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212. Two dates for your diary

15/01/2016

Firstly, we’ve just been informed the presentation of the Transport Trust Preservationist of the Year award by Prince Michael of Kent will be at Brooklands on Monday 6 June. We will be there, and if humanly possible so will 1264, though it will be a very tall order since we hope she will be flying at the Shuttleworth Collection display the day before.

And secondly, I’ve spent the last two days with Stephen Saunders in Greece, as the guests of Paschalis Palavousis and Panos Giorgiadis, and the end result is – we hope – a really very important date for the diary. I hope you will wish to put it in your diary too.

Stephen Saunders has been making a documentary film of our project for the last couple of years, and this year will see it come to a glorious climax, when we hope to re-enact my Grandad’s flight from the same airfield he flew from on the island of Thasos 100 years ago. On Wednesday he and I flew into Thessaloniki where we were met by the two gentlemen above.

David, Stephen Saunders, Panos Georgiadis and Paschalis Pavalousis in discussion

David, Stephen Saunders, Panos Georgiadis and Paschalis Palavousis in discussion

Paschalis is a computer science teacher and the deputy head of the Lyceum (further education college) in Kavala. But he is absolutely passionate about the history of aviation in his local area and is the most amazing source of carefully researched knowledge on the subject.

Panos is a retired Greek Air Force fast jet pilot who is the organiser and display director of the Kavala Airshow. Kavala is a port in eastern Greece, and 2016 will be the fifth airshow to be held there. It’s similar to the Eastbourne and Bournemouth shows in the UK, and features all the excitement you would expect from such an event.

But only a short ferry ride way is the island of Thasos which (with the exception of Icarus a few years before) is pretty much the birthplace of Greek aviation in 1916, and so this year they plan to feature the centenary by holding a major exhibition of WWI aviation on Thasos in conjunction with the main airshow.

So you will understand, therefore, that since 1264 was the first aircraft to land on Thasos without crashing, it would seem an excellent idea to try and replicate that achievement 100 years later, and together we’ve been exploring the possibilities.

And tonight I can say that while there are still a good many obstacles to overcome, there is every reason to suppose that during the week running up to the airshow, we will be planning to fly 1264 from the exact spot Grandad flew from. The airshow is on 25/26 June, and we plan to have her on the airfield at Thasos during the week before so that we have the best chance of getting suitable weather conditions to fly for Stephen’s cameras. On Friday 24 June we hope there will be a multinational civic reception with a presentation of 1264, including, if the weather permits, a flight. It is hoped that over the weekend there will be talks and displays about WWI aviation at Thasos.

If you haven’t been there, Thasos is a beautiful, unspoilt – and little known – resort, with an important place in Hellenic history throughout the centuries. There’s lots to see apart from the airfield and plenty of beautiful sandy beaches. We hope to see you there.

Of course there are still significant obstacles to overcome.

This is the actual site of the original Thasos airfield. The ground is generally firm and flat, but these very long grasses will have to be cleared, and a drainage ditch filled in or bridged, and the whole area scraped and rolled to make a suitable surface.

This is the actual site of the original Thasos airfield. The ground is generally firm and flat, but these very long grasses will have to be cleared, and a drainage ditch filled in or bridged, and the whole area scraped and rolled to make a suitable surface.

The original airfield has become somewhat overgrown, and will need to be cleared, and a hangar will have to be built to house 1264 for the week. The funding for this will have to come from the local authorities, but the mayor of Thasos changed his business plans in order to meet us this week, and the deputy governor of the Kavala prefecture also spent time to discuss the project with us, and it’s clear they are as enthusiastic as we are that it should take place.

The deputy governor of the Kavala prefecture with David and Stephen Saunders

The deputy governor of the Kavala prefecture with David and Stephen Saunders

It will, after all, be a pretty unique occasion, and we would like to thank Panos and Paschalis for the quite amazing hard work and enthusiasm they’ve shown in getting this project thus far.

There is so very much more to tell you about the outcomes from this visit but they will have to wait for another blog entry!

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  1. 222. Thassos, here we come! | Bristol Scout

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