Flying club wings it to 50th birthday

FLYING HIGH -- Merlin's chief flying instructor, Colin Hutson (left), with aerobatic pilot Nick Barnard at a previous Merlin Pageant -- DISPIC 09-1528-12
FLYING HIGH -- Merlin's chief flying instructor, Colin Hutson (left), with aerobatic pilot Nick Barnard at a previous Merlin Pageant -- DISPIC 09-1528-12

A FLYING club in Hucknall that has been gracing the skies for longer than the world-famous Red Arrows aerobatic team is about to take off to celebrate its golden jubilee.

The Merlin Flying Club, which is based at Hucknall Aerodrome off Watnall Road, officially launched in December 1962.

It was the brainchild of a group of employees at the Hucknall plant and testbed of aero-engine giant Rolls-Royce, which remains the town’s biggest employer at its base off Watnall Road.

Now Merlin members are hoping for a magical anniversary that will be marked with a special celebration at the club’s annual air show — the Merlin Pageant.

The event will be held on Saturday June 16 and will once again follow the theme of ‘Wings and Wheels’.

Last year it attracted 3,500 spectators and this summer’s renewal is promising a whole host of spectacular attractions.

These will include an eyecatching flying display, weather permitting, and a visit by a Battle Of Britain Spitfire.

Once again there will be a display of classic cars, motorbikes and other vehicles. Cash raised on the day will go to charity.

Merlin stalwarts are aiming for it to be an occasion befitting the club’s landmark birthday.

Chief flying instructor Colin Hutson said: “The club has done well to survive.

“I’m not sure that all that many people know we exist but we have a loyal group of members and volunteers.”

In total, Merlin has 120 members with 80% of those estimated to be current or former Rolls-Royce employees.

But the club is open to those without connections to Rolls provided they have a private pilot’s licence. It also has close links with the 1803 (Hucknall) Squadron of the Air Training Corps (ATC), which is also based at the aerodrome. Merlin members are currently teaching two cadets from the ATC how to fly.

In total, it is estimated that the club has helped teach 500 people how to fly down the years.