Our intrepid reporter, Keith Bradshaw caught up with the Viscount and recounts the moment when G-ALWF found out about plans for her to star in a film.
Imagine you are Sir John Franklin. Not the Victorian Artic explorer who sadly lost his life looking for the Northwest passage, but a BEA discovery class Viscount named Sir John Franklin. Not any Viscount but G-ALWF, the second production aircraft built and now the world’s oldest surviving Viscount. You are enjoying a happy retirement at the airliner rest home on the Duxford apron being cared for by the dedicated Duxford Aviation Society workshop team.
That’s the background so let’s hear the story from WF herself.
‘What a busy summer that was! Lovely weather, lots of visitors and over 25,000 people on the airfield for the September air show weekend. My cabin carpets have been well and truly trodden! My dedicated team of carers led by John Overhill have done their best to keep me spick and span but the number of items that need addressing over the winter have been adding up. I need a good wash and brush up, a couple of my tyres are flat and some of my windows have started to let the rain in so something needs to be done about those. The good news is I have heard them talking about me going into the restoration hangar in the New Year for a repaint. My livery is beginning to show its age. A shiny new coat of paint would be nice. Still there’s no rush. Plenty of time now to sit back with my feet up and enjoy the run up to Christmas.
‘What’s this? Project manager Chris Giles has just turned up with a number of the Tuesday shift. What’s going on? I’m normally left in peace during the week. When’s a girl supposed to catch up on her beauty sleep? What are they doing with that compressor and more to the point what are they going to inflate? Panic over. They have just come to put some air in my tyres. Well there’s good news and bad news chaps, one of the tyres will blow up fine but I know the other one is well past its sell by date and you can pump air in all day long but it will just keep leaking out. What are they up to? A couple of them have zoomed off back to the yard in the pickup, never a good sign. Is that a new wheel and tyre assembly I can see being loaded into the back of the truck? They were lucky to have one of those. Guess it will take the rest of the day to change the wheel over but a least I’ll get fully inflated boots all round.’
A couple of days later……..
‘Oh no! Here they come again only this time it’s the Thursday gang. Whoa! Wait a minute, what are the big jacks doing heading my way, I don’t like the look of this. Nobody tells me anything.’
The large jacks are positioned under WF’s wings…….
‘Mr Giles, mind where you are putting those jacks would you? I’m quite ticklish under my wings. Tell me please, what is going on? Oh no, now the guys are lifting me up and off my comfortable axle stands, hope they remembered to undo the wire tethers that stop me getting blown about by the wind. Wow! I’m flying again. Only a foot or so off the ground but my wheels are in the air. Now the chaps are taking away the axle stands, this is a mystery. Whatever next? Now I’m going down again so they must be letting the jacks down. I haven’t had my feet on the ground for a long time and I must say it feels rather good.
‘Sunday is normally a time for a lie in and a snooze so why are the Sunday shift attaching my tow bar and what is that loud noise? More mechanics! Mark and his merry men from the Military Vehicle Wing are heading my way with their newly restored aircraft tug, Douglas. Looks as if their ace driver Graham Harding is in control. I hope he knows what he’s doing. Douglas and I have now hitched up and I think he is going to take me for a walk round the airfield. That will be nice. Here we go, forward a few feet, stop, back a few feet, stop. Is that it?
A few days later…
‘Everything has gone quiet but I’ve been listening very carefully to the gossip and the story seems to be that my dodgy windows will shortly be replaced with brand new ones that have been in my shipping container for decades wrapped in wax paper. However the wax in the paper has now stuck to the windows and the guys are having one hell of a job to clean it off! I’m also getting a wash and brush up and a nice new piece of rope to pull my rear door closed, all in preparation for a starring role in a new movie.
‘Nothing new, of course. I featured in the Netflix epic The Crown and even had the Queen in my cabin. Apparently, filming will take place in November and I will be repositioned by the American Air Museum, hence the frenzied activity over the last few weeks. Can’t say too much about the film except it’s a spy movie starring a well known British actor. All I can say is I’m ready for my close up. Lights, camera, action!”