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151. Military Markings

07/02/2015

All civilian aircraft are required to have registration letters so that they can be easily identified. That’s why they all have the BIG letters on the underside of the wing, on the side of the fuselage and / or on the tail fin. The requirements are all in CAP 523, if you want to check it out.

So if you want to apply military markings – and that includes every warbird on the display circuit – you have to apply to the relevant arm of the military for special dispensation to use their markings, and they check carefully to see that you aren’t planning to surreptitiously start an uprising by impersonating the real thing.

Thus our aircraft will have a civilian registration applied to it – G-FDHB, using Granddad’s initial – but we want to use exactly the original markings from 1916, and this week we got permission from the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff (Air Engineering) at Whale Island in Portsmouth officially giving that permission. It officially allocates serial number 1264 to our aircraft, which is great news. I’ve sent the letter off to the CAA, but it means that we are officially allowed to apply the exact original markings, and the only place the civilian registration will appear is on a small metal plate which has to be attached to the airframe somewhere.

These are the colours it will have. Note that the roundels are reversed from the normal RAF colours. The fuselage roundel was painted over the top of the original Union Flag, so we shall paint the Union flag on first, then paint white over the top, and then the roundel over the top of that. All of them will be painted by hande with no masking tape, since that's how it was done in 1915!

These are the colours it will have. Note that the roundels are reversed from the normal RAF colours. The fuselage roundel was painted over the top of the original Union Flag, so we shall paint the Union flag on first, then paint white over the top, and then the roundel over the top of that. All of them will be painted by hande with no masking tape, since that’s how it was done in 1915!

No-one has ever offered a satisfactory explanation for this form of identification; it’s not as permanent as the serial numbers on cars, for example, which are welded permanently in place or etched into the engine block. These can be bolted to the airframe, and thus can be easily removed. I understand they were originally intended to aid identification when the thing crashed and caught on fire, and everything including the occupants were fried to a crisp and completely unidentifiable, and it occurs to me to wonder how many times they have actually proved useful…

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From → Research, Technical

6 Comments
  1. Errol Cavit permalink

    And that is one reason The Vintage Aviator B.E.2e’s are still flying in the UK under their NZ registrations! In NZ, special category airworthiness certificate aircraft may apply to use ‘an identifiable paint scheme and markings on the aircraft as an alternative to the display of the nationality and registration marks’.
    Thanks for the ongoing updates, and best of luck!

  2. I suspect it may be more to do with their airworthiness – it’s always proved extremely difficult to transfer national (as opposed to full ICAO international) approval from one country to another, although a NZ microlight was approved in the UK on the basis of its NZ approval only in the 1980s. Generally speaking, approval of this type of ‘oddball’ has been done on a fairly informal basis and it’s not very easy for an authority in another country to take on the approval without any formal justification.

  3. Errol Cavit permalink

    It would be easier to justify in TVAL’s case, as they are a certified aircraft manufacturer, but yes oddballs seem to get left alone! It probably helps that the chances of falling on the crowdline at their speed is minimal.

  4. The requirement for a metal identification plate is not unique to aviation. Railway goods wagons were also required to carry a metal plate with the registration number. In that case I suppose an accident and fire was more likely to contain a significant number of different items requiring identification. Curiously it was by no means unknown for railway wagons to get “lost” and written off the books as not having been seen for a number of years.

  5. I was asked by DACOS(AE) late last year to look at the paint scheme for this machine and to give the thumbs up. Very tricky trying to ignore any colour drawings that had been replicated over the years and going back to basics by looking at the orthochromic images of the crash to determine whether they were indeed the original RNAS-type markings or whether they had been replaced with the now-standard type. She looks great – well done all!

  6. Rob Waring permalink

    I wonder if between the Union Flag marking and the tricolor marking, it had the RNAS “red nought”? Simply a red circle on a white background. That would help explain the reversed colors of the roundel.

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