The Walker family purchased the Membury Estate in May 1993 and moved in later that year in September. In 1999 the family business, Walker Logistics Ltd specialising in warehousing, fulfilment, distribution and transport also moved to the Membury Estate occupying some of the original WWII T2 hangars, as well as some new purpose built facilities.
After falling in love with Membury and its charm it was only a matter of time before both the Walker family and the business, run by Philip Walker, took an interest in Membury’s significant history. With Charlie Walker working as a commercial pilot and having a very keen interest in aviation history, finding and restoring an aircraft that had once flown from Membury was an obvious link and a long standing dream. There were a vast number of different aircraft that flew from Membury at different stages throughout the war, but people familiar with the local area will tell you that it was the aircraft of the troop carriers that are most synonymous with Membury.
So with this in mind Charlie and Philip set about tracking down a C-47 aircraft that had flown from Membury during the war. With the help of a number of experts including local historian Roger Day and restoration experts Tony Bianchi and Tom Woodhouse from Personal Plane Services, aircraft 42-100521 was soon located in Arkansas USA. Without further ado the aircraft was surveyed by DC-3 specialists Frank and Glen Moss, from Shell Creek Aviation in the USA, to see if restoration project was feasible.
In November 2012 Walker Logistics Ltd, led by Philip and Charlie Walker, purchased 42-100521 which turned out to be “Night Fright”. Not only did the aircraft turn out to have flown from Membury, but it had far more providence than could ever have been imagined. The long term plan is to operate the aircraft from its original WWII base (Membury) as a flying memorial to all those who gave their lives in the name of our freedom. This is believed to be the only C-47 in the world to fly from its original base.
Both the pilots who flew “Night” for the majority of its missions throughout the war are in touch with the project, have sent photographs and memoires and are thrilled to see their old aircraft being restored!
The priority is to have the aircraft fully restored by the end of 2018/early 2019 and ready to take part in the huge celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in June 2019. That said we have already commenced work to build a museum at Membury as a memorial to the five troop carrier airfields in the local vicinity. The museum will be curated and run by local experts and will be free to enter for the general public.
From November 2012 until mid-2017 the aircraft was in Florida with DC-3 experts Frank and Glen Moss where the restoration process began. Not only are Frank and Glen Moss specialist DC-3 operators and mechanics, Frank is a “legendary” aviator and DC-3 pilot. In July 2013 Charlie had the privilege of flying alongside Frank, as he instructed him to become a type-rated DC-3 pilot in preparation for “Night Fright`s potential ferry flight to the UK.
In 2017 we made the decision to move the project back to the UK where we would have more control and input in the decision making process and also allow us to visit the project more regularly. Ben Cox of Air Atlantique agreed to take on the project, given Air Atlantique’s considerable experience and expertise in operating and maintaining DC-3s they were the only choice for us and our project going forward. A huge logistical operation then ensued, a small team of experts led by aircraft recovery specialist Clive Edwards was despatched to Florida where they were on the ground for 4 weeks dismantling the aircraft and carefully packing it and all its parts in to sea freight containers. After an epic 3 week sea voyage the aircraft arrived in the UK via Southampton docks where it was then moved to Air Atlantique at Coventry airport by road.
Currently the aircraft has been separated in to sections, a giant mechano set if you like. The fuselage, the centre section, the tail cone and the wings are all currently being worked on in different capacities. As well as these major sections we have two new engines to build up, landing gear and brakes to overhaul, avionics to install and a huge number of other tasks of which there are too many to list to complete.
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