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Project Propeller is an annual reunion for 150 plus WWII aircrew to which they are flown from all over the UK in light aircraft by current volunteer pilots. This years event was scheduled to take place at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire the home of the Red Arrows but at very short notice to the organisers the Royal Air Force decided they would not be able to accommodate the event there this year leaving the team with no other choice but to look for an alternative venue with only 12 days to go. Wickenby Airfield looked like a likely candidate to host the event but with such short notice they felt they would not have enough time to organise to accommodate such a large number of aircraft that where expected, with the organisers desperate for a suitable airfield to host the event up stepped Leeds East Airport with enthusiasm and excitement offering the team all they needed and enough space to accommodate every visiting aircraft which was booked in to attend meaning no veteran would need to travel by road or miss the event.

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For veterans this annual event is a welcome opportunity to take to the skies, whilst for the GA pilots of today it is an opportunity to meet that rare individual, the ‘old, bold aviator’. Some pilots have been flying the same veterans for many years, establishing firm friendships in the process. This years event took place on the 4th June at Leeds East Airport former RAF Church Fenton and with an expected 170 aircraft due it was looking like it would be one of the biggest events to date but sadly that was not to be as weather around the country forced pilots to delay there departure times or cancel completely however for the veterans that did make it some 80 odd of them a memorable day was in line, with the opportunity to have a look around the old airfield or the chance to have a ride in a 1931 Lagonda or just to meet up with old friends project propeller really do pull out the stops to make sure the veterans have a day to remember.

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In attendance this year providing a ground demonstration was the queen’s colour squadron who are responsible for representing the Royal Air Force at various significant occasions around the country. The Queen’s Colour Squadron produces some of the highest standards of Drill in the world and that was defiantly demonstrated.

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“Project Propeller began in 1999 following discussions between Ian Burnstock and Gideon Todes. Ian and Gideon are keen pilots and were looking for a more meaningful reason to go flying other than just for the fun of it!. On their travels around the UK, especially in East Anglia, they became aware of the hundreds of World War II airfields that, though now disused, were still very obvious from an aerial viewpoint. This started them thinking how many of the WWII RAF air crew are still surviving, and would they once again like to get airborne. The cost of the exercise was to be borne by current pilots offering their aircraft for flights from their home field with one or two air crew on board. The first event in 1999 was at North Weald  where everyone enjoying the ambience of a WWII airfield, The next year May 2000 saw almost 100 aircraft and over 200 air crew fly into Duxford for a wonderful day.” You can learn more about Project Propeller on there website www.projectpropeller.co.uk

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Article by Kurt Fairhurst Assisted by Paul Atkin

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