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Royal jet Flies in For Retirement At South Wales Museum

Royal jet Flies in For Retirement At South Wales Museum

A jet named after a Welsh winner of the Victoria Cross and used by the Royal Family was delivered to a South Wales aviation museum today after making its final flight for the RAF.

The BAe146 four-engined transport, previously operated by the Queen's Flight, is being given by the RAF to the South Wales Aviation Museum (SWAM) at St Athan. RAF BAE 146.

The aircraft was delivered by Number 32 Squadron, known as 'The Royal' squadron - the unit has operated the aircraft for many years to transport members of the Royal family, senior government ministers and Ministry of Defence personnel.

Piloting the aircraft, number ZE700, on its final flight was Wing Commander Delia Chadwick, the current Commanding Officer of 32 Sqn. She said: "Crews old and new are exceptionally fond of the 146's characteristics and capabilities. They're proud of her proven reliability, her rich heritage and the significant role she's delivered. While it is a sad day to say goodbye to the aircraft we hold so dear after years of unrelenting service, she thoroughly deserves her retirement, and it's time for 32 (The Royal) Squadron to enter a new chapter in its history".

Former RAF Chief Technician, Barry Kelly, was also on ZE700's last flight. He has worked on the aircraft both in the RAF and as a civilian contractor for over 30 years since it entered service in the mid-eighties and it was an emotional day for him.

The aircraft is named after Group Captain Lionel Rees VC, a fighter pilot from Caernarfon who was awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War. Rees was awarded Britain's highest award for gallantry for his actions on June 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, after single-handedly taking on 10 enemy aircraft.

The squadron retained its number after the Royal Flying Corps was merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to become the Royal Air Force in 1918.

The BAe146 will be housed at SWAM's home at St Athan where it will join their large collection of historical British military aircraft at the former RAF base 15 miles west of Cardiff.

Gary Spoors of SWAM said "We're very thankful to the RAF for the generous gift of this historic British jet. To have an aircraft which performed such a high-profile role is a real boost for the museum and the fact that it has a Welsh connection to a VC winner makes it even more special.

"It joins a Tornado GR4 which the RAF gifted to the museum last year and we're very grateful to them for letting us have these two important aircraft here at St Athan."

Mr Spoors, who himself served in the RAF, has a personal connection to 32 Sqn, adding: "My dad served on the Queen's Flight at RAF Benson in the 1970s when I was a boy - so I've got great memories of seeing their aircraft operate - they're very special."

The aircraft will be stripped of its specialist electronic equipment before being handed over to the museum. The disposal of the BAe146 fleet has been managed by Defence Equipment and Support.

The BAe146 is being replaced by modern Dassault 900LX jets which are more sustainable thanks to their smaller engines, leading to a reduction in fuel burn and emissions and have longer range.

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