In May 2017, AFI was entrusted by the World Heritage Air Museum (WHAM) in Detroit, Michigan, USA to plan and arrange the export of a classic former military aircraft from the UK to the USA. The WHAM is a “non-profit organization which specializes in the restoration of Cold War Era jets and bringing them back to flight to inspire the youth of America”
Over the past few years we have arranged and exported many ex-military aircraft but this one was a little different. It was the world’s oldest original flying jet aircraft! Gloster Meteor T7, WA591/G-BWMF and affectionately known over the years as “Queenie”.
The aircraft was in full airworthy condition and was being looked after by Air Atlantique at Coventry Airport U.K.
Many aircraft can be substantially dismantled to make transport easier. However, the Meteor (This particular example dating back to 1949) is not one of them! With a wingspan of over 32 feet and height of over 13 feet, not to mention it being 43 feet long it was quite a challenge.
In its airworthy condition the only dismantling that could realistically be done would be to remove the ends of the wings and the top of the tail, but even then it would still be over 3 metres tall and 6.5 metres wide.
Many options to move the aircraft were considered over the next few months and eventually, a plan was finalized.
Once dismantled and reduced in width it would still be difficult to transport on the roads of the UK. Being positioned in Coventry it was in the middle of the country and the nearest seaports it could travel from were many miles away. So, it was decided that the aircraft would be flown to Liverpool Airport before being dismantled, meaning that it then only had a short road journey to the Port of Liverpool where it could be loaded and shipped to its new owners.
We liaised with Liverpool Airport and secured hangar space where the aircraft could be worked on. But with a dismantled width of over 6.5 metres, it would still be too wide to exit the airport by road. It would need to be crane lifted over buildings, car parks and even telephone lines onto a waiting vehicle outside of the airport perimeter.
Surveys were organized. Crane heights were checked to ensure that the airport radar was not compromised. Haulage was arranged, road closure permits set-up and the load would need to be escorted by the police all the way to the port.
On the afternoon of 20th March the aircraft was flown to Liverpool Airport and over the next two weeks was dismantled drained of fuel and measured.
7 am on Sunday, April 8th it was ready to begin its final UK journey.
Once safely on the quay, it was once again offloaded by crane before being loaded to the vessel to begin its journey across the Atlantic.
On arrival in the USA, our partners CJ International will clear the aircraft through US customs before the new owner arranges transport to a local airport where she will be re-assembled and flown to her new home in Detroit, Michigan.
At the end of July 2018, she will make her 1st US public appearance at the EAA Air venture airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where she is billed as the star of the show to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force RAF100.
All the hard work with be worth it to see her take to the sky once more!
The aircraft was featured on ITV news and a link to the article can be found at…