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G-AMSV Returns to Coventry

An old friend returned to Coventry yesterday when G-AMSV, in her striking Indian Air force livery, landed here for extensive maintenance by our engineers. Sierra Victor was part of the Air Altantique fleet here for many years. She'll...

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Baginton Air Pageant

The initial details for the Baginton Air Pageant are up on the website! As we don't have the space for a full-on air show attracting 20,000 or so people, we're aiming for low-key, themed days like this. A couple of thousand people,...

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Newquay Pleasure flights

We promised we'd be back to fly in Cornwall, and here we are. We'll be heading south with a Rapide and Chipmunk to spend a week at Newquay from 25th July, with a further visit planned in August. The flights are bookable in the normal...

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New Dakota Book

Geoff Jones just told me that his new book on the DC-3, released to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Dak's appearance, is now available. The cover sports a lovely shot of G-ANAF, shot by Simon Westwood before her radome goiter was...

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Nimrod Engine Run

We've just confirmed plans by NPT to run all four of the Nimrod's Rolls-Royce Speys on Saturday 9th May. We expect the thunder to start just after lunchtime. Come along and enjoy some audio power - and please dip into your pockets...

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From the Blog Header
Become a member of the Classic Air Force
Percival Pembroke: An unlikely spy in the sky
Status: Under repair
Owned by: Air Atlantique
Current location: Coventry
Available for pleasure flights: No

It's fair to say that a successful spy should never look like one. So the slightly portly, mild-mannered Pembroke maintains its cover with polished ease. But don't be deceived, that quiet exterior hides a history of espionage and intrigue.

Powered by a pair of 540hp Alvis Leonides radial engines (built at Coventry airport, just across the runway from our Coventry HQ!) the prototype first flew on November 21, 1952 and the type entered service the following year.

Although the majority of the 128 Pembrokes built served in rather mundane eight-seat transport duties, six were converted for a more clandestine role. Designated the Pembroke C(PR).1 the aircraft were equipped with an array of cameras in the belly and optically perfect glass in the front passenger windows to allow it to work in the photo-reconnaissance role. Although the work was originally undertaken to enable the aircraft to be used by 81Sqn during the Malayan Emergency the aircraft’s modifications also proved of use when flying in and out of Berlin when assigned to 60 Sqn at Wildenrath.

The corridors in and out of West Berlin took the aircraft past several ‘sensitive’ areas such as military installations in Communist- controlled East Germany and the Pembrokes would routinely photograph these without raising suspicion.

Classic Flight’s Pembroke is one of a handful left flying in the world. It was built in 1957 and allocated the RAF serial XL954. Before being delivered to the air force it was demonstrated to the German authorities who were considering the type for both its air force and navy. Upon completion of the trials XL954 was delivered to 10 MU at Hullavington on August 8, 1957. The following June the aircraft was allocated to HQ 2 Tactical Air Force (TAF), but a few days later, on 13th June, it was transferred again, this time to 2 TAF Communications Sqn.

On November 22, 1963 XL954 was sent to Fairey Engineering Ltd for modifications which included the installation of a camera and under-fuselage camera doors. The aircraft emerged as a Pembroke C(PR).1 and was subsequently issued to 60 MU at RAF Leconfield in October 1966 following which it was returned to 2 TAF Communications Sqn.

In February 1969, the aircraft was transferred to 60Sqn and the RAF Germany Communications Flight based in RAF Wildenrath where it remained until September 3, 1971 when it was despatched to BAC at Weybridge, Surrey. Here the aircraft was re-sparred, in doing so becoming the last of the type to be so upgraded.

By November 10 that year the re-spar on XL954 was complete and the aircraft was test flown by Roy Radford, a BAC Test Pilot, from Weybridge to Wisley. It was then transferred to 5 MU at Kemble, where it is believed the aircraft was refurbished. XL954 returned to 60 Sqn in Wildenrath, having retained its camera installation.

The aircraft remained with 60 Sqn for several years and was regularly flown across Europe on various tasks, although it was briefly transferred to the St Athan Station Flight during 1982.

On May 18, 1990, XL954 was flown to RAF Northolt, where it was stored awaiting disposal. A new maintenance serial (9042M) was allocated but it does not appear to have been used.

The aircraft was eventually sold on February 5, 1991. The new owner was Richard Munslow, who traded as the British Air Force in America Inc, and the aircraft was given the American civil registration N4234C on March 29.

John Mulvey ferried N4234C from RAF Northolt to White Waltham in April 1991 but it stayed there until< October 21, 1992 when he made the short hop to Tatenhill airfield in Staffordshire.

With no sign of the aircraft making its way stateside Colin Allen of Downbird UK was instructed to handle the sale of the aircraft in 1994. Following a survey of the aircraft, XL954 was purchased by one of the Air Atlantique group companies and ferried to Coventry. After restoration work to make the aircraft airworthy again it was test flown on February 17, 1999 as G-BXES.

Air Atlantique also retains Pembroke XL299 (G-BNPU) in storage for spares recovery and possible future use. This aircraft served the RAF as a 6-seat VIP aircraft and was used as the personal aircraft by AOC-in- C Bomber Command Air Chief Marshall Harry Broadhurst in the late 1950s.

It went on to serve at Bovingdon, Northolt and Wildenrath before ending up with the Chelsea College of Aeronautical and Automobile Engineering at Shoreham, West Sussex as a training aid. It was acquired by Air Atlantique in 2001 and moved to Coventry a year later.