Centenarian Syd supports IW Aviation Heritage Centre bid

News has reached Canada of the aim to raise money to buy a rare Cowes-built Spartan bi-plane (UK registration G-ABYN, NZ registration ZK-ARH). The aim is to return it to the Isle of Wight (IW) from New Zealand.

Spartan ZK-ARH (New Zealand registration). Previously registered in the UK as G-ABYN.

Spartan ZK-ARH (New Zealand registration). Previously registered in the UK as G-ABYN.

Centenarian Syd Baker, also known as John, worked at Somerton Airfield, Cowes for Spartan Aircraft during the 1930s. Spartan was then part of aeroplane maker Saunders Roe (SARO).

Syd celebrated his 100th birthday in September 2015. A copy of his memoir, of a lifetime working in aviation, was placed in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (CSAM). Syd’s friend Colin Hine of Ottawa, an aviation historian and biographer, showed Syd a report featured in UK FlyPast magazine about G-ABYN and about the dream to form an Aero Museum on the Isle of Wight. Syd wants Islanders to know he shares that enthusiasm and is keen that his memories should be included in any future IW Aero Museum.

Cirrus Hermes engine fully restored and in use in Spartan G-ABYN

Cirrus Hermes engine fully restored and in use in Spartan G-ABYN

Syd worked on several Spartan planes at Cowes, including Spartan Arrow G-ABOB which was flown by Col. Strange, well-known SARO test pilot. SARO chief engineer Fred Jeans trained Syd. He thinks Fred almost certainly tutored Dorothy Spicer during her training period at SARO.

Syd emigrated to Canada after World War 2. There he worked for Spartan Air Services, a company that had no connection with Spartan Aircraft (IW).

This photograph show Syd at Spartan Air Services, Ottawa in 1965 (from Sydney Baker’s personal photo collection)

Sydney Baker at Spartan Air Services in Canada 1965

Sydney Baker at Spartan Air Services in Canada 1965

He’s also pictured here with Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield, taken at CASM in 2015, on Syd’s celebratory tour just after his 100th birthday.

Sydney Baker with Col. Chris Hadfield, Canadian Astronaut, at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, September 2015

Sydney Baker with Col. Chris Hadfield, Canadian Astronaut, at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, September 2015

(CASM photo courtesy of Erin Gregory, Assistant Curator).

Solent Aviatrix thanks Colin Hine for sourcing and sharing these photos. Follow this link to learn more about the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

Syd with Chris Hadfield

Col Chris Hadfield with Sydney Baker at CASM, September 2015

Col Chris Hadfield with Sydney Baker at CASM, September 2015

(photo courtesy of Leslie Law, Syd’s daughter).

Dr. Geoff Witt, a retired avionics expert, has taken up the challenge of trying to recruit interested enthusiasts and businesses, to attempt to raise the money to buy and return G-ABYN.

Geoff will be exploring the possibility of jointly working with John Kenyon, a member of the IW Flying Club and the Britten-Norman Aircraft Preservation Society (BNAPS). Also with Bob Wealthy, BNAPS Chairman, who leads a team of volunteers restoring the world’s oldest Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander (G-AVCN).

Bob and John are both enthusiastic supporters of the concept of an Aviation Heritage Centre as a visitor attraction on the Island, to tell the wider story of IW aviation heritage, which could well include the Spartan G-ABYN and Islander G-AVCN as major exhibits.

BNAPS has just gained access to a larger workshop space on a temporary basis. But there is an urgent need to find a permanent Island home for the Islander by April 2017, on its 50th anniversary, so it can go on public display. By planning to put these two aircraft together with other artefacts, this would showcase living examples of the successful and creative engineering skills of the Island workforce, which must be remembered.

BNAPS volunteers restoring Britten Norman Islander G-AVCN

BNAPS volunteers restoring Britten Norman Islander G-AVCN

Photo courtesy of BNAPS

Michael Lilley, Deputy Chairman of the IW Green Party, advocates a Solent marine aviation heritage on the Island. He believes it would be a great tourist attraction. Good proof of this is Solent Sky Museum in Southampton that has good footfall. Michael cites the rich engineering history of SARO and J. Samuel White. His father, Prof. Geoffrey Lilley of Ryde, played a significant role in advancing aviation in the Solent region. Prof. Lilley worked with R. J. Mitchell of Spitfire fame.

Contact Geoff via gr.witt@btinternet.com
Contact John via mj.kenyon90@btinternet.com The IW Flying Club meetings are every second Wednesday of the month, at Ocean View Hotel, Shanklin, 6.30 for 7.00pm.
Contact Bob via solentaeromarine@hotmail.co.uk