Classic Air Force

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Classic Air Force
Formation 2012
Founder Mike Collett
Type Non-Profit Organisation
Key people
  • Tim Skeet - Chairman
  • Mike Collett - Trustee
  • David Blackburn - Trustee
  • Alan Walker - Trustee
Mission 'Classic Air Force exists to acquire and save rare aircraft and to operate them safely for the benefit of the public and act as ambassadors for the UK’s rich aviation history'
Formerly called Air Atlantique Classic Flight

Classic Air Force is a charitably-based[1] aircraft preservation organisation sited in Newquay, Cornwall and Coventry, West Midlands. Specialising in classic aircraft from the period between the end of the Second World War and the close of the Cold War, it preserves - in flying condition where possible - notable and rare aircraft from the period. CAF is the public face of The Classic Aircraft Trust, which was set up in 2012 specifically to manage the preservation and museum activities.[2]

The organisation's main site is in Newquay, where the museum is located. The site in Coventry hosts the organisation's main maintenance and restoration facilities.


The Classic Air Force is a charitably-based continuation of Classic Flight, which in itself was a development of Air Atlantique. Originally set up as an air taxi operation in 1969, the company adopted the Air Atlantique brand in 1977 when it began charter operations with the Douglas DC-3 Dakotas that were to become its signature. In 2006 the classic aircraft operation was turned into an entity in itself with the creation of the Air Atlantique Classic Flight.

In 2012 it was decided to apply for charitable status to allow the preservation of historic and rare aircraft beyond the lifetimes of its founders. The Classic Aircraft Trust was established, and it is this body that now manages the operation. The Trust secured a lease on a large curtelage of land within Newquay Cornwall Airport's growing Aerohub. Most of the aircraft of the Classic Flight have been donated to the charity, and several additional machines have been obtained.

The Newquay site opened as an aviation museum on March 31, 2013.


Gloster Meteor T.7 G-BWMF at the Royal International Air Tattoo in 2013

Most of the Classic Air Force aircraft are still flying. Many of the aircraft display at airshows and participate in flypasts around the UK, as well as overseas.

The trust also operates pleasure flights for members of the public, in the de Havilland Dragon Rapide and Percival Proctor, and also aerobatic flights in the Chipmunk.[3][4]

The trust's main aviation museum is located at Newquay Cornwall Airport, in the 70,000 square foot Hangar 404 capable of housing 25 of the trust's aircraft. The hangar was previously used to house 3 RAF Hawker Siddeley Nimrods. The museum opened on 31 March 2013, and is open to the public between April and October, although this is variable. Smaller buildings house a large model display, bookshop, cafe, gift shop and other aviation-related displays and activities.

Airbase at Coventry Airport is primarily the organisation's maintenance and restoration location, but since April 2014 it is has also been open to the public at weekends, with free admission. While this site is in principle a working area, two static display aircraft are open for public tours. These are the Avro Shackleton and Hawker Siddeley Nimrod. Coventry had been the only base used by Air Atlantique and Classic Flight - operations only moved to Newquay upon the birth of the Classic Air Force in 2012.

The flyable aircraft frequently move between the sites. Their movement schedules are visible on the organisation's website.

As a charity, the trust raises most of its money from the visitors to the museum, as well as through fees for membership of the Classic Air Force. There is a team of volunteers, whose roles include engineers and pilots.


Douglas C-47 Dakota G-AMPY
DH Dragon Rapide G-AIDL
Nimrod XV232 still serving with the RAF in 1990

The trust operates a fleet of over 30 post-war aircraft.

Flying indicates that the aircraft may move between the two bases and many other airfields.

Disc Plain red.svg indicates aircraft available for guided tours.

Disc Plain yellow.svg indicates aircraft available for pleasure or aerobatic flights.

Appearances in Popular Culture[edit]

  • The 2012 BBC 4 documentary Jet! When Britain ruled the skies featured Gloster Meteor T.7 G-BWMF and Canberras G-CDSX and G-BVWC.
  • The 2013 BBC 2 documentary Cold War Hot Jets featured both Gloster Meteor T.7 G-BWMF taxing on the ground at Coventry and Jet Provost G-BWDS/XM424 flying over Newquay.