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Lancaster Taxy Pilots and Crew

LANCASTER TAXY PILOTS AND CREW

We have a good number of Ground crew, Pilots and Engineers who assist with the running of  Lancaster NX611 'Just Jane'. We have 6 Pilots all with extensive experience on the Lancaster and the operating of the aircraft is shared out between them.  During the taxy runs our ground engineer Keith acts as Flight Engineer to assist the pilots operating the Lancaster.

Keith BrenchleyKeith Brenchley (Ground and Flight Engineer)

I joined the RAF in 1977 as an engine technician and after training went on to work on Hawker Hunter aircraft at Brawdy and Lossiemouth. A posting in 1980 to RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall gave me the chance to work on the Nimrod aircraft with many detachments overseas. Eventually it was decided that I was to be posted to RAF Coningsby with the task of building and testing Phantom Spey engines at Woodhall Spa engine bay. This section closed in 1992 and I then moved to BBMF where my involvement with historic aeroplanes began. I feel very fortunate to have been involved with these iconic aircraft and been able to learn much more about the history and ethos of the RAF during World War 2 and meet the people who performed the heroic duties of those times.

I have been lucky enough to fly on many occasions in the BBMF Lancaster; this includes poppy drops over the channel and over the Mall in London also to Europe and the many air shows in the UK. The longest trip I had was five hours, this was cold, noisy and uncomfortable but did very much give me a very small insight into what the crews of these aeroplanes had to go through not counting all of the dangers they faced.

I now live near Sleaford with my wife Jayne and two grown up lads Nick and Garry. In my spare time I have built an all metal 1/6 scale radio controlled Tiger tank which can be seen in the museum. I also enjoy photography and playing golf. Over the last fourteen years I have also been looking after an airworthy two seat Spitfire, MJ627, which is based at RAF Waddington. This has been very much a spare time hobby, one which the whole family gets involved in.

In June 2011 I was given the chance to take over as Chief Engineer at LAHC and very much look forward to helping the owners achieve their aims with the museum and to help look after a piece of the nations heritage in the form of 'Just Jane'

 

Bob Mitchell (Airframes and ground crew)

Almost a local lad, my maternal Grand parents were from Bob MitchellMareham-le-fen and I was born and raised in Boston and educated in Kirton, I now live in Tattershall with my wife Joan. I joined the Royal Air Force at the age of 17 working on many types of aircraft, the last 8 years with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. On leaving the R A F I qualified as a CAA approved engineer, which has led to working on many types of both light aircraft and war birds with companies such as The Fighter Collection, The Real Aeroplane Company, North Weald Flying Services, The Aircraft Restoration
Company, Classic flight, Air Atlantique, (assisting with the major servicing of the BBMF Lancaster) covering a whole spectrum of work and positions, from shop floor oily rag to Chief Engineer.

Bob joined us in July 2010 as restoration engineer on many of our stored Lancaster parts.  He is also our airframes engineer for NX611 and is working towards restoring the Lancaster back to its original wartime configuration.

 Louise Bush (Taxy ride organiser and Guide)

Louise is grand daughter of Fred Panton and, along with her brother Andrew, works full time at the Centre looking after the museum and the Lancaster bookings.  Prior to taking on her current role at the Centre Louise completed a degree in Media Production which has  been beneficial in the production of some of the displays within the museum.  Louise organises the taxy ride days and is also a guide on board the Lancaster. 

Andrew Panton (Lancaster Pilot)Andrew Panton

Andrew has grown up with the Lancaster and the world of aviation inspiring him to carry on the work of Fred and Harold and maintain the Centre.
Andrew's aim was to join the RAF as a pilot, but as he did not meet the standards for eye sight; this was not to be, and so he has worked at the Centre as a career after leaving full time education.
Andrew has been working with the Lancaster for seven years and has qualified as a Lancaster taxy pilot after undergoing tutorage from Flt/Lt Mike Chatterton and passing the required fields as set by insurance regulations.  Andrew is now our resident Lancaster pilot and performs a good percentage of the taxy runs due to the operational responsibilities of our other pilots.
As well as working with the aircraft Andrew also organises and runs the events at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre.

Liz Dodds ((Lancaster Personnel Officer and Guide)

Liz joined the army in Sep 1990, completing 22 years' service in the UK, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands.
It was while she was posted to RAF Digby that's she became a guide then Deputy Curator of the LIMA Sector Operations Room Museum.  It was here she discovered WW2 aircraft.
Liz volunteered from 2008 to 2013 as road support crew at BBMF as well as working as part of the ground crew and maintenance team on a privately owned TRIX Spitfire.
Liz started with NX611 ‘Just Jane' in 2015 and hopes they will work well together!

Flt/Lt Ed Straw (Lancaster Pilot) Ed Straw Avro Lancaster Bomber Pilot of NX611 at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre East Kirkby

Ed joined the RAF in 1986 and, after completing pilot training, flew Sea King Helicopters in the SAR role at Manston, Boulmer and in the Falklands Islands. He was the RAF Sea King display pilot for two years (1994 and 1995) before becoming a Qualified Helicopter Instructor (QHI). Instructional tours at Shawbury and St Mawgan followed before his cross-over to fixed wing aircraft and to the E3-D AWACS in 1999. He has flown the E3-D on many operations in Afghanistan and throughout the Iraq conflict and serves on 8 Squadron at Waddington as an aircraft captain and the Squadron’s Air-to-Air Refueling Instructor. Ed is the Lancaster and Dakota captain for the BBMF and is on his sixth season. He started taxiing our Lancaster in 2007.

F/Lt Mike Leckey (Lancaster Pilot)                     

Mike was born in Belfast in 1965 and was educated at Belfast Royal Academy and Queen’s University. His interest in flying was sparked when he joined Queen’s University Air Squadron in 1983. He spent four very enjoyable years flying the Bulldog and accumulated just shy of 200Hrs. He joined the Air Force in Feb 1988, graduating from Officer Training in June of that year. Basic Flying Training at Linton on Ouse on the Jet Provost Mk3 and Mk5 followed, before Advanced Training on the Hawk at Valley. Tactical Weapons Training at Chivenor ended in 1991 and Mike was posted to 360Sqn at Wyton to fly the Canberra T17. Whilst there Mike met his future wife Naoko, who was studying English at Cambridge. 360Sqn disbanded in 1994 and Mike volunteered for instructional duties. When his instructor training was complete he was posted to Northumbrian University Air Squadron, based at Leeming. He missed flying the Canberra and quickly upgraded his instructional category to A2 as his ticket back to the Canberra on 39Sqn. The upgrade worked and in 1997 a posting to Marham transpired. He became the Sqn QFI and was responsible for training new crews to fly the PR9. After conversion Mike was immediately involved in operations over the former Yugoslavia. Survey detachments to Zimbabwe, Norway and Germany split up the operational sorties, flown from Southern Italy.

Mike joined the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in 2000 and was lucky enough to gain Lancaster Captaincy after his first season. PR9 operational flying continued in Iraq during Gulf War 2 when the Canberra was tasked with Scud hunting in the Western Desert. In 2003 Mike was posted to the Defence Elementary Flying Training School at Barkston Heath and joined ‘Army Squadron’ as the 2ic. A fatal Canberra accident at Marham necessitated Mike’s return to 39Sqn in 2004 where he remained until the Canberra was taken out of service in July 2006. Mike flew the last ever

operational sortie by a RAF Canberra over Afghanistan in June 2006. 55Sqn at Cranwell was Mikes next tour, training Navigators and Rear Crew on the Dominie. 

Time was called on BBMF in 2009 and Mike departed with 400Hrs Lancaster experience and a lot of good memories. Dominie flying ended in 2011 when SDSR removed the need for any new Navigators or Rear Crewmen. Mike then started

lecturing on Instructional Techniques at Cranwell until his current Posting to 45Sqn, as a Multi Engine instructor, occurred in July 2012.

Mike lives near Bourne with his wife and two children. He enjoys riding and restoring old motorbikes and tinkering with classic cars. 

 Flt/Lt Mike Chatterton (Lancaster Pilot) Mike Chatterton Avro Lancaster Bomber Pilot of NX611 at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre East Kirkby

Mike left the RAF in 2013 after 40 years service as a multi engine pilot and with over 10,000 flying hours. For his first Tour Mike volunteered to fly the Avro Shackleton in the AEW role thinking that would be as close as he would ever get to flying the Lancaster as his father John did in WW2. Then followed 8 years on the Maritime Nimrod at RAF Kinloss in the days of the Cold War tracking Russian submarines and surface ships, and in the Search and Rescue role.

To his great surprise and delight Mike was then asked to join the BBMF initially as a Lancaster Copilot and later Captain. This involved a posting to RAF Coningsby as an Operations Officer and flying BBMF aircraft as a Secondary Duty. Mike's period of duty on BBMF covered all the 50th anniversaries of WW2 and meant that he took part in many very special events including having the President of Israel (an ex WW2 Spitfire pilot) as a co-pilot for a VE50 flight and dropping a million poppies on Buckingham Palace for VJ50. During his 9 years on BBMF Mike accumulated 460 hours on the Lancaster and also flew the Devon, Dakota, and Chipmunk which he says were all great fun. Mike's last 16 years in the RAF were spent back on the Nimrod this time in the Electronic Reconnaissance role with 51 Sqn at RAF Waddington. He took part in Operations in The Balkans, Mediterranean, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, as well as several Training Exercises in America, and Europe. When the Nimrod was taken out of service in 2011 (prematurely in Mike's opinion!) he had the doubtful honour of being the World's last Nimrod pilot when he delivered the last two aircraft to museums. Although now fully retired Mike continues to fly as often as possible and takes Air Cadets flying with No 7 Air Experience Flight at RAF Cranwell every weekend, is an active member of the Waddington Flying Club with Cessnas, and can occasionally be seen arriving for a Taxi Run at East Kirkby in a 1939 Tiger Moth. When Just Jane started taxi runs at East Kirkby in 1995 Mike was the first pilot at the controls and has remained with us ever since. Mike is particularly proud to operate our Lancaster at East Kirkby as his father was based here in 1945 as a Lancaster Pilot Instructor with 57 and 630 Sqns.

 

 


Sqn/Ldr Rick Groombridge (Lancaster Pilot)


Rick Groombridge was born just as the Second World Rick Groombridge Avro Lancaster Bomber Pilot of NX611 at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre East KirkbyWar started. Maybe Herr Hitler was pre-warned as Rick was 'Bombed Out' at the age of three months. He was evacuated twice to Chichester, the second time to a cottage across the lane from RAF Tangmere's main satellite airbase, Merstham Airfield. "Quelle Finesse" says Rick who reckons they were bombed more there than they would have been in London!
He attended "Battersea Grammar School" in Streatham Hill, worked in a City Bank and then, expecting to be 'Called up' he joined the RAF in 1958, just before National Service was cancelled - ah well! He became a Russian Linguist on intelligence duties but cant tell us much about that, otherwise he would have to shoot us. As part of these duties he flew in some interesting aircraft to interesting places but was not pleased as the aircrew were on twice his pay, so he re-mustered and became a pilot, learning to fly on the Jet Provost, Vampire and Meteor, never touching a piston aircraft.

Immediately on graduating he was sent to be a 'creamed off' qualified flying instructor. (talk about blind leading the blind). As a reward for not killing any of his students he was sent direct to the new wonder jet, the "lightning", or, as he describes it "20 tons of screaming aluminum death tube". His summation, "A great sports car , but i would never want to go to war in one!" After surviving 1000 flying hours, on this he was sent off to do an exchange with the French, flying their Mirage III & IV. He only had French 'O' level but thinks the RAF decided that he had learnt to be a Russian Interpreter, French would be a doddle. After three glorious years of dashing around France, he came home to fly the mighty 'Phantom' the F4, a victory of shear power over aerodynamics! He flew 2000 hours on the F4, but in the middle did a 2 year slot instructing on the 'King Faisal Air Academy' in Sordid Arabia as he calls it.

After the F4, he switched straight across to the new 'Tornado F2 and F3' and flew this over 1500 hrs, when he was asked to learn to fly and display the BBMF Lancaster,. As he had never touched a piston engined or tail-wheeled aircraft apart from one mistaken solo in a Chipmunk, this was a bit of a challenge, but he hacked that and flying the DC3 Dakota. As he scornfully observes 'After 31 years of being a fighter pilot i had to descend to the level of being, not only a bomber pilot but also a 'Trucky' (transport pilot).

At the age of 58 he hung up his flying boots, but still, at 66, teaches aircrew the art of flying the Tornado using a flight simulator and taxies Just Jane as a hobby.

Flt Lt Loz Rushmere (Lancaster Pilot)

Loz joined the RAF in 1992, having previously flown the Bulldog with the University of London Air Squadron. After completing flying training on the Tucano and Jetstream, he was posted to the E-3D Sentry in 1998. Since then he has flown this aircraft in both operational and training roles all around the world. A Qualified Flying Instructor, he has trained pilots to fly both the King Air and the Sentry.

Between 2007 and 2014, Loz served with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, flying both the Dakota and Lancaster. Highlights included taking part in D-Day and Dambusters Anniversary events, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and Birthday Flypasts and the Poppy Drop at the inauguration of the Bomber Command Memorial in London. He was also honoured to meet many veterans of both Bomber and Fighter Commands.

After leaving the Memorial Flight, Loz was was asked back to fly in 'Vera', the Canadian Lancaster during her 2014 UK tour and shortly afterwards was invited to begin taxying duties in Just Jane. Loz considers himself very fortunate to have flown in or taxyed all three of the Lancasters present at East Kirkby during the wonderful 'Three Lancs' events of Summer 2014.


Loz takes great pleasure in taxying Just Jane and looks forward to meeting you at East Kirkby.

 

Alan Walker (Lancaster Pilot)

A new addition to the team Alan is technically retired but doesn't know when to give up!

A long career in commercial aviation saw him working initially in various aviation aircrew disciplines. Qualifying as a Flying Instructor followed, near Shannon initially, and latterly at Elstree where he taught Leonard (Mr Spock) Nimoy and the actress Lois (Miss Moneypenny) Maxwell to fly - amongst others.

A move to old Leavesden Aerodrome, in the very early 70s, saw him flying as a company/charter pilot, on light twin engined aircraft, whilst eagerly eyeing a career in the airlines. Good fortune smiled and a 40 year career as an airline pilot followed which saw him initially flying the Handley Page Herald, and Fokker Friendship, before transitioning onto the Lockheed Tri-Star for GulfAir in Bahrain where he lived for 13 years.

Returning home, to the UK he joined AIR 2000 on day one, at Manchester, and was a training captain for many years there on the B757. A move to Cathay Pacific Cargo, in 1996, was the swan song in commercial airline ops where he flew both the B747-200F and the B747-400F for 16 years until the mandatory retirement age was reached.

Now Alan teaches corporate bizjet pilots, in simulators at Farnborough, while still helping out as an occasional locum pilot on private jet ops.

As a fully paid up anorak Alan spent 25 years as a display pilot at Duxford where he flew a great variety of ex-military types.  Flying as Captain on the B17 saw him promoted to lead the formation during the filming of Memphis Belle which was a great honour to him. Many happy years followed flying Avengers, Corsairs, Spitfires and Mustangs, amongst other types, for the OFMC. His one true love there was the awesome Hawker Fury!

Now he is content to tootle around in his vintage Robin Dr220 based on an old WW2 airfield near his home in Bucks which conveys him to East Kirkby when the weather gods smile.

He is delighted to be on the team and is very much looking forward to helping out taxying Just Jane towards her bright future.

Jon Corley (Lancaster Pilot)

Originally trained as an electronics engineer at GEC-Marconi, Jon chased his childhood dream of becoming a pilot and in 1995 started his training as a Private Pilot. During evenings after work, he flew a friend's World War 2 Piper L-4. He soon realised that vintage aircraft were more challenging to fly well, and this is something he wanted to pursue more. Now with his pilot's licence, had a burning desire to fly the Blenheim and B-17 Flying Fortress that he saw grace the skies at various airshows he attended as a child. Looking into how he could follow that route, he found out about Air Atlantique that still operated the iconic DC-3 Dakota.

Less than a year later he had moved to Coventry starting a pilot cadet scheme with Air Atlantique, to become a commercial pilot. Once qualified, he moved on to the aerial reconnaissance part of the company flying Cessna twins, before being streamlined into the turbo-prop fleet for freight and VIP passengers on the Fairchild Metroliner.

The company was gradually building up its own collection of classic aircraft, and in 2005 he became the Chief Pilot for Atlantic Reconnaissance and for ‘Classic Flight', eventually being qualified on most of the aircraft they operate, as a display pilot, instructor and examiner. Types flown range from the Auster, Chipmunk and Prentice, on to twin engine Rapides, Dove, Avro Anson, Twin Pioneer and DC-3, and even on ex-military jets such as Jet Provost, Vampire, Venom and Gloster Meteor. Although not flying, Jon became involved in taxiing the Avro Shackleton and Douglas DC-6. Outside of Air Atlantique he has also qualified on the Howard 500, Beech 18, Grumman Widgeon and Albatross, and the T-6 Harvard.

Sadly, all good things come to an end, the collection of aircraft at Coventry is gradually being sold off. Jon has moved into the corporate aircraft sector flying Citation business jets around Europe, whilst still being involved in other classic aircraft in his spare time as a display pilot and instructor.

2016 is Jon's first season on the Lancaster, hopefully with many more to come.