Volunteers needed to save 'Whispering Giant' Bristol Britannia

F1 cars wait to be loaded on a plane to the 1963 Watkins Glen race

F1 cars await loading onto a Bristol Britannia at Heathrow in 1963, en route to the US GP

Getty Images

Browse pages

The Bristol Britannia XM496 Preservation Society is appealing for volunteers to help save the sole surviving RAF Bristol Britannia long-range transport aircraft. Of 85 Britannias built, 23 were ordered by the RAF and delivered in 1959-60. Celestial names such as Arcturus, Sirius and Vega were given to each of the heavy lifters. XM496 Regulus (the brightest star in Leo) has been based at Cotswold Airport in Gloucestershire – the former RAF Kemble – since its retirement in 1997.

“We seek to recruit engineering and non-engineering volunteers to train up and eventually replace the original volunteers who have made preservation possible since 496 was saved from being scrapped,” said group PR committee member Brian Weatherly. “Jim Brown is the lead engineer. He started his association with the Britannia as a ground engineer at RAF Lyneham in 1959. Jim will classify each person according to their individual skills and availability.”

The turboprop Britannia earnt its nickname “The Whispering Giant” due to its smooth flying and quiet interior noise but with jets revolutionising long-distance travel from the late ’50s, BOAC retired its Britannias in 1965 after just eight years of service. The RAF continued to use the type until 1975.

RAF Britannia XM496

The last surviving RAF Britannia, XM496 Regulus, is based at Cotswold Airport

Getty Images

Regulus was used by the RAF to ferry artefacts between Egypt and London for the British Museum’s Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibition in 1972 and was later operated privately in Cuba and Africa. By 1997, it was the only Britannia left flying in the world.

Register interest at xm496.com or visit an open day at Cotswold Airport, which take place every Saturday until September 25.

You may also like

Related products