Aviation history is being made in Lincolnshire today as the only two airworthy Avro Lancasters in the world met up at RAF Coningsby this afternoon.
The two World War II bombers – one operated by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM), the other by the RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) – are due to rendezvous at the end of the Canadian aircraft's epic journey across the Atlantic to spend this summer touring the UK's airshows along with the BBMF.
The Canadian crew ferried their veteran bomber 2,400 miles across the Atlantic Ocean over the last few days - no mean feat for a 69-year-old aircraft, even taking into account an overnight stopoff in Iceland en route.
Aviation geeks (your correspondent happily included) can review the route of the Canadian Lancaster (via the excellent Flight Radar 24 website) as she flew from Goose Bay, Canada, to RAF Coningsby, a Royal Air Force station in the historic bomber county of Lincolnshire. Coningsby is home to the BBMF's collection of WWII-vintage RAF aircraft, including their own Lancaster.
Lancaster B.I PA474 is a familiar sight to airshow-goers in the UK as well as the man in the street thanks to her regular flypasts over civic occasions within the UK. Built by Vickers-Armstrongs in 1945, she was delivered just too late to see service in the Second World War and spent her active service career on photo reconnaissance duties.
Later she was loaned to a civilian company for pilotless drone research; however, another aircraft (an Avro Lincoln, the Lancaster's successor) was used instead and so PA474 was transferred to the Royal College of Aeronautics at Cranfield, eventually joining the BBMF in 1973. PA474 is regularly repainted to represent different aircraft of RAF Bomber Command, serving as a flying memorial to the thousands of bomber aircrew who risked – and, in 55,573 cases, lost – their lives over Europe.
Lancaster B.I PA474 at the Waddington Airshow in 2012. Credit: John5199, Flickr
The CWHM's Mk.X Lancaster was built in Malton (near Toronto), Canada in 1945, and was issued the Royal Canadian Air Force serial number FM213. Serving as a maritime patrol aircraft after modification to Mk.10MR configuration, FM213 was withdrawn from active duty in 1963. After a few years on static display outside a Royal Canadian Legion branch, and some restoration work later, FM213 flew again in 1988.
The aircraft is dedicated to the memory of Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarski RCAF, who won the Victoria Cross after heroically trying to free his trapped tail gunner, Flying Officer Pat Brophy, from the rear turret when their Lancaster was shot down in flames. Mynarski was unable to fight through the flames engulfing the Lancaster and eventually bailed out, after giving Brophy a farewell salute. The tail gunner survived the crash while Mynarski died from the severe burns he received while trying to save his comrade. Accordingly, FM213 today wears the colour scheme of Mynarski's Lancaster, KB726/VR-A of 419 Squadron RCAF. The aircraft is affectionately known as “Vera” after the squadron identity letters on her fuselage.
"Vera" carrying out a low level flypast. Both Lancasters are powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, giving them their distinctive roar. Turn your volume up!
A detailed schedule of the two Lancasters' flights during August and September is available on the CWHM website, here. Most notable is the joint flypast over East Kirkby airfield in Lincolnshire, scheduled for 2 September, as based at East Kirkby is a third Lancaster which will be conducting a fast taxi run (think aborted takeoff) down the runway as the two airworthy aircraft fly overhead.
For updates on the two bombers, Twitter users can follow @RAFBBMF, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's official feed, and @LancsBomberAle, which follows the CWHM aircraft's progress and is operated by tour sponsors Thwaites brewery.
Also aboard the Canadian aircraft is British techie Matthew Munson, co-founder of cloudy biz Cube52. He is on Twitter as @MaffMunson and is currently tweeting pictures and other updates from the transatlantic flight. Chocks away! ®
Welcome home Vera. After many days and many thousands of miles. The Canadian Lancaster has landed at RAF Coningsby pic.twitter.com/VXsmvfFe0d— Royal Air Force (@RoyalAirForceUK) August 8, 2014