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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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Rapide G-AGTM 'Sybille'
Sybille Gautrey

Remembering Sybille

Sybille Gautrey was a superb volunteer pilot. Tango Mike was one of her particular loves, and she flew it as skilfully and considerately as she did all of our precious charges.

Tragically, Sybille lost her life as a passenger in a modern aircraft in 2008. We'll always miss her cheerfulness and enthusiasm for a job that was the absolute focus of her life.

Tango Mike has been christened in fond memory of a great friend.

Dragon Rapide G-AIDL

Dragon Rapide G-AKRP

No, this one's our favourite

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Tango Mike is a serious contender with the Anson for the darling of the fleet. She's another aeroplane with an irresistable character that you can feel the moment you step aboard.  She was originally built in 1944 for the Royal Air Force against Ministry of Supply contract 6/Aircraft/2580/C20a.  It's a point for discussion whether we should therefore refer to her as a Dominie, the military version of the Rapide.

At this time. the de Havilland factory was working to full capacity manufacturing high-performance aircraft like the magnificent Mosquito. Old-fashioned, simpler machines like the Rapide and Dominie were contracted out, and so Tango Mike was built by Brush Coachworks of Loughborough.  Our other Rapides, Delta Lima and Romeo Papa, were also built at the same factory.

Tango Mike started her military career on May 26 1944, being issued to the RAF Maintenance Unit in Dumfries, Scotland under the registration NF875.  By this time the Rapide design was seriously outmoded, and Tango Mike appears to have rarely left the ground during her service at Dumfries.  She was put up for auction in June 1945 and sold as a virtually zero-time aircraft to Airwork General Trading Limited, who must have been delighted with their brand-new bargain. AGT converted her for civil use and secured the registration G-ATM.  The aircraft was then sold to Iraq Petroleum Transport and taken to Haifa, Palestine where she operated for eight years.

She was bought in 1953 by the Arab Contracting and Trading Company, known as Saad Transport, moving to Beirut.  She was re-registered in Lebanon as OD-ABP. Nine years later she moved again, this time to Contracting and Trading co Ltd of Amman, Jordan and collecting a new alias as JY-ACL.

In March 1964, Tango Mike came home to the UK when she was bought by Edward Gardener on behalf of the Army Parachute Association. Her original registration was restored and she moved to Netheravon, Wiltshire, where she was upgraded to Mark 6 specification.  Tango Mike received her first naming at this time when she was christened Valkyrie - possibly a slightly bellicose name for such a well-mannered lady!

A minor ownership change happened in 1967 when she was taken over by Richard Brinton, trustee of the Army Parachute Regiment Freefall Club, then another in 1968 when she was transferred to the Secretary of the Army Parachute Association. It was around this time, still billeted at Netheravon, she was repainted in Royal Navy colours, bearing her original registration of NF875.

Tango Mike's next move was in March 1979 when she moved up to Duxford to work for Sealion Shipping.  Two years later she was acquired by Airborne Taxi Services, also operating from Duxford.

By now, she was a regular and popular sight, floating sedately over Cambridgeshire, so it's not surprising that she attracted the attention of Mike Russell, who acquired her for the Russavia Collection.  Tango Mike had begun her pleasure flying career.

The Rapide is a delightful aircraft to fly, but she can be tricky on landing.  It's all too easy to drop a wing at the last second, which isn't at all dangerous, but can prove expensive! On a tricky flying day in 1987, Tango Mike exhibited a rare flash of ill temper and did just that.  She was moved to Audley End in 1993 for repairs, but was put up for sale unrepaired.

Aviation Heritage Ltd rescued her in 1994 and carried out a careful and skilled restoration.  Part of the process was to give her the splendid blue and silver colour scheme that she bears today.  She moved to Kemble, where she stayed until January 1999, when Aviation Heritage was acquired by Air Atlantique. Since then, she has become one of the most cherished members of our fleet, giving many hundreds of pleasure flyers the experience of her gentle, comfortable flights.

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