Lottery Grant to help Aviation Society soar

A Puma helicopter outside the hangars of the Ulster Aviation Society (UAS) at the Maze/Long Kesh site, Lisburn.
A Puma helicopter outside the hangars of the Ulster Aviation Society (UAS) at the Maze/Long Kesh site, Lisburn.

The Ulster Aviation Society (UAS) has won major confirmation as the top attraction in the Lisburn area.

The new endorsement comes in the form of a £9,800 grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund towards research and associated costs for a book marking the group’s half-century history.

That’s in addition to the Society’s continued standing as TripAdvisor’s Number One choice among 26 Things to Do in Lisburn, said Ray Burrows, Chariman of the UAS.

The publication of the new book will be one of several projects planned by the UAS to mark 50 years since its founding in 1968.

“It’s an exciting venture for us—our biggest single publishing project in recent years,” said Mr. Burrows.

The group’s collection of 30 aircraft is located at the Maze/Long Kesh site.

Mr. Burrows noted the strong historical connection which the area has had for Northern Ireland aviation. During the Second World War, RAF Long Kesh was a busy base, and the U.S. Army Air Force established itself as well at nearby Maghaberry.

The UAS, a totally volunteer charity, has been based at the Maze/Long Kesh site since 2005. It has grown from a tiny clutch of a dozen or so enthusiasts in 1968 to nearly 500 in that time. Many of the group’s active volunteers are from the Lisburn area, said Mr. Burrows.

The Society’s anniversary publication will be rich with photos and stories marking the challenges and triumphs marking that period.

“We’re thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, recognising as it does the important educational aspect of the book,” said Mr. Burrows.

An official of the Heritage Lottery Fund expressed its delight with the opportunity to support the Society’s plans for researching and recording its history.

“They will be…recording the stories of founder members and people who donated material to the collection” said Angela Lavin, Senior Grants Officer for the HLF. “They have fascinating stories to tell about NI’s aviation heritage and the Society itself. It is thanks to National Lottery players that we can support projects such as this one.”

The project is only one of several ventures the Society is organising to mark its half century. Already, it has published a popular 2018 calendar which includes pictures by one of Ireland’s top feature photographers, Charles McQuillan.

More than 100 photos in the new book—many never before published—will depict the hard work and determination of the Society’s members. At the same time, the book will provide pictorial milestones of Ulster’s impressive aviation history.

“Our aeronautical contribution in Northern Ireland is out of all proportion to our relatively small size and population,” said Mr. Burrows. “Tens of thousands of our people have been a part of our aviation heritage. Thousands more today serve in aviation industries or in the air forces and airlines and associated industries. They’ve been a unique part of who we are. Our new book will emphasise that contribution and continuing commitment.”

Complimentary copies of the book will be provided to selected libraries and secondary schools, and available to visitors for a nominal charge at the Society’s collection at Maze/Long Kesh, he added.

The research project itself will provide a valuable archival record as well, said Mr. Burrows. Key interviews are being recorded on video, and various print materials will be filed in the Society’s 5,000-volume research library for ongoing use.