151. Military Markings
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.
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…