Rendlesham: Spitfire is pulled out of village show in row over flights at Bentwaters
18:14 16 June 2014
Organisers of a village show have been left disappointed after its top attraction – a display by an historic wartime plane – pulled out because of opposition to flying at the old Bentwaters air base.
Pilot Carolyn Grace, whose company Air Leasing Ltd operates the Grace Spitfire ML407, said her withdrawal from the Rendlesham Show was “a direct result” of the activities of the Bentwaters Campaign Group.
Mrs Grace was due to open the show and perform an aerial display over open ground beside Jubilee Park on Saturday afternoon in the Spitfire, which was the first aircraft to shoot down an enemy plane during D-Day.
However, since Bentwaters Parks applied for approval for a blueprint for the future use of the 380-hectare former USAF base, there has been uproar over a perceived increase in flying from the site with claims that the aim is to create a civil airport.
The site owners are seeking permission for 960 air movements a year – less than two planes landing and taking off each day.
They say the purpose of this is to regularise the flying which currently takes place by a small number of heritage aircraft, including the Grace Spitfire, and occasional business flights. Mrs Grace, who learned to fly the Spitfire ML407 in 1990 after the death of her husband Nick in 1988, and who restored the Second World War fighter, said she was saddened to make the decision not to take part in the show.
It was “as a direct result” of the combined activities against Air Leasing Ltd by the Bentwaters Campaign Group and others.
She said “I despair that so few can have such an adverse effect on so many.”
The Spitfire could not survive without the infrastructure of Air Leasing and the continuation of its aviation workshop at Bentwaters, which pays for the annual maintenance of the Spitfire and enables it to carry on flying.
She said: “Without Air Leasing, it’s like having the ingredients for a cake but with no oven.
“The cost of maintaining the Spitfire is huge – for example £120,000 for an engine overhaul, which has to be done every 500 flying hours.”
Rendlesham parish clerk, Heather Heelis said: “Whilst it is sad that the Spitfire won’t be flying at the Rendlesham Show on June 21, we support and respect Carolyn Grace in her decision and will continue to support the wonderful work that she does keeping our heritage alive and flying.”
Roz Hazelton, the landlady of the Green Man pub in Tunstall, said: “Everybody is saying how ridiculous it is and moods are running very high.
“There are a few people who are being very noisy and saying all of these negative things and yet most people are not bothered.
“Most people who live here love the Spitfire, the moment it flies past, everyone leaves the pub to go outside and look at it – they’re not sticking their fingers in their ears and complaining about the noise.”
No-one from Bentwaters Campaign Group was available for comment, though the group has said it is not opposed to the Spitfire flying from Bentwaters.
It said: “It is appropriate that this iconic aircraft should continue to fly from there.
“But under regulations covering deferred development rights, flying (or other activities) are allowed from Bentwaters 28 days a year.
“Based on the number of times the Spitfire has flown in recent seasons, this would seem entirely adequate for this heritage need.”
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