Rendlesham: Spitfire is pulled out of village show in row over flights at Bentwaters

Carolyn Grace, pilot of the Grace Spitfire which flies from Bentwaters air field. Carolyn Grace, pilot of the Grace Spitfire which flies from Bentwaters air field.

Monday, June 16, 2014
6:14 PM

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.

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Carolyn Grace talking to pupils from Rendlesham Primary School during a trip to the airfield at Bentwaters to see the Grace Spitfire.Carolyn Grace talking to pupils from Rendlesham Primary School during a trip to the airfield at Bentwaters to see the Grace Spitfire.

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.”


For an update on this story, click here

5 comments

  • Ironically, at the Rendlesham Show on Saturday there were three overflights by light aircraft and one Apache helicopter...none of which had anything to do with Bentwaters!

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    ghaynes

    Monday, June 23, 2014

  • Once again it is astonishing how one small group of people with there own personal agenda, scare monger others by blowing a small matter into a big one, by blocking the progress of a local business which idea, in the grand scheme of things, would have next to no impact on the local area. Result is more people in the community have and will be put out.

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    Suffolk rural

    Sunday, June 22, 2014

  • To the people who are objecting to the 'noise' generated by the aircraft based at Bentwaters I have a question? Do you understand that 99.99% of all aircraft movements in this area are either Army Air Corps Apache's (nothing to do with Bentwaters), RAF Search and Rescue (nothing to do with Bentwaters), USAF Ospreys (nothing to do with Bentwaters), private civilian aircraft and helicopters (nothing to do with Bentwaters) and if course civilian airliners (nothing to do with Bentwaters). I love to see any heritage aircraft flying as we need to remember our history and learn from it so we don't make the same mistakes again. This is why we have democracy, even though it doesn't, seem to be being applied on a level playing field in this case (several of the organisation who are complaining have members who sit on parish councils, so I don't see how they are representing their parishes rather than their own interests). I'm off to the peace and tranquility of my garden, where I can hear people mowing their lawns, strimming, trimming their hedges, doing DIY and the sound of people generally having fun......

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    Blackwater

    Sunday, June 22, 2014

  • If you would like to tell Suffolk Coastal council that you approve of the additional flying you can contact them on d.c.admin@suffolkcoastal.gov.uk. planing ref No c103239 we simply can not allow a minority and that is the Bentwaters Action Group to win against the majority. Bentwaters should have been our regional airport from when the Americans vacated the Airbase. Please remember if this is given the go ,ahead it will create more employment

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    thundercat

    Saturday, June 21, 2014

  • Once again its a case of the tail wagging the dog, how on earth can so few people exert so much pressure on the decision maker of this application. The Campaign Group that are against this are basing all of their arguments on noise from an American Airbase flying jets over 20 years ago. What a load of rubbish, once again they are putting the views over the majority. If the powers to be permit this to happen they are NOT taking the feelings of the majority who wants this development to go ahead into consideration.

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    thundercat

    Saturday, June 21, 2014

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