Damien Burke reports on one of Sywell Airfield's long-term residents
Taxiing in genteel manner across the immaculate grass at Sywell on Friday 6 September 2002 was an aircraft that really made the assembled aerobatic types (there for the second part of the British National Aerobatic Championships) look like children's toys. It was Miles Messenger G-AKIN, purring smoothly to her parking spot outside the Aviator Hotel.
Unremarkable enough you might think barring the rarity of airworthy Messengers, but in fact this was the prelude to one of Britain's most historic light aircraft changing hands after over 50 years with a single owner, and single home.
G-AKIN is a Miles M.38 Messenger 2A and was built in November 1947 by Miles Aircraft at their Northern Ireland factory, the penultimate Miles-built aircraft (constructor's number 6728). Although the first private owner, in April 1948, was Captain A W B Everard of Ratcliffe Hall, Leicestershire, the Messenger became the property of the Spiller family in August 1949. Based at Sywell from April 1952, she has been there ever since, lovingly looked after and hangared to keep her in tip-top condition.
It was the ability to get into small unprepared fields and get out again which attracted the attention of R. Spiller & Sons who farmed at Keyston near Huntingdon, an ideal tool for a progressive farming family. Despite its utility role, G-AKIN was also pressed into service for pleasure and business travel by both Norman and John Spiller.
She was even raced in the early 1950s by 'Johnny' Spiller. It was to make Kilo India November more visible during this potentially hazardous activity that the original rather drab overall blue finish was replaced by the attractive red and cream livery which she still wears today. Her successes included 1st in the 1952 Siddeley Challenge Trophy, 1st in the 1954 Harmer Trophy Race and 3rd in that year's Goodyear Air Challenge Trophy, and 2nd in the 1955 Kemsley Challenge Trophy.
Continuing in regular use for both business and pleasure from 1955 to 1984, and having achieved vintage status, G-AKIN became a regular attendee at various flying meets throughout the 1980s and 1990s - for many years she was the only airworthy Messenger in Europe. She has received awards such as: Air Britain Vintage Cups at North Weald & Wellesbourne; PFA East Midland Trophy at Burnaston; Best Miles Award at White Waltham; PFA Vintage Commendation at Cranfield; Vintage Aircraft Club John Blake Rosebowl and the Vintage Aircraft Club Desmond Penrose Trophy.
The aircraft's owner, Norman Spiller has now in a most generous gesture handed over this unique aircraft to the care of the newly formed Sywell Messenger Trust, who will maintain this unique example of Britain's civil aviation history in airworthy condition at Sywell, for the education of the Public in the history of the aircraft, civil aviation and the importance of aviation in Northamptonshire. An extensive refurbishment by Fordaire at Sywell and the recent installation of a zero-houred engine means that G-AKIN is in excellent condition for a further 50 plus years of Sywell residence.
here at the informal handing-over gathering at Sywell's Aviator Hotel
are Mr. Spiller and Chris Parker, Chairman of the Sywell Messenger Trust.
For more information about the Trust, contact PR/Publicity Trustee