Let's be honest with each other. No completely sane person would ever contemplate restoring an old aircraft. They're fragile, complex, and incredibly demanding. Anyone who would voluntarily turn up at a freezing airfield with the specific aim of sacrificing yet more knuckle skin to a seized bolt that last moved when Bill Haley was still only half way round the clock has be three spanners short of a toolbox.
So why are we doing it? Quite simply, because if we don't who will? There's no National Trust for historic aeroplanes, no official body of any sort to protect these irreplaceable treasures. But they come from a time when air travel was still an adventure. When magical names like BOAC, BEA and TWA conjured visions of sun-blessed beaches on hand-painted posters that were works of art in their own right.
Half a century may seem a short time, but it's almost half the time powered flight has existed. When airliners like the Handley Page Herald first flew, barely fifty years had passed since the Wright Brothers' first flight. Back then no one would have doubted that the Wright Flyer and its contemporaries were important enough to preserve. Should we not feel the same responisibility for aircraft from the dawn of the jet age?
We're a dedicated bunch of committed, motivated, and possibly certifiably unbalanced people who have banded together to make a positive effort to preserve our aviation heritage. We formed the UK Heritage Aviaition Trust in 2017 and set about the long and complex task of becoming an approved and registered charity. It was a proud moment when, in January 2018, that milestone was achieved. Charitable status does much more than provide a vehicle for attracting donations. It's a validation that the funds we receive will be subject to official scrutiny, meaning every penny must be spent responsibly in support of our aims.
And we're aiming high. We chose our motto, 'Try for the Sky', with care. Every project we take on has the ultimate aim of putting a historic aircraft back in the sky. We won't always achieve that goal - that would take bottomless funding, which we're a long, long way from possessing. But to rule out the possibility of flight from the outset would be planning for second-best. So we regard every milestone along the road of restoration to be another step towards the clouds. And every step is a success in itself.
Our first project is the Handley Page Herald that once graced the rooftop Skyview Terrace at Gatwick. Thanks to the kindness and support of the airport's fire service, we're planning to move this fifty-year-old beauty to a new home. There she'll be painstakingly dismantled, restored and rebuilt. She'll start as a static, visitor-accessible exhibit, but given fair winds, we hope to bring her back to life with engine runs and possibly even taxi demonstrations.
And, who knows? One day she could once again head skyward.