Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Michael Bates - A Tribute

Michael Bates, perhaps better known as Mick, was never a man that was pushy, he never want to be the limelight of events. A somewhat shy man in many ways, who thought things out before answering. As often said, he engaged his brain before opening his mouth. He had a very logical mind.

I first met Mick when the Britannia G-ANCF arrived at Speke Liverpool for restoration. He had taken the aircraft apart in the eighties being employed by Proteus Aero Services. He was very involved in this work; it eventually became his big aim in life to see it restored back to look like it did in its flying days. He was an inspiration to work with. A man that had and expected high standards in putting the aircraft back together again. He was planning to be up at Speke during the week that he passed away.

His love of mechanical things was obvious to all. He would recall the days when as a boy he would be found either standing at some railway station or goods yard doing what boys always did, collecting numbers or trying to get a footplate ride around the yard. Or as a youngster he could also be found at an airfield watching aircraft. He would frequently visit Denham or Southend airports It was these time at the airports that were to move him to become an aircraft engineer.

In 1960 he started life in aviation with Tradair on Vickers Vikings. He worked for a number of airlines including Autair and BKS. In the seventies and eighties he became a loadmaster on his beloved Bristol Britannia, flying the all over the world. His fame as an aircraft fitter became well known and was soon requested to join the staff of Proteus Aero Services and was to work with Roger Hargreaves. He was actively involved in the repair and relocation of two of Brooklands aircraft, the Viscount (G-APIM) and the Varsity. The Viscount required a large amount of repair work as a result of an accident and then being taken apart for transporting to Brooklands . Not to be forgotten is the preparation for transport and restoration of the H.P. Herald at Woodley.

A quote from Flypast magazine regarding the repair of G-APIM "Mick Bates was to give long hours in basic conditions affecting some repairs to the nose of the aircraft and then dissembling it for transportation.
During his visits to Speke he would fetch out of his famous wheel chair bag, photos that he had taken of Aircraft and locomotives. There was always a story that followed. He loved to talk about what he would call 'real' aeroplanes. The Viking, Britannia and Viscount were amongst his favourites.

In these past few years he did not enjoy good health, he battled through various personal sadnesses and medical problems. The loss of a leg was a real blow but as our chief engineer for the Britannia project he was an inspiration to us all, in so many ways. He never allowed his disability to get in the way when attempting work on the Britannia. He would climb the passenger steps get back into his chair and then to work. Sometime balancing on one leg to reach a rivets using the rivet gun. His memory of how he took the aircraft apart and the way it should go back was incredible.

Mick will be greatly missed by many. We who are left to continue the Britannia project are going to find it hard. But it is our determination to complete the task to the memory of our friend and colleague Mick Bates. To do this we need help. So if you are an airframe man especially with riveting experience and feel that you would like to assist in this project then please contact us.

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Mick's Funeral will be held at 
Manor Park Cemetery & Crematorium, Sebert Road, Forest Gate, London E7 0NP
on Thursday 8th April 2010 at 3.30pm.

Monday, 15 March 2010

REVIEW OF 2009

2009 proved to be a challenging year for the Britannia Aircraft Preservation Trust.

Early in the New Year the working relationship with the Jetstream Club and the rebuild of Britannia Charlie Fox at Speke came to an end.

There were a number of reasons for this, but the arrangement simply was not working for either party so the ''parting of the waves'' was the only way forward. We would like to put on record our thanks to the members of the Jetstream Club who worked on the project with such enthusiasm and hard work since the aircraft arrived at Speke nearly three years ago. Without their support Charlie Fox would we are sure have ended its days on the scrap heap at Kemble. We are eternally grateful.

An agreement was then made with Kewgreen Hotels who own the site at Speke and the Crowne Plaza Hotel who run the hotel in the former terminal building at Speke, for Charlie Fox to remain on its present site outside the hotel. We are grateful to both Companies for their continued support of the project.

In early Spring we came to an arrangement for the Newcastle Aviation College to provide final year aircraft engineering students to work on Charlie Fox on a regular basis. This involved up to eight students and their tutor Brian Dixon, driving from Newcastle to Speke, working on the aircraft, staying overnight, working on the aircraft the next day before driving back to Newcastle. The standard of work provided by the students was excellent and a special thanks goes to Brian Dixon for making it all possible, The students mainly worked on the rear fuselage join and strap which involved fitting hundred of rivets. Not an easy task in sometimes appalling weather conditions.

In July, Charlie Fox was open to visitors during the annual Air Fair organised by the Jetstream Club. This proved very popular and it is our intention to open the aircraft on a regular basis once the aircraft is standing on its undercarriage.

Work on Charlie Fox has been slow over the past year and on the face of it, it looks as though very little progress has been made. However the front and rear join and strap are nearing completion, ready for the aircraft to be lifted onto its undercarriage during 2010, the front nose gear has been extended from its undercarriage bay where it has resided for the last 22 years and the rear crew area has been cleared, cleaned and etched ready for the installation of crew bunks, toilet and galley during 2010.

Our other aircraft G-ALRX which is on loan to the Bristol Aero Collection at Kemble has been under going some restoration work under the expert guidance of Bill Meehan and Mike Jones. During 2009 the rear bulkhead was replaced and restoration of the small cabin interior commenced. In addition one of the cockpit windows has been removed with a view to getting a new one manufactured by a Company in London. It is hoped that the interior restoration will be completed by June 2010.