AS the engine roared to life, the smiles on their faces were a picture.

Almost two years after they had collected the former Royal Navy training plane – a De-Havilland Chipmunk – in 88 boxes from America it was finally back in one glorious piece.

For the team at Chiltern Classic Flight, at Hangar One, Bicester Airfield, off Skimmingdish Lane, starting its engine for the first time on Thursday was a moment to savour.

Chief engineer David Lawrence, 76, a former RAF ground engineer and engineering manager of Brittania Airways 767 fleet, and deputy Alan Turney oversaw the rebuild of the Navy De-Havilland, which would have been used in training from the 1950s to 1980s.

Mr Turney said: “We started on that in September 2010 and it has pretty much been a full-time project. It’s not hard at all, it’s time consuming.”

It is hoped the aircraft will be on show at the Goodwood revival this year alongside the Royal Navy Historical group’s Seafury and Swordfish.

The plane will soon be put to use in the air as the training and engineering firm move up a notch.

Officially set up last November by founding directors David Spicer and Dickie Bird, Chiltern Classic Flight is going from strength to strength.

Its team have one thing in common – a love of classic aircraft.

Chiltern Classic Flight is the only flight training firm in the country to have three classic aircraft on its books, with a fourth on its way, and has recently become a registered training facility for historic and classic aircraft.

The firm recently set up at former RAF Bicester where it hopes to encourage others to take to the sky and learn about what’s under the bonnet of the plane itself.

Key to the organisation is passing on skills in flying and maintaining classic aircraft, as well as rebuilding and renovating them.

Mr Bird said: “Skills for dealing with classic aircraft are diminishing; within our group we have more experience than most and feel we can offer a strong service for training and hopefully very soon maintenance for classic and historic aircraft.

“The skills required to operate and maintain these aircraft need to be preserved for future generations and our aim is to help ensure this happens”.

Businessman Mr Spicer, also a pilot and instructor, said: “The profile of the company is that we are a group of people committed to classic aircraft.

“What we actually deliver is these aircraft rebuilt and renovated to very high standard.
“It’s not like a car. You can’t just turn up and say there’s a problem with the starter. There’s a huge amount of effort required to understand completely its history.

“It’s a heritage kick in a way. It’s a desire to have some of the aviation heritage available for future generations.

“We have customers for engineering and we make money by fixing and maintaining aircraft.”
He hopes in the future the firm could offer apprenticeship schemes to young people.

The group has also got its first trainee in Bill Morris, 56, who is enjoying his expensive hobby.
He said: “I’m doing my private pilot’s licence, which has been a lifelong dream for me, so just being around these aircraft is an absolute delight.”


The flying field, known as the technical site, is a former World War Two training airfield.

Its owner, the Ministry of Defence, has recently put the site on the market and anyone interested in buying it must submit an expression of interest by August 24.

Bomber Command Heritage want to create a museum and heritage centre dedicated to Bomber Command, and is putting together a business case in order to submit a bid.

The airfield is the best preserved airbase of its kind in the country according to English Heritage.