One of the RAF’s last serving Nimrod MR2 primary marine patrol aircraft has flown into Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground and Airfield to live in retirement as part of the Cold War Jet Collection cared for at the former USAF base. More than 200 enthusiasts travelled from as far away as Cornwall to the Leicestershire airfield to see the distinctive submarine hunter and search-and-rescue plane make a graceful touch-and-go before landing for the last time as a serving military aircraft.
At the controls of Nimrod XV226 – complete with a ‘40’ inscription on its tail-plane to mark four decades of Nimrods in RAF service – was Squadron Leader Stuart Roxburgh. Joining the seven-strong flight crew on the final sortie from RAF Kinloss in Scotland, where the plane was based, was a team of eight ground crew. They spent the following days removing sensitive equipment from the aircraft before it was formally handed over to David Walton, managing director of Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground and Airfield, on 29th April.
Mr Walton, an aviation enthusiast and pilot, said it was an historic moment for Bruntingthorpe. “We consider it an honour and privilege to be custodians of this impressive aircraft which is in such fine condition. It is particularly fitting that it should be here because we have the last military Comet aircraft in the collection and the Nimrod was developed from the Comet.
“Both aircraft will be on display, together with others in our collection of Cold War jets, at our next open day on Sunday 30th May, when I’m sure it will be the star of the show.”
Although there are currently no plans for Nimrod XV226 to fly again, Mr Walton said it would – like other planes in the collection – remain a ‘living’ aircraft, making runs under its own power along Bruntingthorpe’s two-mile runway on open days.
The RAF ordered 46 Nimrods which went on to provide 40 years of service from 1969. The first to be delivered replaced an ageing propeller-driven Shackleton fleet. Nimrods saw service in the so-called ‘Cod Wars’ between Iceland and the UK, the Falklands War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, Afghanistan and numerous search-and-rescue operations in the North Sea and North Atlantic. In its search-and-rescue role, two of Nimrod’s four engines could be shut down, once it reached the search area, in order that it could fly efficiently at low altitude.