LANCASTER 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 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 Mareham-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 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.
Sean Taylor (Lancaster Personnel Officer and Guide)
Sean's interest, knowledge and passion for historic aviation stems from his family's involvement in the RAF during WW2. His Grandfather served with 88 Squadron, Bomber Command on Bostons. His wife's uncle was a Navigator with 254 Squadron, Coastal Command on Beaufighters and his other Grandfather attempted to enlist but was declared medically unfit. Not to be deterred by this, and being a skilled cabinet maker, he went on to do his bit building De Havilland Mosquito's.
Sean is a designer and photographer and stands in on the Lancaster for Andrew as often as he can. He gives tours of the Lancaster and organises the living history aspects of the events at East Kirkby alongside Andrew. He does talks at the museum demonstrating the historic uniforms, flying kit, ground crew and airfield equipment used by Bomber Command during WW2.
Sean passionately feels that the Men and Women from the Commonwealth and Dominion Forces that served during WW2 have left us with a debt that we can't repay and that he has a duty to tell their stories whenever possible to keep their memory alive and to never let their courage, humour, spirit and resourcefulness be forgotten.
Flt/Lt Ed Straw (Lancaster Pilot)
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 Mike’s 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 is one of our current RAF Pilot still amassing hours. He flies Nimrods from RAF Waddington, and tries to get to us as often as he can to pilot 'Just Jane'.
Mike flew the Battle of Britain Lancaster in the 1990's and amassed over 500 flying hours making him our most experienced pilot on type.
Mike has a special connection with East Kirkby and the Lancaster because his late father John Chatterton flew from here a couple of times during the war on Lancasters (but was based mainly at Syerston and Dunholme Lodge). We think that they must have been the only father-son team that have flown Lancasters.
Flt/Lt John Sully (Lancaster Pilot)
John has flown a great number of aircraft including the Hastings with Sqn Ldr Jacko Jackson. He now teaches private pilots on aircraft such as the Cessna, and gives up some of his time to taxy 'Just Jane' on our special taxi days. John has amassed a great number of hours and is possibly the pilot with the most flying hours that taxis our Lancaster.
Sqn/Ldr Rick Groombridge (Lancaster Pilot)
Rick Groombridge was born just as the Second World War 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.
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