FEATURE: Just Jane’s winter strip-down

The new year saw This is Flight visit the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, the home of Avro Lancaster NX611 “Just Jane”. Under the rumble of RAF Typhoons from nearby RAF Coningsby, Just Jane is on show midway through an intensive winter restoration programme, stripped of paint and held up on jacks. The long-term plan is to return her to flight once again, but the work involved will be a long haul rather than a quick fix and it is likely to be 3-4 years until the restoration is complete.

In the shadow of the stripped down Lancaster, I spoke to Andrew Panton, manager at the aviation centre at East Kirkby. “It’s the first time we’ve done something like this with the aircraft here”, he explained. “The paint strip team were particularly perturbed when they found it was taking about three times as long as they expected to get all the paint off.” Much learning has come from the early stages of the project and the paint strip team faced many years of paint to contend with – up to ten coats on the distinctive RAF roundels – as the history of the aircraft slowly but surely was peeled away.

Once stripped, the team found different types of manufacturing oddities on the frame and components as simple as rivets have to be taken into account and changed. It also appeared that some of the aircraft’s black paint contributed to the corrosion, for reasons that the restoration team have so far been unable to determine. Andrew explained that the paint strip was a vital part of the project, allowing the team to assess the airframe and create a scheme of work for the coming years.

The locations where the aircraft stood has not helped with corrosion. Many years parked at Blackpool open to the elements and salt water Hasn’t helped, and engineers told us that around 60% of the skin will need replacing. Despite that, the 70-year-old airframe appears to be in good condition. All around the aircraft the parts were laid out neatly, numbers and tagged  awaiting  reunion with the bomber. The engineers were busy working on the aircraft, which continues to reveal its secrets every day. The intensive restoration programme will be completed this spring and Just Jane will be back out for her taxi runs by May. The paint scheme is yet to be decided; it will still be Just Jane, but possibly a temporary scheme.

Which much to do in restoration the aircraft and the taxi rides have funded what you see so far. The Heritage Centre pride themselves on this. Funding is still needed. You can make donations through  The Rivet Club. Donations start at £2 per month, or you can make one-off donations. It all helps to get the Lancaster restored and in the air. Many hours of work have still to be done, but even seeing her in her stripped-down condition you can’t help being taken aback by her iconic shape and status. The family pay tribute to their eldest brother P/O Christopher Whitton Panton. Christopher was shot down and killed on a bombing raid over Nuremberg on 30/31 March 1944. The restoration will be a fitting tribute to Christopher and his family who for many years have remembered him through the Heritage Centre and Just Jane.

We all look forward to seeing her out again this year and and greatly anticipate the first flight in the coming years. You can find out Just Jane’s history by visiting the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage website. Visit Just Jane now to continue your support of this project and for the rare chance to see a WWII bomber in the first stages of a major restoration project.

Jim Lucas is an aviation photographer who runs the website lucasaviationphotography.co.uk.