Martyn Wiseman, Managing Director of Condor Aviation, is a huge fan of radial engine aircraft. The Blackburn Beverley is powered by radial engines, so when the aircraft’s future was in jeopardy, Mr Wiseman, along with an anonymous benefactor stepped in.
Martyn is a vintage plane enthusiast, having restored a 1930s Aeronca and a 1940s Cessna. This will be Condor Aviation’s biggest project to-date, and while it will never fly again, the plane’s future and its ongoing upkeep is secured.
Stage one of the plan is to move the aircraft to Birchwood Lodge, a private airfield in Cliffe, Selby, just a few miles from where the plane was built in the 1950s. If we can move the aircraft, and this is by no means certain yet, we are going to restore the aircraft to 90% its original, (including the painting by removing the non-original camouflage). However, this is dependent on funding being achieved.
Condor Aviation plans to restore the Beverley sympathetically so that it becomes a central element of the wider Birchwood Lodge vision. While plans are still in development at this stage, the intention is that the Lodge and the Beverley will become a retreat for those affected emotionally and physically by conflict.
Martyn’s family has been part of the extended RAF family for generations, and knows first-hand the effects that conflict can have on an individual. To see a loved one lose their sense of purpose or ability to go about day-to-day life unaided is incredibly heartbreaking - this is what has inspired both the work that Condor Aviation has carried out over the years, but also the reason behind the purchase of this iconic RAF plane.
Condor Aviation has been developing aircraft for those with disabilities for over 15 years, and wants the Lodge to become a haven for those with a passion for engineering and aviation.
Our workshops are in the process of becoming fully accessible so that those who may be struggling to find a new identity after coming out of the military, or those that have lost the ability to go about their lives as easily as before, can continue to fulfill their dreams and passions.
Plans will be shared publicly in future, once we’ve raised enough to move the Beverley to its forever home.
We’re not sure how much the full restoration will cost until we start dismantling the plane to move it to its forever home, Birchwood Lodge. Rest assured we will preserve this aircraft in the most cost-effective way possible. Any funds raised above and beyond what is required will be donated to charities that support military personnel.
The plane will be moving to Birchwood Lodge, a privately owned airfield near Selby. The airfield is just a few miles away from the original Blackburn site where the Beverley aircraft was built in the 50s.
The plane will sit at the end of the runway, and we will be developing a library of artefacts for aviation enthusiasts to enjoy when they visit the plane. Visitors will be able visit the plane and the library, which is currently in development, for a small donation.
There are a number of ways we’re considering moving the plane, but due to its size, it cannot be moved in one piece. It is likely that we will move each wing and the fuselage separately, but in order to do that, we need some major equipment, including cranes and low loaders, to move the pieces.
Ideally we’ll move the plane in as few places as possible to retain its structural integrity, but that’s very much dependent on how much money we raise through the Crowdfunder initiative. Worst case scenario, we’ll do what the team did back in 2003 - we’ll take it apart bit by bit and move it in smaller pieces.
One other option which we’re pursuing is to transport the parts by air - it's a highly expensive option, but would make for quite a sight; imagine seeing the Beverley flying over the Humber Bridge one last time?
Condor Aviation has heritage in restoring vintage aircraft and has been doing so for the past 15 years. On its staff, we have some of the region’s best aviation engineers so we’re well-placed to restore and preserve this plane.
In addition, for the past 15 years, we have worked with more than a dozen universities from all over Europe to design a working and flying environment for those with physical and mental disabilities so our plans to make the plane fully accessible will be done sympathetically in order to stay as true to the original plane as possible.
Our intentions for the Beverley is part of a wider project to provide the first airpark in the UK for those needing assistance and we feel this is a great way to help those with needs greater than ours.
Following discussions with a range of partners, our project has taken off and grown wings; we are no longer just focusing on the historical restoration and preservation of the Beverley.
We are very fortunate to have a unique project and extensive facilities that we feel, could be put to use in a much more fruitful and philanthropic way. As part of the Blackburn Beverley project, we will be extending our Birchwood Lodge facilities to include accessible engineering workshops, a Blackburn Beverley artefacts library and clubhouse for those interested in aviation and military history, as well as those who may have been affected both mentally and physically by conflict can come for respite,
We are working with a notable charity partner to ensure the facilities we offer are equipped to support those affected by conflict to seek respite when staying at the Lodge and volunteering on the restoration project. The original plan to create a restored vintage plane that funds itself will instead be replaced with an ongoing project that offers volunteering, reskilling and respite opportunities for those that most need it. If anyone would like to be part of the project, please get in touch via the contact us page
Long-term, it is hoped that this facility becomes an extension to the charity's extensive work in supporting serving personnel in their transition from military to civilian life, whether that be at the end of their careers, or as a result of medical discharge.
This is something incredibly close to Condor Aviation's heart and we look forward to giving back to the community that has supported the Wiseman family over the years.
Condor Aviation has launched a crowdfund appeal to raise money to help with the move and restoration of the last remaining Blackburn Beverley. Like with any restoration project, the success of the project relies heavily on the generosity and involvement of the community so we'd like to thank those that have donated so far.
At this stage, we’re not sure how much the plane will take to restore. We don’t know what’s hiding under the camo paint, for example. That said, every penny raised will help us on our journey.
Any money raised above and beyond what we need will be donated to charities that support military personnel.
We can’t say too much at present, but we hope to work with a charity that provides support to those affected by conflict. The plans are to create a facility with those people in mind so that the charity can provide a place of respite.
The whole idea behind the project is firstly to save the aircraft, then to make her work for the benefit of those servicemen and women to whom we owe our freedom and democracy.
For Martyn and his family, this is also a very personal matter. His son, Charles served for 10 years in the RAF before having to leave due to a brain injury. He has been supported extensively during his treatment and we’d like to do something to acknowledge the charity’s support.
Furthermore, the family’s uncle, Wing Commander Steven Beaumont, was in charge of Headley Court, a specialist rehabilitation facility based in Surrey. Rehabilitation of wounded servicemen and women runs thick through the family’s blood, and the plans for Birchwood Lodge will help
to continue giving back to those that have helped over the years.
Our plans to restore and preserve the Blackburn Beverley have been met with positive feedback from members of the Beverley Association, who have tirelessly sought to preserve this aircraft since it came into private ownership in 1987.
Our loyalty is firstly to the aircraft and secondly to those members of our armed forces and specifically to the Beverley Association. They are 100% behind our plans.
As a specialist aircraft engineer company, there are some technical issues that can't be overcome, therefore it is unlikely the plane will ever fly again. What’s more, to make the aircraft 100% original will exclude anyone with a physical disability from visiting, and this is not an option for us.
The engines have deteriorated badly since being left outside for the past 50+ years and if not removed and refurbished, will disappear in a cloud of rust in the near future. We estimate they will cost thousands of pounds each to refurbish.
In addition, there are serious technical issues with the aircraft's structural stability. For example, the wing spars were always suspect and prone to cracking. If we leave the engines in place, this is adding an additional 10 tonnes to the spars, which will then require more support.
Instead, we will use the parts to support other restoration projects and will ensure that the original look is not compromised by the sale of these engines.
As a museum piece in its own right, both the Transport Museum (Beverley) and Ft Paull could not make it pay for itself. That’s why we’re exploring all options to pay for the restoration and the ongoing preservation.
This is one of the largest historical aviation projects ever undertaken, so we’d welcome support from those interested in preserving the icon, and those that may have ideas on how to raise sufficient funds annually to pay for its upkeep.
We are estimating that the plane could cost up to £50,000 per year to maintain.