People looked on with a mixture of awe and bewilderment as a historic warplane hit the roads of Leicestershire on its way to a new home outside the county.
The Blackburn Buccaneer bomber said goodbye to Bruntingthorpe Airfield, near Lutterworth, yesterday afternoon, where it has been part of the aerodrome’s classic Cold War Jets collection for the past 26 years.
Its destination was a small airport in Staffordshire where it will continue to receive the love and attention of a family of classic British warplane enthusiasts.
The 50-mile journey on board a low loader lorry and trailer, with its wings folded upwards, saw the convoy and its police escort travel along the A5199 Welford Road towards Leicester.
It passed through Wigston and West Knighton, before turning into the outer ring road and heading towards Fosse Park and junction 21 of the M1.
Retired engineer Denis Parker, 76, from Whetstone, whose relationship with the plane began in 1994, accompanied the aircraft on its latest journey.
“I was following the transporter in my car,” he said. “There were a lot of people along the route staring at the plane with astonished looks on their faces.
“They must have wondered what the hell was going on.”
The procession headed north on the M1 to junction 24, near East Midlands Airport, before travelling along the A50 past Burton – arriving at Tattenhill Airport, where Denis’s son Lee is chief aircraft engineer, in the early evening.
The Buccaneer bomber was designed for the Royal Navy in the 1950s as a carrier-borne strike aircraft, and was last used by the RAF before its withdrawal from service in 1994.
This particular aircraft – the S2B XX900 – was one of three Buccaneers kept at Bruntingthorpe as part of the Cold War Jets collection.
No longer allowed to fly, it was regularly seen performing ‘fast taxi runs’ at the former RAF station during popular vintage warplane open days.
It is the last of the three to leave Leicestershire, with the others re-homed at Kemble Airfield, in the Cotswolds, back in August.
The move was necessary after aviation activities at Bruntingthorpe ended in March, this year, when new leaseholders took over the site.
“My son Lee and I began looking after the Buccaneer when I retired in 1994 and it first arrived at Bruntingthorpe,” said Denis, who has also volunteered maintaining other classic jets such as the Vulcan and Victor bombers.
“When they were looking for someone to look after it, I rang Lee and the team and we all agreed we would take it on.”
“This particular plane was built in 1977 and was the very last Buccaneer to be leave the production line.”
Denis’s younger son Simon, 38, and grandson Ben, 18, will also be looking after the plane at its new home, alongside long-time Cold War Jets volunteers Chris Kennedy, from Dunton Bassett, and Dave Frost, from Market Harborough.
“It’s turned into a bit of a family affair,” he said. “It’s our big toy you could say.
“I think it’s a shame the collection had to be broken up but I understand from Dave Walton, who owns the proving ground at Bruntingthorpe, that some of the planes such as the Victor, Nimrod and Comets will be kept there on land outside the leased area.”
“For us, we’re just proud that we can keep this particular plane alive,” added Denis. “It’s a wonderful piece of British engineering and military heritage and we’ll be looking to stage some fast taxi runs as soon as it’s ready so the public can enjoy seeing it once again.”