OAPs fear for World War I plane after museum ‘eviction’

A BAND of pensioners who volunteered at the National Museum of Flight in East Fortune for over 40 years before being asked to leave have branded bosses “totally incapable” over concerns that the collection is being allowed to deteriorate without their specialist care.

Friday, 25th January 2019, 2:36 pm
Updated Saturday, 26th January 2019, 3:25 pm
Members of the Aviation Preservation Society of Scortland work on the Sopwith biplane
Members of the Aviation Preservation Society of Scortland work on the Sopwith biplane

Dr John Guy, 80, has escalated his fears to Iain Gray, Labour MSP for East Lothian in the hopes that Scotland’s aviation heritage can be salvaged.

Dr Guy, a retired consultant orthopaedic surgeon from North Berwick, said: “We were evicted last March. They told us that they did not need our services any more although we had helped to start the museum 43 years ago.”

He and other members of the Aviation Preservation Society of Scotland (APSS), all aged between 60 and 94, used their collective amateur engineering expertise to maintain the exhibits including a WWII Bristol Beaufighter bomber, and build a WWI Sopwith 1½ Strutter biplane, which is near completion.

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Members of the Aviation Preservation Society of Scortland work on the Sopwith biplane

But now concern is growing over the aircraft that remain at the East Fortune site, with Dr Guy sharing photographs of the deterioration with the Evening News.

He said: “They are totally incapable of managing the collection themselves. There are birds’ nests in the Comet’s wings. I could push my fingers through the hole because of corrosion.”

Although a new hangar to house the aircraft has been promised, Dr Guy believes that the de havilland Comet, the world’s first passenger plane, and a Vulcan bomber will be past saving.

He said: “They say that a new hangar is proposed but before then I’m afraid that these two iconic aircraft are going to be scrapped.

“I am most concerned about the Scottish aviation heritage which is being grossly mismanaged.”

A spokeswoman for National Museums Scotland said: “We have assisted with the APSS’s project to build a replica Sopwith 1½ Strutter by providing them with space. As the project neared completion, a larger space was required for the aircraft to be finished.

“Our top priority is always the care of the National Collection. Plans are being developed to build a new hangar which will allow aircraft to be brought undercover.

“In the meantime, our conservation team are closely monitoring the condition of these aircraft.”

Iain Gray MSP said: “Mr Guy’s main concern was the deterioration of aircraft currently kept outside at the museum, and the long term plan for the Bristol Beaufighter which the museum purchased several years ago. I have been in correspondence with the director of NMS who has assured me that the current plans for a new hangar will see the civil aircraft housed in time to save them, and that there are still plans to refurbish and display the Beaufighter.”