Society makes princely addition to its collection

Willing hands guide one of the Sea Princes wings past its fuselage, already parked and awaiting a spot inside the crowded restoration hangar.
Willing hands guide one of the Sea Princes wings past its fuselage, already parked and awaiting a spot inside the crowded restoration hangar.

A team of specialists recently completed a 1,000-mile trip to bring the newest addition to the remarkable collection of the Ulster Aviation Society (UAS) at the Maze site.

The five UAS volunteers spent four days dismantling the twin-engined Sea Prince aircraft at RAF Cosford in Shropshire before lashing the parts aboard a pair of low-loader lorries for the trip to Northern Ireland.

The Sea Prince fuselage arrives at dawn at the gate of the Ulster Aviation Society compound at the Maze/Long Kesh site.

The Sea Prince fuselage arrives at dawn at the gate of the Ulster Aviation Society compound at the Maze/Long Kesh site.

“It’s a big aircraft and made quite a sight with those two long vehicles travelling in convoy to meet the ferry for the return trip to Northern Ireland,” explained team leader Ray Burrows, chairman of the Society. “Engines, fuselage, tail, all sorts of parts are now in our restoration hangar at Maze/Long Kesh.”

The task before the Society now is to re-assemble the veteran Sea Prince, restoring or replacing various parts and finishing the aircraft with a new paint scheme and markings.

Around 60 volunteers, many from the Lisburn area, show up regularly at the Society’s two hangars, helping to restore six machines and other equipment in the group’s popular 35-aircraft collection.

The Society, a certified charity, was recently recognised with a special award from TripAdvisor after visitors ranked it number one in a list of things to do in the Lisburn area. It has also featured in a number of TV documentaries.

Sea Princes first joined the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm 63 years ago and served as navigation and anti-submarine trainers. The Society’s particular aircraft flew from RNAS Eglinton near Londonderry in the early 1950s. As recently as the early 1970s it was based at RNAS Sydenham in Belfast.

• Belfast television station NVTV is broadcasting a special programme on the Society’s unique collection on Friday, October 27 at 8.15pm and again on Saturday, October 28 at 7.15pm.