UK Lancaster Bomber Tour 2014 by Mike Charters

Petwood

UK Lancaster Bomber Tour 2014 by Mike Charters

As the director of maintenance I work on a variety of business jets and helicopters, but I cut my aviation teeth starting at age 14 on something very near and dear to my heart …warplanes!

I became involved with the Canadian Warplane Heritage museum at Hamilton airport in 1981. Over the years it was this love of aviation that ultimately steered me to the career choice I made as an aircraft maintenance engineer.

Earlier this year I was asked to be part of the maintenance support crew to the museum’s Lancaster Bomber which was to tour England for seven weeks. My turn would be for two weeks of the seven. The Lancaster is one of two flying Lancaster’s out of 7,377 built during WWII.

I arrived in England August 17th after a night flight and made my way towards RAF Coningsby, which our Lancaster was calling home for the Tour with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight collection. The BBMF operate the other airworthy Lancaster in the UK.

Once to our hotel the “Petwood” in Woodhall Spa, I was astounded by its beauty and history. The Petwood hotel was unique in history being the officer’s mess for 617 Dambusters squadron lead by Guy Gibson. If ever in England I highly recommend staying at this beautiful historic hotel if ever in that area.

 

Petwood

(The “Petwood” Hotel)

The job I was tasked with was to act as one of the ground crew, to perform the 25 hour inspection, and to carry out maintenance as needed. For a 69 year old bomber, she is in excellent shape and we found only small minor items to address during its 25 hour inspection. I am currently one of 3 currently qualified Lancaster endorsed aircraft maintenance engineers in Canada.

Dawlish

(Dawlish Airshow Flyby)

BournemouthEngland

(Bournemouth England with myself and Randy Straughn Crew Chief)

I had the opportunity to fly numerous times with the aircraft and enjoyed seeing the BBMF Lancaster flying with us, along with a Spitfire and Hurricane fighters. In my life I have made a habit of scratching things off the proverbial bucket list, but never did I ever think I would be flying over the English countryside in a Lancaster bomber like those that operated out of the many old bases I was seeing from the air during World War II.

BBMF

(BBMF Lancaster)

Many of us agreed we now know what celebrities feel like as the people of England greeted us as such, they couldn’t thank us enough, autographs, photos taken with the people, but one of my favorite parts of this trip was meeting the many veterans who came out to see us at many of the events. Their stories are the ones for future generations to remember what they served for. The children I often talked to at the fences at the airports were also in awe of the aircraft and our stories and the fact we flew this old bomber over the Atlantic Ocean to share with them. My pocket soon emptied of the Canadian pins I brought with me as the children’s faces lit up with their memory of the Canadian Lancaster when I presented them with one. Those children are the ones we pass the torch to so they can carry on the history and remembrance of those that served their countries.

gunner

(52 Mission Tail gunner veteran)

We had an unfortunate set back when the supercharger on the #4 engine failed and we ended up changing the engine with a loaned engine from the RAF.

crew

(52 Mission Tail gunner veteran)

We had an unfortunate set back when the supercharger on the #4 engine failed and we ended up changing the engine with a loaned engine from the RAF.

The super charger failed while we were staging out of Durham Tees Airport which was a former World War II Lancaster base RAF Middleton St. George. An interesting fact about the former RAF base was the Lancaster we operate is painted as a 419 Squadron Lancaster, which was based out of Middleton St. George during the war. We were then changing the engine in a hangar which was used during the war to hangar and service Lancaster’s and is supposedly haunted. Some of the crew felt we had company while changing the engine, I felt we likely had our veterans from our past watching over us to make sure we did it right! The exceptional crew we had, changed the engine in 4 days and had the aircraft back flying to finish the tour, but my time in England was up.

Lancaster

(Lancaster X FM213 C-GVRA)

spitfire

(BBMF Spitfire Mk XVIIII)

lancastercockpit

(Lancster MK I PA474 Cockpit)

spirtfireLancasterX

(Lancaster X FM213 with Mk XVI and Mk XVIII Spitfires)

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