The family of 19-year-old airman shot down in World War Two is taking a historic Lancaster bomber apart piece by piece and painstakingly restoring it to its former glory so it can fly again.
The Lancaster – called Just Jane – is undergoing a mammoth restoration with the aim of getting it back in the air.
The project involves taking the aircraft to pieces, checking every component and then putting it back together again.
Andrew Panton, who runs the East Kirkby Aviation Centre in Lincolnshire, is raising around £3.5million in his bid to get the Avro NX611 flying again by 2020.
He has undertaken the project as a way of paying tribute to the men who flew the bombers and suffered terrible casualties, including his great-uncle Christopher Panton.
Mr Panton, a flight engineer, was killed when his flight was shot down during a bombing raid on Nuremburg, Germany, in March 1944. He was just 19 at the time.
Christopher’s brothers, Harold and Fred, who died in 2013 at the age of 82, saw Just Jane for sale and bought it as a memorial to their brother and the endeavours of Bomber Command, and set up the East Kirkby Aviation Centre in 1988 to house the ageing aircraft.
They nicknamed the bomber “Just Jane” after the popular wartime newspaper cartoon pin-up they painted on the side of the cockpit.
Andrew Panton, Fred’s grandson, said: “It’s important work for that aircraft, for the memory of Bomber Command, and the nation.”
As a way of raising the money needed to carry out the restoration work Just Jane can be chartered for special rides on the ground during the summer months, meaning restoration work has to be put on hold between May and the start of November.
A fundraising club has also been set up for people wishing to make a regular donation towards the restoration.
Many of the problems involved in restoring the aircraft lie in sourcing the right components, years after they ceased production, and finding people with the skills to fit them.
Mr Panton said: “The work is quite easy in the grand scheme of things, it’s quite standard stuff – it’s just having the knowledge to do it.”
The project took a big step forward this winter when it was stripped of its paintwork.
“Stripping the paint off means we get the ability to survey the airframe of the aircraft, find any problems and correct them,” said Mr Panton. “Once the survey has finished, it will tell us how long it will take to restore the aircraft to an airworthy condition.
“The trouble we have got is new aircraft are now made of composite materials, so people are losing the ability to rivet and skin work with aluminium.
“We are reliant on people who have been taught in airframe work from years ago because they have that base knowledge.”
Just Jane was built by Austin Motors in Longbridge near Birmingham in April 1945 and was due to become part of the RAF’s Tiger Force in the Far East.
The early surrender of Japan meant the bomber did not see service and went on to be used by the French Naval Air Arm.
One of the men working on the project, Brian Howard, 67, said: “There’s a lot of work to be done, and it makes you think about what you’ve got to do next.
“It’s the oldest thing I’ve ever worked on – it feels fantastic. I just miss a lot of the drawings, that’s all. Everything has got to be in your head because you’re so used to looking at a computer.”