiglet Trainer G-APLG dates from 1958. This particular aircraft remained in civilian hands throughout its career but military versions served as invaluable aerial platforms for artillery spotting and communications duties. The plane could operate from fields and roads, enabling it to keep up with a rapidly moving advance and its slow loiter speed allowed it`s pilot to report on the accuracy of an artillery strike real-time and radio-in any necessary adjustments. The main threat to these observation aircraft was from ground troops as the spotters`standard operating height was fairly low, a requirement to make them less visible to enemy fighters.
Finally, the following slideshow features just some of the other internal exhibits including engines, uniforms, ejector seats, weapons and model aircraft...