Cushioncraft Coming Home!

Britten-Norman Cushion Craft CC7 (C/N 005) on sea trials in the Solent. New acquisition of Wight Aviation Museum

Britten-Norman Cushion Craft CC7 (C/N 005) on sea trials in the Solent

Wight Aviation Museum announce the good news that they have secured the Britten-Norman cushion craft CC7 XX102 C/N 005, the second to last built. Supporters have donated £1,100 so far, which will pay for the transportation from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to the Isle of Wight.

A loan has been secured to purchase the craft so fundraising continues apace to repay the loan.

Phil Phillips, regular contributor to this website, has supplied this photo of the engine bay of sister cushion craft of C/N 001.

Britten-Norman Cushion Craft CC7 Engine Bay, C/N 001

Britten-Norman Cushion Craft CC7 Engine Bay.

Phil did all the electrical wiring. He proudly says, “All my own work!”

John Kenyon, Chair of Wight Aviation Museum, has announced, “We are very grateful to people that worked on this craft for contacting us and offering to help us with restoration.
Additional support has been provided by the Hovercraft Museum, who has a sister craft CC7 in their museum at Lee on Solent, and Warwick Jacobs, the founding father of that museum. We really appreciate their help.
There will be a dedicated WAM Cushioncraft team on the ground at Sandown Isle of Wight Airport including our hovercraft guru Nikki Wilkes who has a vast knowledge and contacts we can tap into to support this project.”

“Finally, we still need a substantial amount of money, c.£15,000, to do a professional job of restoration to bring it up to a high quality museum exhibit and to repay the original loan. Please use the same platform listed below until 30 April to remit funds direct, so everyone can see the total climbing!

Wight Aviation Museum - WAM - of Sandown Airfield, Isle of Wight, England

Wight Aviation Museum – WAM – of Sandown Airfield, Isle of Wight, England

The appeal will close on 30 April 2019 as BT has withdrawn their MyDonate support to Charities.
After this date we will be reopening the appeal on another platform, Virgin Money Giving.
Thank you all for your continuing support.”



D-Day 75 at Daedalus, Solent Airport, weekedn of 8 and 9 June 2019

D-DAY 75 at Daedalus June 8 and 9, 2019

To commemorate the anniversary of the D-Day Landings, which took place 75 years ago on 6 June 1944, an event will take place at Solent Airport, Lee-on-the-Solent, on the weekend of 8 and 9 June, 2019.

Five years ago a similar event was staged at the same venue.

In addition to the airfield displays, the town of Lee joined in with style.

The High Street was transported back to the era.

Lee High Street shop window of Navy Uniforms dressed for D-Day 70 Commemorations

Lee High Street shop window of Navy Uniforms dressed for D-Day 70. Copyright Anne Grant.

Shops and businesses made their own creative mark on the occasion.

Jitterbug Jivers, Lee High Street, D-Day 70, Lee on the Solent

Jitterbug Jivers, Lee High Street, D-Day 70. Copyright Anne Grant.

Re-enactors looked the part.

Jitterbug dancers and singers got everyone in the mood.

Charity stall holders all added to the atmosphere.

Here is a selection of images from that day.

A 1947 Chevrolet PFF 437 in Lee on the Solent High Street.

Chevrolet PFF 437 in Lee on the Solent High Street, 3rd June 2014. Copyright Anne Grant.

This year a weekend of festivities is planned by Fareham Borough Council at the airfield, which includes static aircraft displays, music, children’s motor cycle display team, vintage cars, stalls, some flying aircraft, and much more.

Watch this space for more news.

New play about Hampshire Aviation Engineer Beatrice Shilling

Negative Gravity, Life of Beatrice Shilling, book by Matthew Freudenberg

Negative Gravity the Life of Beatrice Shilling by Matthew Freudenberg

Much has been written in recent years about a heroine from the Second World War, whose timely invention and its major significance to the Royal Air Force, was not fully recognised until years after the event.  Now, almost 30 years after the lady died, her story is to be portrayed on stage in Southampton, Hampshire during February.

Beatrice Shilling came to the rescue of the Spitfire pilots during the Battle of Britain. Her simple cure for the Merlin engine flooding problem, which proved to be fatal for too many pilots, was pure genius.

Unconventional, uncompromising, unapologetic, she would today be classed as a ‘difficult woman’. In the 1930s she broke new ground in women’s employment. She was also a speed queen.

For ticket details follow this link to ‘Tilly and the Spitfires.’
Nuffield Southampton Theatres, City Space Studio venue, on 27 and 28 February.

Read more about Beatrice Shilling Naylor here.

Urgent appeal – help to save historic British Air Cushion Craft

Britten Norman CC7 Cushion Craft of the Isle of Wight

Britten Norman CC7 Cushion Craft of the Isle of Wight

Wight Aviation Museum (WAM) has launched an urgent appeal to raise enough money to save an historic British Cushion Craft from being sold abroad. Originally built on the Isle of Wight at St. Helens, on the shores of Bembridge Harbour, this particular hovercraft is at risk of leaving the UK to an overseas buyer at auction in January. Read the full appeal below with details of how you can donate and help to keep this British invention where it belongs. Here!

Can you help us save a historic British Air Cushion vehicle from ending up overseas?

Hello, I am John Kenyon Chair of Trustees of Wight Aviation Museum, a UK registered charity and we are URGENTLY appealing for your help to rescue an important part of the Hovercraft story on the Isle of Wight. We are asking for donations to rescue an original Cushioncraft CC7 built here at St Helen’s Duver.

We need to raise around £15000 to cover the purchase, transportation and refurbishment of the Cushioncraft, which we will bring to the Island so the museum can put the craft on display to the public at Sandown Airport. Additionally we would like to use the skills and knowledge of those that were originally involved in its production who are still here and able to assist us.

Warwick Jacobs, Hovercraft Trust trustee.

Warwick Jacobs, Hovercraft Trust trustee. Copyright Anne Grant.

The reason for the urgent request is the unexpected availability of the craft. We had a call from Warwick Jacobs, who founded the world’s first Hovercraft museum in 1986. He said “My first thought was this naturally belongs on the Isle of Wight, paying tribute to the work of Britten Norman!” And our Trustees agreed!

We have to act quickly if we are to secure this icon of engineering excellence for British aviation heritage as it is highly likely this will be sold off to a potential buyer from overseas at auction in January.

Please donate now as much or as little as you can afford to return this Cushioncraft to the Island where it was made. This will be a fitting tribute to those who worked at St Helens and later went on to manufacture a wide range of hovercraft that continued right up its transfer to Griffon Hoverwork in 2008.

Finally should we not be successful in raising the total sum needed we guarantee that all money donated will be placed into restricted funds and will be used only to purchase further acquisitions for the museum.

For all those contributing to this appeal we will keep you posted with our newsletter so you can see the progress being made by our volunteers and members just email us at

Here is a bit more about the history of the CC7 Cushioncraft…….

Britten Norman Cushion Craft

Britten Norman Cushion Craft. Courtesy of Mark William.

In 1960 Britten-Norman Ltd began trials of their new “Cushioncraft” —their name for an air-cushion vehicle built which needed to be” flown” above the terrain. It was used initially to assess the potential of this type of vehicle for the carriage of bananas from plantations in the Southern Cameroons. Together with its associated company, Crop Culture (Aerial) Ltd, Britten-Norman studied the potential for the Cushioncraft in many different countries. These investigations revealed the possibility of a break-through market in transportation techniques by the use of air cushion vehicles which could accelerate the pace of development in territories where roads are non-existent and costly to build and where rivers are seasonally unnavigable. A very similar concept to that used to promote the BN Islander’s “Land Rover “capabilities in the air, and still in service today, all across the Globe. Cushioncraft was eventually sold to The British Hovercraft Corporation in 1972.

Remember too marine skills were used to develop the first aircraft and it was aviation skills that were used to develop Cushioncraft using reverse engineering concepts which is why the first hovercraft were flown….. by pilots!

If you need convincing about the unique importance of this craft that demonstrates vividly how aviation skills can be used to advantage in Land, Sea and Air applications, take a look at this Pathe News clip on our appeal pages on

Do please make a donation on line by credit or debit card its very quick and easy and you can do so anonymously if you prefer, but if you can accept your donation to be gift aided, this will benefit the charity by an extra 25%. BT does not take a penny out of your donation. They only charge us a card processing fee of 15p. For a Donation of £10 we get £12.35.

So thank you for helping us to conserve and display this important part of the Isle of Wight’s Aviation Heritage. You can find more on our website at

Unless We Forget

First World War Poppies Wave Installation : Over The Top at Portsdown Hill.

WW1 Poppies Wave : Over The Top at Portsdown Hill. Copyright Anne Grant.

As the First World War commemorations draw to a close, we are much better informed about what our ancestors experienced and endured.  These four commemorative years of TV and newspaper coverage has educated us to a greater understanding than we ever had before.

Tiger Moth G-AAHI at D-Day Southwick Revival 2018 with Tiger 9 Display Team

Tiger Moth G-AAHI at Southwick Revival 2018 with Tiger 9 Display Team. Copyright Anne Grant.

Behind every staggering statistic are the tragic stories of each individual who comprised those appalling numbers.

The artistic interpretations, like the deeply moving Poppy Installation at the Tower of London in 2014 and now the lighting of the candles in the Tower Moat in November 2018, have the power to touch us with lasting visual memories.

It is hard to think of something to say which hasn’t been said before by all the historians and television coverage.

But next time you hop onto a holiday flight to foreign shores, ponder on this sobering thought:
More British airmen died in WW1 as trainee pilots then were killed in action against Germany’s Air Force.

First World War Poppies Wave Installation at Fort Nelson

First World War Poppies Wave Installation. Copyright Anne Grant

They died in accidents as a result of aircraft design faults or by instability when landing their planes. The knowledge gained from those awful accidents, in the early years of aviation, contributed towards improvement in aeroplane design and safety.

Those young men never saw action at the fighting Front but they too gave their tomorrows for your safety today.
Remember them and give thanks.


Black Arrow WAMs Home

Black Arrow arrival at Sandown Airport 13 July 2018

Black Arrow arrival at Wight Aviation Museum, Sandown Airport 13 July 2018

The replica of the Black Arrow has arrived at Wight Aviation Museum (WAM), minus the red ‘nose’ cone.

This is currently being manufactured on the Isle of Wight.  When completed it will make the road journey to Sandown Airport to finish the rocket assembly.

It will then be situated outside the museum as a distinctive sentinel, visible to all who arrive at the airfield.

There will be no mistaking the location of WAM amongst all the other hangars!

Alfred Buckham - The Sky Traveller exhibition at Dimbola Lodge, Freshwater, Isle of Wight October to December 2018

Alfred Buckham – The Sky Traveller exhibition at Dimbola Lodge, Freshwater, Isle of Wight

Go to the Notice Board for more details about organised tours from the mainland to aviation sites around the Island, including an opportunity to see the Black Arrow.

If you are already on the Isle of Wight then go to Wight Aviation Museum page for contact details of how to visit WAM.

Also on the updated Notice Board is news of events this Autumn including a fabulous photography exhibition in Freshwater, Isle of Wight. Vintage aviation images taken by Alfred Buckham are absolute gems of history, capturing a moment in time that has gone forever.

Buckham wanted to be an artist, until he saw pictures by JMW Turner. Alfred went home and destroyed his own paintings. He took up a camera instead. What he produced through his lens is of equal artistry to Turner.  The SKY TRAVELLER is not to be missed.

Also listed are details about a talk by a pilot with HM Coast Guard SAR Helicopter based at Lee-on-the-Solent.

What of the big event anticipated for 2019 – D-Day 75?

News that Government funding won’t be made available for Portsmouth, to stage a major event next June around the Southsea D-Day Museum, has come as a blow to Portsmouth councillors.

Bombed out but NEVER beaten !!! Re-enactment group at Southwick D-Day Revival event 2018

Bombed out but NEVER beaten !!! Southwick D-Day Revival showing the British Spirit. Copyright Anne Grant.

If this leaves plans for Pompey somewhat up in the air, the Southwick Revival stalwarts over the Portsdown Hill are almost guaranteed to put on something even bigger and better than their D-Day 2018 weekend. They won’t be beaten.

As the lady in this photo chalked onto her blackboard propped up under the green door of her Anderson shelter, ‘Bombed out but NEVER beaten !!!’    That’s the spirit, girl!

Go to the Notice Board for a review of what Southwick 2018 did to entertain and educate the crowds.

Memorable Day at Mary Ellis Memorial Service

Mary Ellis 2017 at RAF Brize Norton. Image courtesy of Oxford Times and Oxford Mail

Mary Ellis 2017. Image courtesy of Oxford Times and Oxford Mail.

Two months after Mary Ellis slipped her earthly bonds and took her place in the history books of British Aviation, the Isle of Wight turned out to show respect for the Queen of Sandown.

Over 350 people of all ages and all walks of life filled St. Mary’s Church in Cowes, even taking their seats upstairs near rafters.

St.Mary's Church, Cowes, flying the flag for Mary Ellis 24 September 2018

St.Mary’s Church, Cowes, flying the flag for Mary Ellis 24 September 2018. Copyright Anne Grant.

In addition to her family and friends there were local politicians, local press and media organisations, Wight Aviation Museum members, IW Flying Club, young Air Cadets, and many octogenarians and hundreds of her many admirers.

Graham Rose of ATA Association paid tribute to Mary and recalled the long friendship between Mary and his mother, the late Molly Rose.

Vespa scooter decorated with Spitfires and 'bullet holes'. Vehicle parked at Northwood House on Mary Ellis Memorial Service day.

Vespa scooter decorated with Spitfires and ‘bullet holes’ parked at Northwood House on Mary Ellis Memorial Service day. Copyright Anne Grant.

Derek Hermiston Hooper gave his tribute, representing the Aircrew and RFC, RNAS Associations. It was Derek who was the force behind Mary receiving the Master Pilot award.

Group Captain Anne-Marie Houghton spoke of ‘Mary the inspiration.’ She had mistakenly thought her achievements in the RAF in the 1990s were a ‘first’. Then she heard about Mary Ellis and all the other women ATA pilots and she realised they had done it all before she was born.

The assembled even heard from Mary Ellis herself when one of her recent interviews was replayed from a BBC podcast ‘The Last Word.’

Councillor Clare Mosdell reminded us of Mary’s contribution to the Island ever since she moved here after she left the ATA, to work as personal pilot to wealthy farmer Mr. Clark. It was he who started Bees Flight and appointed Mary to run it all for him at Sandown. She built up the Airport into a thriving business, the legacy of which is that the airfield still exists today and still thrives.

Author and poet Alison Hill read her ‘Spitfire Salute’ which recollected some of the outstanding moments in Mary’s final years and happy memories of their recent last meeting.

After the prayers and uplifting hymns, the concluding music was the stirring ‘Battle of Britain’ theme tune.

Biggin Hill Spitfire 'Spirit of Kent' playing with the clouds - Mary Ellis style.

Biggin Hill Spitfire ‘Spirit of Kent’ playing with the clouds – Mary Ellis style.

After the service the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar put on a magnificent display with a flypast over Cowes seafront and Northwood House. The Mark IX Spitfire ‘Spirit of Kent’ performed an acrobatic show of high skill, to the delight of the crowd. The pilot ‘played with the clouds’ and then he was gone.

One of many Mary Ellis Memory Boards which displayed her long aviation career.

One of many Mary Ellis Memory Boards which displayed her long aviation career.

Everyone stayed on in the warm September sunshine to swap personal memories of Mary.
My own is this:
I was brought up in the old fashioned way to respect my elders and betters. This included waiting to be given permission to call them by their first name.  For years I addressed Mary as Mrs Ellis while I awaited her permission until finally I asked.
Somewhat amused she replied, “My name is Mary. It is the only one I have. Please use it.”
Blue skies Mary.   Follow this link to see the BBC coverage of Mary Ellis Memorial Service.