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By Howard Wheeldon, Senior Strategist at BGC Partners

11 Oct 11. As a partially funded unit of the Royal Navy for the past sixteen years the hugely important and still active collection of aircraft that form the Royal Navy Historic Flight has since its inception in 1972 been housed at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton.

While the Flight remains a Royal Navy unit that through significant high profile publicity attached to appearances of Flight aircraft at air displays up and down the country provides good value for money it has long been down to the Fly Navy Heritage Trust to raise sufficient additional funding to make up the estimated £300,000 shortfall in annual running costs. The reality is that this is a collaborative venture between the Royal Navy, The Fly Navy Heritage Trust, industry, business plus a number of high net worth individuals all pulling together to preserve the still very active Navy heritage aircraft fleet. While the cost to the Royal Navy budget is modest it is worth noting that on average it costs over £300,000 each year to keep the Flight’s aircraft serviceable before any unforeseen expenditure has been added.

In the sixteen years since the Royal Navy was forced to withdraw Naval engineering manpower support for the Royal Navy Historic Flight suffice to say that the Fly Navy Heritage Trust and its partners have performed miracles keeping the small yet incredibly important fleet of Royal Navy heritage aircraft in the air. Long may this continue but each year raising funds necessary to maintain what is also to be considered a permanent and active flying memorial and tribute to the 6,500 personnel who gave their lives through one hundred years of Royal Naval aviation tradition becomes ever more difficult.

The positive aspects of maintaining the Flight cannot be underestimated. From an educational standpoint displaying Royal Navy historic aircraft to thousands of people attending air shows around the country takes the white ensign to many that might not otherwise understand the historical consequence and hugely important roles played out by the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Navy Air Service.

It is also very important here to recognise the large and ongoing commitment and support that both the Royal Navy and the Flight receive keeping the aircraft in the air from various external agencies and industry. For this appreciation is due to companies such as Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, AgustaWestland and Lockheed Martin whose commitment, funding and valuable engineering and other support play a very large part in keeping Trust aircraft airworthy.

It is right that the Trust now look to the future. To that end and given the Coalition Government drive on philanthropic giving aimed primarily at encouraging US style endowments to finance charitable, arts and heritage projects earlier this year the Fly Navy Heritage Trust embarked on an interesting endowment appeal. Whilst it is too early yet to gauge the success of the plan it is already clear that progress has been slow and that far more needs to be done if aircraft in the Trust’s charge are to remain in the air.

The high and still rising costs of a civilian workforce required to maintain the collection of Royal Navy Historic Flight aircraft to the very high standards of safety demanded plus the ability to plan for the longer term future and of how the number of aircraft flying might eventually be increased requires that the Trust now needs to step up its efforts to raise cash. While industry and other external partners do what they can it is clear that the Trust needs significantly more help from the private sector if it is to secure what has already been so successfully established and to move the heritage process on so that even more people can take advantage of what has been achieved.

Formed in 1991 to promote the “endeavour, ethos and spirit of Naval aviation” and to both preserve and protect the

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