Seven new rescue helicopter bases to be built in UK

Computer generated image of hangar

A computer generated image of the planned new bases

Balfour Beatty has been awarded a £40m contract to lead the construction of search and rescue bases for Bristow Helicopters.

New facilities will be built at commercial airports at Caernarfon, Humberside, Inverness, Manston, Newquay, Prestwick and St Athan.

Buildings in Stornoway will be revamped.

Crews and helicopters to be based at Lee-on-Solent and Sumburgh will use existing facilities.

Bristow said Balfour Beatty, an infrastructure services company, would seek to use local firms to do the construction work.

Earlier this year, the Bristow Group won a 10-year contract from the Department for Transport to run the UK’s helicopter search and rescue operations from 2015, taking over from the RAF and Royal Navy.

The new helicopter bases will be fitted with environmental technologies such as PV solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems.

‘Ideally suited’

Bristow managing director Mike Imlach, said: “Our experienced crews have fed into the design process and worked closely with the architects to ensure that the new bases are ideally suited to safe and efficient SAR operations.

“The identical interior layouts across the country will make it easy for our crew members to work from alternative bases should they need to.

“Each site will provide modern, high quality accommodation for the aircraft and crews while demonstrating how buildings like this can be made highly sustainable and environmentally friendly.”

Hector MacAulay, from Balfour Beatty, said the contract would be managed through the firm’s Edinburgh office.

He added: “We will use our extensive experience of airport construction work to deliver these projects which are vital to the ongoing success of this emergency service throughout the UK.

“We look forward to working with our local suppliers to provide facilities that fulfil our customer’s expectations.”

Sourced by BBC News Highlands & Islands

St Athan return for World War II pilot training aircraft

Hornet Moth

By Neil Prior, BBC News

The Hornet Moth was ‘easy-to-fly, easy-to-maintain’

The St Athan military base in the Vale of Glamorgan will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a special homecoming on Tuesday.

Newly-appointed commanding officer, Wing Commander Robert Balls, will welcome back one of the first planes which ever took off from there when the old air base opened in 1938.

The De Havilland Hornet Moth was a two-seater biplane whose design was already outdated even before the start of hostilities.

But as Brian Acott, St Athan’s archivist and military historian explains, it nevertheless holds a special place in the hearts of everyone on the base.

“You could say the Hornet Moth and St Athan have a similar story in some ways,” he said.

“Events and technology moved so quickly during the late 1930s and 40s that both were thought to have been obsolete before they’d seen action.

“St Athan was intended to have been a maintenance base beyond the reach of the Luftwaffe but the fall of France put paid to that, and the development of rapid monoplane fighters meant that the Hornet Moth was far too slow and vulnerable for combat duties.

“But 75 years on both are still going strong.”

Once it had been rejected for air combat, the RAF’s fleet of Hornet Moths were transferred to 32 Squadron, Maintenance Unit (32MU) and 4 Squadron, School of Technical Training (4TT).

Powered by a single 130 horsepower Gypsy engine and weighing roughly the same as a Ford Fiesta, it could cruise at around 80mph.

At St Athan they found new roles as submarine spotters, air taxis and even for helping to calibrate early radar installations.

‘Flying continuously’

Their simplicity, stability and reliability also made them the ideal plane on which to train novice pilots and ground crew from St Athan.

A testament to their durability is that of around 160 built, somewhere between 25 and 30 are thought to still be in airworthy condition 75 years later.

W9385 G-ADND – still in her RAF livery – will be flown into MoD St Athan by her current owner David Weston.

“People say the design was outdated even then but it was always intended to be an easy-to-fly, easy-to-maintain workhorse, and it does it brilliantly,” he said.

“I bought her from the Shuttleworth Collection in Bedfordshire in 1996 and, apart from a slight crash in 1971, she’s been flying continuously all her life and could easily go for another 75 years if she’s looked after properly.

“Once I learnt about her wartime history in St Athan I was thrilled to make her a part of their anniversary celebrations.

“I love the history behind vintage aeroplanes, as well as their mechanics and little idiosyncrasies but more than anything they’re a joy to fly. She’s not very fast, but feels like a machine not a computer.”

Mr Weston is flying around an hour from Wiltshire and, weather permitting, is hoping to touch down for the guard of honour at around 13:30 BST.

Sourced from BBC News

St Athan RAF base celebrates 75th anniversary

The Duchess of Kent inspecting a parade at St AthanBy Neil Prior

An RAF base once thought to have become obsolete within two years of opening is celebrating its 75th birthday.

The anniversary at St Athan will be marked with a day of special events including a service in the base’s chapel and a veterans parade.

There will also be a fly-by from many of the vintage aircraft stationed there over the years and dinner in the mess.

In recent years the Vale of Glamorgan airbase has reinvented itself as a state-of-the-art training facility.

It is also a rehabilitation centre for injured serviceman and is, according to its station commander, testament to the tenacity and versatility of all who’ve served there throughout its history.

The base had previously missed out on a multi-billion pound contract for an RAF academy, while at the same time losing its last remaining military aircraft maintenance contracts.

“We’re no strangers to having to compete for our very existence here at St Athan”, said Wing Cmdr Paul Regan.

“But the fact that we’re still here, in such tough economic times for the MoD, shows that the work we do is vital across the armed forces.”

But the truth is, uncertainty over the future is nothing new to the staff of the base – its entire history has been a battle for survival.

‘Safe haven’

Originally conceived in 1938 as a maintenance base, the site was chosen because it was thought that south Wales would lie beyond the range of Luftwaffe bombers.

But within two years of 32 Squadron, Maintenance Unit (32MU) and 4 Squadron, School of Technical Training (4TT) moving in, the concept of a safe haven had been rendered obsolete.

On 20 June 1940, a German attack on RAF St Athan launched from captured French airfields brought the war to Wales for the very first time.

The Duke of Edinburgh at St Athan The Duke of Edinburgh visiting St Athan

Brian Acott, St Athan’s archivist and military historian, who served 37 years with 4TT from 1955, said the base faced an uncertain future.

“Once the notion had been shattered that the RAF could have a site beyond the reach of the Luftwaffe, where they could maintain and repair aircraft at their leisure, the War Office began to question whether St Athan offered anything they didn’t already have at other bases,” he said.

“The other problem was that at the height of the war, and particularly during the Battle of Britain, we were going through planes at such a rate, that the whole idea of even bothering to repair them at all seemed like King Canute trying to hold back the waves.

“So we had to re-invent ourselves for the first time, becoming experts in the reclamation of badly-needed spares from irreparably damaged aircraft, thus finding a niche to carry us through the rest of the war.”

According to Wing Cmdr Regan, it’s a tradition which persists to this day.

“The recruits who come to St Athan today arrive with 10 weeks basic training and leave eighteen months later with such a range of engineering skills that we often have a job to hold onto them within the forces,” he added.

“We may not do the glamorous work here, but our graduates are the young men and women with the ability to repair equipment under fire, or manufacture a bespoke part for an aircraft in the middle of Afghanistan when it could take weeks to fly one in from the UK.”

Fighter jets

St Athan ran into controversy in the 1950s when the base was given the task of maintaining Vulcan Bombers which carried Britain’s nuclear warheads.

But when the nuclear deterrent shifted from bombers to submarines, 32MU’s future in south Wales was again thrown into doubt.

St Athan, Vale of Glamorgan The airbase has become a state-of-the-art training facility and rehabilitation centre

During the late 1960s and early 1970s St Athan was earmarked for closure, before another MoD U-turn brought them the maintenance contract for the RAF’s fleet of VC10 air tankers, followed a few years later by the newly-launched Tornado fighter jets.

It was to mark a high point in the base’s public relations, once again gaining popular affection by exploiting the variety of new planes present to hold annual Battle of Britain air shows throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

But the new century brought a string of raised and dashed hopes, as fast jet maintenance was taken elsewhere and the base was then overlooked for a £12bn military academy.

Wing Cmdr Regan added: “Many of the veterans we have attending the celebrations have told me that in 1938 – and on pretty much every year since – people have confidently predicted that St Athan wouldn’t see the year out.

“But with the excellent work of 4TT training ground crew, and 14 Signal Regiment based here through 2018 and beyond, I’m confident that on its 75th birthday St Athan remains as relevant as ever.”

Sourced by BBC News

Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson on his airline ambitions

By Russell HottenBusiness reporter, BBC News, Paris Air Show

Bruce Dickinson
Bruce Dickinson in business mode at the Paris Air Show and doing his “part-time job” with Iron Maiden

Bruce Dickinson arrived for his BBC interview wet, hot, but in remarkably good spirits.

The lead singer with rock band Iron Maiden – and aviation fanatic – was at the Paris Air Show to unveil expansion plans for an aircraft maintenance business he started last year.

The usual chaos and gridlock, that have become an annoying inevitability of travelling to the show, were compounded by a lightning storm.

Mr Dickinson ended up abandoning his taxi on the motorway and walking a mile in the rain. But it has not dented his enthusiasm.

“It’s great to be here,” he says. “I’ve done Farnborough [the UK air show] but never Paris. It’s all very exciting.”

He left the show a few hours later, heading for Berlin where Iron Maiden’s world tour continues. “But I should be back on Thursday,” he says. Despite his love of all things aviation, Dickinson adds: “I’m here to do business, not watch the displays.”

Doing deals

Last year, he set up Cardiff Aviation, a joint venture with business partner Mario Fulgoni, a pilot and airline executive.

They took over a fully-equipped former RAF maintenance facility at St Athan, just outside Cardiff. The site can park 20 narrow-body airlines, and the hangar is big enough to house a Boeing 767-300, just smaller than a jumbo jet. There is also a 6,000ft runway.

With an initial investment of £5m from a mix of government and private sources announced on Monday, the pair want to make it a centre for repairing and maintaining civil aircraft.

There are also plans to open a pilot training facility, and Dickinson is in advanced talks about setting up an airline leasing-cum-charter operation. It will be what is called an ACMI airline – providing aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance.

He says: “Asia and the Middle East is going to be where the huge growth in aviation will be. But the smart way to start an airline is not to spend huge sums of money up front, but to come to companies like us.

“Our ambition at Cardiff Aviation is to create a sort of one-stop shop,” he says. “A lot of maintenance facilities are closing, especially in Europe because of high labour costs and inefficiency. We have not inherited that.”

Dickinson said his business is close to securing a deal to become the sole provider of maintenance to an aircraft leasing company, and he was in Paris to discuss possible contracts with airlines.

He says: “It’s early days, but our business plan is perfectly achievable. We are already in profit and have no big debts. I think that’s pretty good.”

Engineering in his blood

Bruce Dickinson at Cardiff AviationDickinson, here at Cardiff Aviation, hopes to create many more jobs in Wales

The business employs about 80 people, though clearly if the expansion plans come to fruition that number will rise considerably, probably by many hundreds, he hopes.

There are complex certification procedures to pass, both for the maintenance operation and to start an airline. It will take time, he says, but things are progressing well.

Given the Iron Maiden fame, it’s easy to assume that Dickinson’s role in the venture is to open doors with prospective clients. “It helps,” his business partner Fulgoni admits.

But it is clear that Dickinson loves being both an entrepreneur and involved in building something that could mean investment and jobs. Music, he said, is now a “part-time job” that brings in the money, he joked.

Dickinson went to his first air show aged five, and got his fascination with aircraft from his dad, an engineer, and uncle, who worked for the RAF. “Don’t ask me to put up a shelf, but I love engineering.”

And that was his cue to go off on a passionate five-minute rant about the failings of the educational system, and engineering itself.

“Teachers need to be more inspirational. But it’s also up to engineering to make itself more interesting.

“Engineering stimulates the mind. Kids get bored easily. They have got to get out and get their hands dirty: make things, dismantle things, fix things. When the schools can offer that, you’ll have an engineer for life,” he says.

He got his pilot’s licence in 1991, gaining more qualifications and experience so that he could fly bigger planes on longer journeys. He began flying Iron Maiden on tour, and then got a job with the now-defunct British World Airlines.

Later he became a pilot for Icelandic-owned charter airline Astraeus. That collapsed in 2011. “I was in the air when it happened, flying a group of pilgrims returning from Jeddah to Manchester,” he recalls.

He does not do much piloting these days. Some of the shine has been taken off the job, because most modern aircraft are flown by computers these days, not pilots.

“You just need a pilot in the cockpit in case something goes wrong,” he says.

“It’s still a huge thrill to take off and land. But when you are in a plane, you are in the hands of the engineers. That’s where it’s at these days.”

Sourced from BBC Business News

Aviation firm co-founded by Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson secures £5m investment

Aircraft maintenance and flight training company Cardiff Aviation Limited was established in July last year

 Bruce Dickinson
Bruce Dickinson

A Cardiff aircraft maintenance business co-founded by the lead singer of Iron Maiden is set to be pumped with a £5m investment in what will help the company have a “much wider impact across the entire South Wales aerospace industry”.

Cardiff Aviation Limited, the aircraft maintenance and flight training organisation established last July by veteran rock star Bruce Dickinson and business partner Mario Fulgoni, has agreed inward investment of £5 million.

Finance Wales, the UK SME investment company and Welsh Government subsidiary, has contributed £1.6m to the project, with the remainder of the sum coming from private or privately-owned investors including Dickinson and Fulgoni.

Fulgoni, The company’s joint chief executive, said the money would allow for expansion of their senior management team as well as letting the business build on the list of maintenance and operational approvals certification it already possesses.

This will include the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Part 21 Design Approval.

“This means Cardiff Aviation Limited will be permitted to manufacture and certify aircraft parts alongside our maintenance and training operations, thereby providing us with a full opportunity to exploit the range of technical equipment and expertise we acquired in taking over Twin Peaks from the RAF, and in establishing Cardiff Aviation,” said Mr Fulgoni.

Finance Wales’ part in the investment came from the £150 million Wales JEREMIE Fund, and Mr Dickinson is hopeful the money will spur on the existing growth already made by the fledgling company.

Joint CEO and singer Mr Dickinson, who is himself a 7,000 hour Boeing 757 pilot, said: “The Welsh Government has played a fantastic role in a difficult economic environment in providing tremendous support and enthusiasm. Finance Wales’ long-term backing is the fuel not just to put St Athan on the map, but has the potential to create a consequentially much wider impact across the entire South Wales aerospace industry.

“As for Cardiff Aviation, the first key role we plan to fill is that of commercial director. We will follow up with expansion of the operational and technical teams to address our current growth trend and increasingly lucrative contracts with both UK and international aviation businesses. We also plan to invest in more engineering equipment to supplement and enhance the already excellent technical capability at Cardiff Aviation.”

With the company located at St Athan Enterprise Zone in the Vale of Glamorgan, it boasts 32,000sq ft of hangar space capable of accommodating aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 767-300, and parking for up to 20 narrow bodied commercial airliners.

Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology Jeff Cuthbert said new growth would open up more opportunities for Cardiff Aviation and “expand their capability”.

And Finance Wales’ Senior Investment Executive, Nick Larcombe said Mr Dickinson and Mr Fulgoni’s “passion for the aviation industry” would “drive the business forward”.

The cash injection will now see Cardiff Aviation target the $2 billion European MRO market, which is currently growing at around three per cent a year as commercial airlines look to outsource fleet maintenance.

Gerallt Jones, head of corporate and banking at Hugh James, the law firm engaged as legal advisers on the deal, said:  “It is very pleasing to see such an ambitious business establish itself in Wales and contribute to the rapidly expanding aviation sector in the region. We have worked with numerous aviation clients in recent years and we are committed to helping businesses, like Cardiff Aviation, attract investment and grow in a sector which has the potential to provide major employment opportunities and considerable economic benefit to Wales.”

Sourced from Wales Online

South Wales Aviation Group reach milestone

An aviation enthusiast website based in the Vale of Glamorgan has reached a significant milestone this month as their number of hits on their blog hit 2 million views.

The South Wales Aviation Group which is an enthusiast website that logs the arrivals and departures of almost every aircraft in and out of both Cardiff Airport and MoD St Athan has been running since 2006.  The website was the brainwave of Mr Ian Grinter after realising the benefits of the Internet in recording the aircraft arrivals and departures.

He said “The site was a brainwave of mine back in January 2006. Years ago in the 70s when I started spotting there were quite a crowd of us that would go to the airport  when we weren’t at school and collect numbers of visiting aircraft. It got to a stage that we would see aircraft whilst in school or at home and then tried to find out the registrations and would ring each other trying to find out.”

He continued, “We had the idea of keeping a book behind the information desk and whoever visited the airport would write down their sightings in the book, this was a big success and was used a lot.  It dawned on me one night that a similar thing could be achieved with the Internet and I set out to find a free site that could work and not looked back since!”

The Wales Air Forum are regular visitors of the website as it provides us with reliable information regarding ad-hoc and diverts movements for both Cardiff Airport and MoD St Athan which makes it possible for us to perform our monthly logs.

The blog also provides information regarding residents based at Cardiff, MoD St Athan, Swansea and Pembrey along with the status of aircraft Hunter Flying Ltd, eCube Solutions LLP and Cardiff Aviation Ltd.

The website is updated by several dedicated individuals throughout the day and night.  This ensures that South Wales Aviation Group is a trusted and valuable resource.  Many of the members can be seen at the flying club in Rhoose which offers a great vantage point for viewing aircraft and taking photo’s.

View website:

Bristow wins £1.6bn UK search and rescue deal

By Dominic Perry

A long-running procurement programme to outsource and modernise the UK’s search and rescue helicopter operations has finally ended with the award of a £1.6 billion contract to US-owned Bristow Helicopters.

To replace the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force AgustaWestland Sea King fleets, from 2015 Bristow will bring in new AgustaWestland AW189s and Sikorsky S-92s, says the UK Department for Transport (DfT) announcing the award on 26 March. The new operation will be fully active from 2017, it adds.

The 10-year deal, so-called Long SAR, will see helicopters based at a total of 10 sites across the UK. A pair of S-92s will each operate from Stornoway in the Western Isles and Sumburgh in Shetland – existing bases for S-92s under the Gap SAR contract operated by Bristow from this summer – and new locations at Newquay, Caernarfon and Humberside airports.

The AW189s, again two per base, will be stationed at Lee on Solent and Prestwick, and new sites at St Athan, Inverness and Manston airports.

An additional two airframes, one of each type, will be used as spares. Bristow estimates the total capital spend on the new helicopters as being in the region of $1 billion.

Proposing the super-medium AW189 to perform the shorter-range missions comes as little surprise following AgustaWestland’s pledge to create search and rescue helicopter manufacturing capability at its Yeovil, UK factory if it was chosen by the successful operator. This also saw off a potential challenge from Eurocopter’s EC175, which was not offered by any bidder.

DfT claims the new contract will see the creation of over 350 jobs at Yeovil and at a supply hub Sikorsky will locate at Aberdeen to support the S-92 fleet.

Additionally it claims that coverage and reaction speed will be improved by the new operation.

Bristow beat off competition in the final round of the process from UK firm Bond Offshore Helicopters which had solely bid on the short-range element of the contract with the AW189. Canada’s CHC Helicopter had been forced to retire from the bidding in December.

The operator says it will earn around $2.5 billion in revenue over the duration of the contract.

A previous contest, SAR-H, was abandoned in February 2011 after the DfT discovered “irregularities” in the bidding process which had seen a contract awarded in 2010 to the Soteria consortium comprising CHC, Sikorsky and Thales.

Current SAR bases are at Culdrose, Wattisham, Valley, Boulmer, Portland, Lee on Solent, Chivenor, Leconfield, Lossiemouth and Prestwick.

Sourced by Flightglobal

MoD St Athan: Era ends as last VC10 aircraft leaves maintenance base

The last RAF aircraft to be repaired by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) at St Athan has flown out, ending 75 years of maintenance at the site.

The remaining 200 workers at the base will be made redundant after the VC10 left at 15:50 GMT on Thursday.

Vale of Glamorgan MP Alun Cairns called for the skills of the workforce to be kept within the area.

The Welsh government said it was working to attract new companies, with interest in a new enterprise zone.

Mr Cairns said he was sorry to see the last aircraft leave the site, but the “expert knowledge base” needed to be retained locally.

Paul Lindsay Wales Aerospace Forum

“I’m in touch with the MoD regarding the plans for the super hangar and am optimistic about the outcome,” said the MP.

Paul Lindsay of the Wales Aerospace Forum said it was “a sad day” and “a great disappointment” for the local community.

“There are positives in that we’ve had 75 good years,” he said.

“But the disappointment is that between the Welsh government and the MoD they have invested £240m there over the past 10 years.

“Let’s hope that collectively they decide what the future is for St Athan. The Welsh government and the MoD are working hard to fill the gap.”

St Athan’s history as an aircraft maintenance base dates back to 1938.

 The last 200 workers at the repair base will be made redundant

Just before and during World War II many different types of aircraft were assembled, test flown and maintained there by a staff of 14,000, and the base inevitably became a target for German bombers.

By the mid-1990s there were 3,500 engineers repairing fighter jets.

But since then the St Athan site has since endured more than a decade of uncertainty and failed attempts to secure skilled jobs.

In 2000 the Red Dragon Project began, aimed at modernising the ageing MoD facilities there, along with the construction of a £77m super hangar for fast jet repair.

The main tenant for the new super hangar was to be the Defence Aviation Repair Agency, Dara.

Gradually wound down

But in 2005, UK ministers announced they were closing the fast jet business at St Athan, with the loss of hundreds of jobs.

In March 2009 the National Audit Office and the Wales Audit Office criticised both the MoD and Welsh authorities after it had cost the taxpayer £113m and failed to deliver thousands of jobs.

The then Defence Minister Quentin Davies revealed in November 2009 that nearly 340 jobs would be lost at the base in south Wales by June 2013 at the latest.

In October 2010, a £14bn defence training academy which would have created 2,000 jobs at St Athan was scrapped as part of 8% cuts by the UK government to the defence budget.

At that time there were around 400 civilian staff left at the base.

But the operation has been gradually wound down as the contract to service the VC-10 tanker aircraft came to an end.

Mr Lindsay added: “The buildings are there. It’s available. Let’s hope somebody else comes.”

The Welsh government said there was significant private sector interest in the newly designated St Athan Enterprise Zone.

It said it was working to attract new companies to the area capable of creating sustainable jobs for local people.

A spokesman said Cardiff Airport and other key employment sites and development proposals in the immediate vicinity were now being included in the enterprise zone.

“Potential employers are made aware of the skills mix available,” said the spokesperson.

Sourced by BBC

Final VC10 aircraft leaves MoD St Athan in ‘sad day’ for staff

More than 70 years of military aircraft maintenance will come to a close at a Welsh former RAF base today, in a move described as a “sad day” by workers and politicians.

The departure of the last VC10 aircraft to be serviced at MoD St Athan – formerly RAF St Athan – marks the end of an era at the Vale of Glamorgan site.

But AMs and MPs last night spoke of their hopes that the base would continue to have a bright future.

Jane Hutt, Vale of Glamorgan AM and Finance Minister, said: “It is a sad day for the highly skilled Defence Support Group (DSG) workforce.

“I am pleased the Welsh Government has recently given St Athan Enterprise Zone status and is keen to develop an Aerospace Business Park at St Athan to create jobs and use the airfield and skills base– like the DSG workforce – in the area.”

The final day of maintenance work on the aircraft, which was due to depart at 3pm, had been expected by workers at the Large Aircraft Business since the phasing out of the ageing VC10 fleet was announced two years ago.

The aircraft, which has been serviced in South Wales for nearly 20 years, was the last military plane to be serviced at the base, which has maintained an array of different military planes since the 1930s.

The DSG base closure has meant the loss of more than 300 jobs.

One worker at the base, who asked not to be named said: “It is the end of an era, but all eras come to an end and we have to move on. Of course it is sad, but we should look forward with hope and optimism.”

The closure has sparked renewed calls for action to ensure that the base is developed by both the Welsh and Westminster governments.

When the announcement of the closure was first made shortly before Christmas 2009, hopes remained high that the development of the £14bn Defence Technical Academy would provide a prosperous future. But that scheme was scrapped the next year by the incoming coalition government.

Meanwhile, it is understood some of the workers who serviced the VC10s in the “super hangar” base have found other contract employment.

The site has also seen the development of the Welsh Government’s Aerospace Business Park, with hopes that training facilities will be developed there.

The Park was recently given a boost with the news that Hunter Flying – which oversees the maintenance and operation of the largest private collection of classic aircraft of its kind – has taken a 10-year lease on two hangars at the park.

The two hangars cover 50,888 sq ft. One will be used for housing and maintaining the aircraft and the other will accommodate the large number of spares and equipment required to keep historic aircraft in an airworthy condition.

The company aims to create new employment for “a number of aircraft engineers,” including those from the DSG, as it diversifies into other areas of maintenance.

Hunter Flying’s chief engineer John Sparks said St Athan was ideal for their plans. “It ticks all the boxes and my wife Nadine and I are excited about the move,” he said.

Meanwhile, British Airways is considering expanding its maintenance operation in Wales with a new base at St Athan.

Alun Cairns, Vale of Glamorgan MP, said: “We now need to capitalise on the skills of the staff who have worked on this aircraft, and make sure that we retain these skills and expert knowledge base within our community.

“The Welsh Government need to act quickly to make their aerospace park become a reality as part of their Enterprise Zone scheme.”

He added: “I’m in touch with the MoD regarding the plans for the super hangar and am optimistic about the outcome.”

Sourced by Wales Online


Aircraft will be 101 Sqn VC-10 K.3 ZA147/F and is expected to leave at approximately at 15:00 to Brize Norton.  The aircraft may perform a flyby however this has not been confirmed.

Information provided by South Wales Aviation Group

Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson linked with St Athan jobs creation move


Bruce Dickinson Image 5
Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson plans to create 1,500 new jobs in the aerospace industry

He’s one of rock music’s biggest legends and famous for songs like Number Of The Beast and Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter.

But Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson could also be bringing 1,500 jobs to the Vale of Glamorgan.

Dickinson, also a qualified pilot, is understood to be looking to establish a commercial aircraft maintenance facility at St Athan.

WalesOnline understands he and his backers have identified the empty £77m state-of-the-art aircraft maintenance facility as a location for the venture.

The site has been assigned enterprise zone status by the Welsh Government.

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: “We can confirm that we are in commercial negotiations with several private sector consortia regarding possible projects.”

The spokesman said that, for reasons of commercial confidentiality, he could not comment on whether Dickinson was behind one of the projects.

However, it is understood that discussions between the two parties have been taking place for several months.

The Welsh Government is also in talks with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to allow the facility to be used for commercial purposes.

The hangar was built to service RAF jets. However, it has remained empty after a decision to move maintenance work to RAF bases in England.

A deal could be struck whereby the MoD sells the hangar to the Welsh Government or potentially agrees to lease it, allowing commercial tenants to move in.

The hangar is large enough to accommodate more than one commercial operator.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has named Iron Maiden as his favourite band. Dickinson flies his bandmates to concerts around the world in a converted jet.

Bruce Dickinson Image 3

Earlier this week the singer announced he is seeking to acquire out of administration Sussex-based airline Astraeus Airline, where he worked as a pilot and marketing executive.

He and his representatives could not be contacted last night, but on Iron Maiden’s website it said: “Bruce has disclosed he is currently working on a number of new aviation-related projects, some of which may involve his former Astraeus colleagues.”

The proposed St Athan project is understood not to be reliant on Dickinson acquiring Astraeus out of administration.

Business Minister Edwina Hart is expected before Christmas to outline the business support which will be available to firms moving into the aerospace-focused enterprise zone at St Athan – as well as the other four zones in Wales.

The Welsh Government is also in talks with British Airways, which has also identified the hangar facility at St Athan for a new facility.

The airline is considering a number of options for an expansion of its maintenance operations. It currently has two main maintenance facilities, at Heathrow and at Rhoose, where it carries out a wide range of maintenance work on its fleet of aircraft as well as interior fit-outs.


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