The aim of the National Aviation Heritage
Committee of the BAPC, which was formed in 1996, is to produce a national
strategy for the preservation of aviation heritage by identifying priorities
for preservation, seeking additional resources and promoting improved
conservation and training standards. In 1997 a four year programme was
started with five key targets:
This was started in the 1980s to identify and
record the many aircraft which were never allocated an official military or
civil identity. These include hang gliders; such as Percy Pilcher's
1896 Hawk; RAF 'plastic replicas', film replicas, German and Japanese
aircraft and homebuilts.
As a contribution to the Preservation scene the
Fleet Air Arm Archive is striving to work within the framework of the
National Aviation Heritage Strategy and its five key targets. This site will
concentrate at this stage on providing information about the Fleet Air Arm
As of the year 2000 the status of preserved
aircraft types used by the Fleet Air Arm was fairly healthy with over 71% of
all aircraft types being used by the Fleet Air Arm 1939-1945 in some form of
preservation, although few individual aircraft (8%) actually had a service
history with the Fleet Air Arm itself and were generally represented by
aircraft which only served with RAF, USN or Commonwealth Air Forces. Even
then 293 individual airframes have known Fleet Air Arm history.
FAA and preserved Naval aircraft
It is difficult to calculate the total number of
preserved aircraft used by the Fleet Air Arm, however, happily with the
advent of the Internet there are various Aircraft and Museum locators
which have significantly simplified the process.
There are currently over 70 aircraft types which are in some form of
preservation that were used by the Fleet Air Arm, although individual
aircraft histories on the whole are either are unknown to this survey or
tended to be relate to the RAF, Commonwealth or US
Navy. In terms of actual aircraft numbers this may total a thousand or so,
although this would largely be made up of Tiger Moths, Harvards,
Dakota, Reliants, Avengers, Corsairs and Spitfire
[Note: each aircraft would not necessarily have FAA histories only the type].
Invaluable research in the near future would be to determine exact
individual aircraft histories and their link to the Fleet Air Arm, most
notably of former naval aircraft which were given to the FAA under Lend-Lease
and returned to the US
post-war and subsequently put on the US
Perhaps the most securely protected aircraft which will remain preserved for
future generations are the national museums, and the dedicated museums and
trusts devoted to naval aviation: The Fleet Air Arm Museum, the Royal Navy
Historic Flight, the Shearwater Naval Museum, the Australian Museum of Flight
and the US National Naval Aviation Museum which all maintain ownership of
their historic aircraft in order to preserve the nation's heritage in naval
Yet, there is an enormous wealth of naval aircraft types which are not
preserved in national collections and a few historic aircraft are still flown
by private owners. This in itself does not necessarily threaten the status of
Fleet Air Arm aircraft types as is so clearly seen by the safety and heritage
records of the Royal Navy Historic Flight, and the Battle of Britain Memorial
Flight, although accidents can happen. Safeguards and registers of aircraft
with known Fleet Air Arm history in private ownership would certainly enhance
or raise awareness of the historic and heritage of our naval aviation
world-wide and hopefully also increase strategic efforts and rationalisation in the preservation and conservation of
Fleet Air Arm aircraft world-wide.
FAA and naval aviation wrecks
Given the duties of the Fleet Air Arm and Commonwealth Naval Air Arms were
naturally so focused on a maritime or remote island environment, there is
every possibility that significant numbers of aircraft still survive as
terrestrial or submerged navy aircraft wrecks, not just in the UK but
world-wide wherever the Royal Navy operated. The Crown Jewels of Aviation
Archaeologists dreams of which is the many hundreds of FAA aircraft which
were dumped at sea off Australia
from 1945 onwards.
Therefore, it is difficult to calculate the total number of Navy aircraft
wrecks, either in the Home waters or world-wide. The UK Public Records Office
maintains some Aircraft Crash cards for World War II, as does the equivalent
in the US, and further aircraft incident information is identified in the FAA
publications of R Sturtivant. However, many crash
reports refer to aircraft that were repaired, removed, scrapped for parts or
otherwise eliminated. Therefore, each of these records would require detailed
scrutiny and further research - and that information may now have long been
lost. There is no clear estimate of extant terrestrial and submerged Navy
aircraft wrecks either in the UK,
or of FAA operations elsewhere in the Commonwealth or world-wide.
The number of surviving wrecks is less due to subsequent destruction by
environmental and human factors.
Value of the Resource
Unlike the preservation scene, there is much threat from the intense
interest in Navy aircraft by salvors? Pounds,
dollars and Euros, real and anticipated, are the principal motive. The
Hellcat recovered by Quonset Air Museum (USA), although badly damaged, had an
estimated value of US $200,000. Two Lake Michigan Wildcats recovered reported
to have been sold for US $250,000 apiece. And the rare TBD was estimated to
have a value of one or two million US dollars once restored. Aircraft
museums, in the rush to build collections, have been an impetus for
recoveries and have been instrumental in creating a market value for historic
The International Register of Preserved Fleet Air Arm Aircraft Types was
established to evaluate the significance of properties to recognize the
accomplishments of all peoples who have made a significant contribution to
our FAA and naval aviation history and heritage. The criteria are designed to
guide national and local authorities, government agencies, and aviation enthusiast
groups in evaluating potential entries in the National Register.
Criteria for Evaluation
The quality of significance in Royal Navy and Commonwealth American
history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture that:
associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad
patterns of naval aviation history; or
associated with the lives of persons significant in naval aviation; or
· embody the
distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or
that represent the work of an aviation manufacturer or aircraft designer, or
that possess high historic, experimental or unique prototype values; or
· have yielded or may be likely to
yield, information important in FAA and Commonwealth history.
Example Threat and Conservation and Categories invented
for use by the Fleet Air Arm Archive for this register include:
EXTINCT (EX): An aircraft type is Extinct when
there is no reasonable doubt that there is not even a single complete and preserved
example anywhere in the world of this type.
CRITICALLY ENDANGERED (CR): An
aircraft type is Critically Endangered when there are either extremely few
surviving aircraft of between 1-5 of this type in existence, or where there
is incomplete examples of the aircraft type such as with only fuselage or
cockpits surviving, or where it is facing an extremely high risk of
extinction in the immediate future, including if it not preserved in public
ownership or trusts and/or exists in wrecked in-situ form with no formal,
physical or effective legal protection. Additionally, an individual aircraft
type with low numbers above 5 would be listed if individual aircraft with
known historic record are under threat from destruction or alteration by
being used for "spares' to restore other aircraft.
ENDANGERED (EN): An aircraft type is
Endangered when it is not Critically Endangered and survives with only low
numbers of between 5-15 aircraft, and where it is facing a very high risk of
extinction in the unpreserved wrecked or private ownership form in the near
VULNERABLE (VU): An aircraft type is
Vulnerable when it is not Critically Endangered or Endangered and numbers
between 15-30 aircraft but is facing a high risk of extinction in the
medium-term future if adequate preservation is not taken into account.
LOWER RISK (LR): An aircraft type is Lower
Risk when it has been evaluated, does not satisfy the criteria for any of the
categories Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable and numbers between
30-100 aircraft. Aircraft types included in the Lower Risk category can be
separated into three sub categories:
· Preservation Dependent (pd).
Aircraft types which are the focus of a continuing preservation; programme
targeted towards the aircraft type in question, the cessation of which would
result in the type qualifying for one of the threatened categories above
within a period of five years.
· Near Threatened (nt).
Aircraft Types which do not qualify for Conservation Dependent, but which are
close to qualifying for Vulnerable.
· Least Concern (lc).
Aircraft types which do not qualify for Preservation Dependent or Near
DATA DEFICIENT (DD): A
aircraft type is Data Deficient when there is inadequate information to make
a direct, or indirect, assessment of its risk of extinction. An aircraft type
in this category may be well researched, and its history well known, but
appropriate data on abundance and/or where and if it is preserved is lacking.
Data Deficient is therefore not a category of threat or Lower Risk. Listing
of aircraft types in this category indicates that more information is
required and acknowledges the possibility that future research will show that
threatened classification is appropriate. In many cases great care should be
exercised in choosing between DD and threatened status.
NOT EVALUATED (NE): An aircraft type is
Not Evaluated when it is has not yet been assessed against the criteria.
NOT THREATENED (NT): An Aircraft type
which is of relatively high numbers, whose preservation status is secured in
national museums and whose numbers exceed the amount in the lower risk
category, which significantly higher numbers than 100 airframes.
In future editions of the Fleet Air Arm Archive the criteria will be
applied to the aircraft types and to individual airframes within each type.