A GROUP of intrepid aeronautical volunteers have paid tribute to the former director of Sleap Airfield, by building and naming a jet aircraft in his honour.

The Vintage Jet Group, made up of members of Shropshire Aero Club, recently completed their work on reconstructing a BAC Jet Provost at Sleap Airfield, near Wem.

Two directors at Shropshire Aero Club, David and Marjorie Somerville, recently purchased an example of the jet from Bruntingthorpe Airfield in Leicestershire, with the intention of rebuilding it and getting it active once again.

Marjorie said the decision was initially made to purchase to aircraft to serve as a 'gate guardian' – typically a decommissioned piece of military equipment used as a static display.

"My husband and I bought it in pieces a year ago in Bruntingthorpe, which was closing down," she said.

"We were thinking of getting a Provost as a gate guardian.”

After putting out a notice for volunteers, the couple were able to assemble a skilled team.

The group were so eager to get the project off the ground that they were able to reattach the wings and undercarriage in just a few days.

Marjorie added: "We bought the jet, it took three hours to load and unload.

"We put a message out asking if anyone would be interesting in building it.

"We soon had a team of volunteers that didn't know each other but had various skills and within one day had the wings back on and the undercarriage down.

"And around three or four weeks later we had our first engine test."

Former Shropshire Aero Club president, Roy Dolton was a civilian pilot of the jet in the 1980s, but passed away in 2019.

Following his death, the group decided to name the soon-to-be-reconstructed jet the 'Spirit of Shropshire' in his honour.

An unveiling ceremony was held recently for the jet, with members of Roy's family present, along with the MP for North Shropshire, Owen Paterson, the mayor of Wem Peter Broomhall and other members of Wem and Shropshire councils.

Majorie added: "Roy Dolton sadly passed away two years ago, but clocked up 3,000 hours in the Provost.

"We decided to call to the plane Spirit of Shropshire, as it had brought out the best in the people of the club as they worked through lockdown.

"And also because of the service Roy did for the Shropshire Aero Club."

Now the aircraft has been completed, Marjorie says it will be used for 'fast taxi' runs and as a training and exercise tool, although getting the jet into the sky is still several thousand pounds away.

It was previously the main RAF training aircraft from 1955 to 1993 with many based at RAF Shawbury and landing at RAF Sleap.

"It won’t fly, we'd need another £20,000 for that, but it will offer fast taxi runs," added Marjorie.

"We also want to use it as a training and exercise tool.

"We have two apprentices that come in on Sunday who help with everything and they do a great job.

"We're there every Sunday working on it, we have a second project now, a [De Havilland] Vampire jet."

Marjorie says people are often in awe of the vintage jet.

"It gives a lot of people a lot of pleasure just to sit in it a have their photo taken," she added.

"Some people, when we turn the engine on are reduced to tears it's so impressive."