The Royal Navy Historic Flight stands down

Today marks the end of an era. The Royal Navy Historic Flight, charged with celebrating and commemorating the heritage of the Fleet Air Arm by maintaining historic examples of the service’s aircraft, will stand down. This vital task will continue in the capable hands of the ‘Navy Wings’ charity, which has been working with the RNHF for several years now, but as of today, the Royal Navy’s direct running and funding of a unit equipped with historic aircraft will end.

I’ve been lucky enough to see the work of the Flight on numerous occasions over the years, visiting their base of operations several times, seeing maintenance and test flying, and interviewing personnel and volunteers including two Commanding Officers, Lieutenant Commander Ian Sloane and Lieutenant Commander Chris Gotke, for the aviation media. I’ve been able to attend events, including the recent celebration of the Fairey Swordfish, and a night photoshoot with the Flight’s aircraft. I’d like to thank all those from the Flight who have been so welcoming and helpful, including Chief Engineer Howard Read and especially Katie Campbell, the Flight’s display manager.

It’s difficult to encapsulate the work of the Flight in words, so I’ll let pictures do the talking. The first are some of the Flight’s leaders over recent years

RNHF Chief Engineer Howard Read

Former Flight CO, Lt Cdr Chris Gotke, in front of the Flight’s last hangar at Yeovilton

Former Flight CO Lt Cdr Ian Sloane at the Flight’s old hangar at Yeovilton


The next set are from my visit at the Flight’s old WW2-era blister hangar in October 2012

Fairey Swordfish LS326, the Flight’s original aircraft, in the RNHF’s old blister hangar

Swordfish LS326 with Flight maintainers working on its radio in 2012

Swordfish LS326 in the Flight’s old hangar in October 2012

Engineers work on the Bristol Centaurus of Hawker Sea Fury VR930

Lt Cdr Chris Gotke fires up the Centaurus of Sea Fury VX281

Lt Cdr Gotke running up the engine of Sea Fury VX281 before a test flight

Lt Cdr Gotke folds the wings of Sea Fury VX281 as he returns from a test flight

The following photographs are from a visit to the RNHF in 2016, when they had moved to a new, modern hangar with much more space

Sea Fury VR930 in the RNHF’s new hangar

Fairey Swordfish W8656, having been restored since my last visit

Black and white shot of VR930

Night photoshoot of the Flight’s aircraft organised by Navy Wings at RNAS Yeovilton in 2017

Swordfish W5686 under the lights

Sea Fury VR930 demonstrating its hydraulic wing-folding

DH Chipmunk, which the Flight uses for tailwheel training

…And finally from the Navy Wings Fairey Swordfish event in 2018

Swordfish W5686 with panels removed to undergo maintenance

A rare chance to see the Flight’s spare Swordfish NF389

Fleet Air Arm veterans with Royal Navy Historic Flight aircrew and maintainers

Please consider supporting Navy Wings so they can continue the work begun by the RNHF. Their website can be found here


2 responses to “The Royal Navy Historic Flight stands down

  1. Dear Sir, Thank you for this.  on another matter: is there anyone who knows about the involvement of the FAA at Manston in  1944-5; particularly the use of Seafires there?; I know there was a flight of Barracudas (822).  My late father was an RNVR acting-sub-lieutenant PO E.F. Samuel  (Engineer) and I have not had much luck getting information about his career.  Regards

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