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For months, rumours about the future of Bruntingthorpe airfield (UK) have been buzzing around. Almost coinciding with the COVID-19 lockdown, it was officially announced in April 2020: the curtain has fallen. The homebase of the well known Cold War Jets Museum and the Lightning Preservation Group was closed and is very unlikely to be reopened. The site, notorious for these collections and their fast taxi runs, has found a new owner. The company, Cox Automotive, has bought the premises from the previous owners, C. Walton Ltd. Cox recognises the concern within the aviation community, but indicates that aviation is "not our business". Mr David Walton, one of the owners of C. Walton Ltd, is currently exploring possibilities to construct new buildings adjacent to the LPG ‘Q Shed’ (QRA – Quick Reaction Alert hangar for their Lightnings). These new buildings would be meant to house some of the collection and safeguard the collection's future now it is excluded from the Cox Automotive lease. News of any progress on this front will be released by Mr Walton if and when available. As an exception to the closing, it remains the intention of Cox Automotive to hold the planned Cold War Jets Fast Taxi Day in August. Of course this will be subject to COVID-19 regulations in that month. The change of ownership of the airfield means most of the aircraft will have to move. This will almost certainly be the death blow to the larger machines in the collection. Finding a new home for them is one thing, but funding their disassemblies and transport to a new home would be something else. One of the groups active within the Cold War Jets collection is the VC-10 Preservation Group, which has been taking care of VC-10 K4 ZD241 (G-ASGM). In the past five years its volunteers have worked on ZD241 and made it possible to perform fast taxi runs. Another VC-10, ZA147, resides there too. It is said to be destined for St. Athan. The cost of preserving an aircraft of this size is enormous. Disassembly and road transport can be done, but it would take GBP 300,000! The deadline is near: the group has been given notice to have ZA147 & ZD241 moved from Bruntingthorpe by the end of October 2020. The Buccaneer Aviation Group, owner of 'taxiworthy' Buccaneers XW544 and XX894, has even less time: it has to move before the end of September. The group has made arrangements to relocate to Kemble, but still need almost GBP 19,000 to get its Buccaneers there. But is there a future for the Victor, the Comet, the Boeing 747, the Nimrod, the Shackleton, and the Super Guppy? Most likely not .... unless a miracle happens, these historic aircrat are destined to be scrapped. Then, once more, important examples of Britain’s aviation heritage will be lost for ever.
Positive Engagement from Peter Bell, MD of Cox Automotive Vehicle Solutions
East Grinstead, ENG, Royaume-Uni
25 JUIN 2020 —
Earlier today I received a phone call from Peter Bell who is Managing Director for Cox Automotive Vehicle Solutions.
Peter and I had a long and productive discussion, covering the concerns that led me to create this petition, my concern about the infeasibility of moving the larger aircraft and the long term viability of historic aviation in an operable form at Bruntingthorpe.
Hopefully, these types of conversations with and between the various different stakeholders of the site, the aircraft and various businesses will continue and I look forward to more positive and constructive conversations with Peter and others over the coming weeks.
The petition will be staying up to provide an opportunity for historic aviation enthusiasts and the general public to show their support for the retaining of this unique aviation and industrial heritage at Bruntingthorpe for the benefit of future generations.
Please keep signing and sharing. The positive response in such a short time has been incredible and I am so glad that the spirit of positively engaging with all involved parties to find a mutually beneficial outcome has been a common theme throughout the messages of support I have seen.
As I stated in my disclaimer post, as an outsider to this ongoing process I am not privy to the various conversations and agreements that have been going on behind the scenes, but would do my best to share, update and correct the posted information as the facts became available, in order to avoid spreading unhelpful misinformation.
In that spirit, I would like to share the following statements of fact that Peter sent over in order to clearly establish the facts and the full context of the situation at Bruntingthorpe:
In March, Cox Automotive UK acquired 100% of the share capital of C Walton Ltd (CWL).
As part of the deal, Cox Automotive UK acquired CWL’s vehicle services business which operates from three locations in Bruntingthorpe (Leicestershire), Wyton (Cambridgeshire) and Long Bennington (Lincolnshire) and CWL’s proving ground and events businesses at Bruntingthorpe.
Following this, the Aviation business and Cold War Jets Museum at Bruntingthorpe were closed and will not re-open.
It is recognised that this may be concerning news to some aviation enthusiasts.
Cox Automotive is an automotive services business who do not work within the aerospace sector, however we do appreciate the historic value of a number of the aircraft currently located on the site and wish to ensure mutually beneficial outcomes are achieved wherever possible to preserve these aircraft.
To this, Cox Automotive are working with Mr David Walton, one of the previous owners/directors of CWL, who is responsible for all matters relating to Aviation on site and the consequential impacts on stakeholders of the sale to Cox Automotive.
Clearly this is a complex and sensitive process given the number of aircraft on the site, and the diverse ownership of these.
Whilst we cannot comment on any specific aircraft or situations at this time, we understand that Mr Walton is currently investigating the construction of new buildings adjacent to the LPG ‘Q Shed’ to house some of the collection and safeguard their future on land excluded from the Cox Automotive lease.
News of any progress on this front will be released by Mr Walton, as and when available.
In the meantime, Cox Automotive are, of course, working with stakeholders on site to ensure both ongoing constructive dialogue and that site access is appropriately maintained and managed, generally and in the current context of COVID-19, whilst matters are resolved.