The Lincolnshire Aviation Centre is the amazing backdrop of our AW15 flyers photoshoot. Whilst we were there we discovered a shared enthusiasm for restoration, craftsmanship and nostalgia, which is why we just had to weave it into the R/E story this season. We headed back to catch up with owner Andrew Panton to find out more about this gem of a museum.
R&E: Hi Andrew, tell us a little about how the incredible centre came to be, when and why?
The Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre is a privately owned and run Museum and was set up by two farming brothers, Fred and Harold Panton, Fred being my Grandfather.
It has been built up as a memorial to Bomber Command and primarily as a tribute to their eldest brother Christopher Whitton Panton; who was shot down and killed on a bombing raid over Nuremberg on 30/31 March 1944.
Images of Christopher Panton and brothers Fred and Harold.
For a short time after the war there was interest from the brothers to visit Christopher's grave in Germany, but their father denied them the chance as he wanted 'nothing more to do with the war'. Until, in the 1970's Mr Panton called Fred over and told him to 'get off to Germany and bring me a photograph of Chrisy's grave' which of course Fred did as soon as he could. This reignited Fred's interest in the War and when NX611 came up for sale it was eventually purchased by the brothers and brought to their land at East Kirkby. Even though they had planned to keep it only for their private collection it was suggested that they should make it into an exhibit for the public and this Museum was set up with the Lancaster and Control tower as its centre pieces.
The Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre was then opened in 1988 and has hosted visits from many famous people both from the aviation and show-biz worlds. We are all extremely proud of the accomplishments of the Centre, one of the biggest independent museums receiving no funding or Lottery grants. We can only hope that we will be able to continue to educate the following generations to the sacrifices and roles of Bomber Command.
R&E: What is its main aim?
The aim of the Centre is to act as a memorial to the men and women of Bomber Command. The Centre aims to recreate the airfield of East Kirkby back to a wartime airfield and to restore Avro Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’.
R&E: What can visitors expect to see there?
The Centre is built on the wartime airfield and as you enter the museum it is like stepping back into WW2. We have an Avro Lancaster and DC3 Dakota based here along with some award winning displays and thousands of photos and personal stories.
R&E: One key attraction is the renovation of the spectacular NX611 Lancaster Bomber and its taxi rides. What has been the most challenging part of the renovation so far and when do you think it will be airworthy? Have you had to replace many parts?
It will take several years to restore NX611 to an airworthy condition, the majority of her is original but some parts have had to be replaced. A lot of her has been overhauled to an airworthy condition and each year we take a step forward to finishing the project. The most challenging part of the job is fitting all of the work into our tight timescale over the winter period so that she is still fit to taxy during the summer season.
R&E: When do the taxi runs take place and what is the cost?
The Lancaster regularly performs taxi runs from March to November. You can find details about this on our website.
R&E: You must feel very proud as to what's been achieved. Do you have any further plans for the museum?
We are very proud of what has been achieved so far and plan to make the Centre better and better to increase its popularity as a visitor attraction so that more and more learn about Bomber Command.
Photo courtesy of IWM
R&E: We were given the opportunity to use the centre for the backdrop of our AW15 photoshoot. If you could choose one piece from our AW15 range, which would it be?
The A2 leather flying jackets look great!
R&E: Thanks Andrew! Just looking at the Tripadvisor reviews shows how well the centre is regarded. It truly is a memorable day out and anyone planning to visit will not be disappointed!
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