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Have wings, will fly: Lancaster lovers aim for the skies

A HISTORIC bomber considered one of the most famous aircraft Britain has ever produced is being restored with the aim of putting it back in the air.

The Lancaster — called Just Jane — is undergoing a mammoth restoration which involves taking the aircraft almost to pieces, checking every component and then putting it back together again.

Costing around £3.5 million, the project’s aim is to have the Avro NX611 taking to the skies again by 2020.

Andrew Panton, who runs the East Kirkby Aviation Centre in Lincolnshire, said the aim is to see Just Jane fly again to pay tribute to Second World War pilots — including Christopher Panton, who was shot down on a bombing raid in Nuremburg, Germany, in March 1944.

Christopher’s brothers, Fred and Harold, saw Just Jane for sale and bought it as a memorial to their brother and the endeavours of Bomber Command, and set up the museum in 1988.

Fred’s grandson, Andrew Panton, said: ‘The work is quite easy in the grand scheme of things, it’s quite standard stuff — it’s just having the knowledge to do it.

‘It’s important work for that aircraft, and for the memory of Bomber Command, and the nation.’

He added that this winter had seen ‘a big step up’ to making the plane airworthy by having it paint-stripped.

He said: ‘Stripping the paint off means we get the ability to survey the airframe of the aircraft, find any problems and correct them.

‘Once the survey has finished, it will tell us how long it will take to restore the aircraft to an airworthy condition.

‘The trouble we have got is new aircraft are now made of composite materials, so people are losing the ability to rivet and skin work with aluminium.

‘We are reliant on people who have been taught in airframe work from years ago because they have that base knowledge.’

One of the main fundraisers is the offer of taxi rides in the bomber during the summer months — meaning restoration work has to be put on hold between May and the start of November.

A fundraising club has also been set up for people wishing to make a regular donation towards the restoration.

The plane was built by Austin Motors in Longbridge near Birmingham in April 1945 and was due to become part of the RAF’s Tiger Force in the Far East.

The early surrender of Japan meant Just Jane did not see service and went on to be used by the French Naval Air Arm.

One of the men working on the project, Roy Lemmon, 56, said he will be ‘chuffed’ when the Lancaster takes to the skies again.

He said: ‘It’s a privilege, it’s interesting, it’s something different.

‘There’s a lot of corrosion and people have tried to repair it without the view of it flying, so it’s got to be taken to pieces and done properly.’

Brian Howard, 67, said: ‘There’s a lot of work to be done, and it makes you think about what you’ve got to do next.

‘It’s the oldest thing I’ve ever worked on — it feels fantastic.

‘I just miss a lot of the drawings, that’s all. Everything has got to be in your head because you’re so used to looking at a computer.’