Vickers Varsity T1 WJ897 and the Leicester Aircraft Preservation Group

Varsity Sticker Small


In 1975-1976 when the RAF was disposing of its Varsities, a few with sufficient remaining flying hours were offered for sale. Some ended up at Air Museums, others being maintained by groups of enthusiasts with the intention of keeping them in the air.
WJ897 was one of these, receiving its civilian serial registration G-BDFT having been purchased by a single enthusiast with the intention of flying it from Leicester Airport. Eventually a group of enthusiasts gathered around the owner and in 1982 ownership was transferred to this group, now called the Leicester Aircraft Preservation Group (LAPG).

Between 1976 and 1984 G-BDFT appeared regularly at airshows all over the UK, which were the groups principal source of income. The LAPG also had strong connections with the Air Training Corps, with ATC groups frequently visiting the aircraft for instructional purposes. The majority of the LAPG membership had strong RAF associations and included several qualified pilots.
Over time the group had to move the aircraft, firstly to Bottesford, then on to RAF Syerston, making its final flight from the latter. On route it landed at East Midlands (then still known as Castle Donnington) Airport where it was refuelled and was joined by a well-known aviation journalist, then set off to rendezvous with a light aircraft carrying a cameraman for air-to-air photography, shortly after which the pilot reported an emergency, the crash occurring moments later.

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