The RAF have formally handed over Tornado F3 ZE204 to the North East Land, Sea and Air Museums as custodians for the whole of the North East of England.
The Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron was tasked with moving the aircraft from RAF Manston in Kent, to Sunderland. The unveiling was attended by Air Vice-Marshal Da’Silva and Squadron Leader Porteus as navigator and pilot have both flown ZE204 on a number of occasions during their time at RAF Leeming. This includes combat operations over the former Yugoslavia.
David Charles talks more about the story…
The gifting of the Tornado F3 ZE204 started back in June 2018 at the RAF 100 Celebrations in Durham. With the support of the Lord Lieutenants office from Tyne and Wear and the Reserve and Cadets Forces Association. The museum made an approach to Wing Commander Erica Ferguson the head of RAF Heritage to secure ZE204 for the North East of England. In order to achieve the gifting, space had to be made inside for the aircraft and the volunteers, without knowing the reason, set about re-arranging the main display and workshop areas over the next two years.
Confirmation was finally received in December 2020 that the gift had been agreed by the RAF, the Ministry of Defence and the Secretary of State.
The Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron of the Royal Air Force were tasked with moving the aircraft from RAF Manston in Kent to Sunderland. To prepare for it’s arrival and assembly the museum closed for a week at the end of June 2021, and on a sunny evening at the end of June 2021 a fleet of low loaders arrived at the museum carrying ZE204.
On the Tuesday morning the 29th of June a crane from Bray Cranes arrived and the aircraft was assembled by 3:30 in the afternoon.
Further preparation was carried out by the small museum team throughout the rest of the week. On the Friday evening the aircraft was slowly pushed back into the newly refurbished hangar no 1; There the aircraft remained until Monday the 13th of September 2021.
On the afternoon of the 13th of September 2021 a distinguished list of guests headed by Mrs Susan Winfield OBE arrived to accept the aircraft on behalf of the North East of England.
Air Vice Marshall Colin Da’ Silva the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, and a former Tornado F3 navigator, carried out the gifting to Mrs Winfield who then passed the aircraft to museum chair David Charles for care and display.
With the support of Flight Lieutenant Greg Pocock from RAF Boulmer and Squadron Leader James Porteus the audience were appraised of the role and importance of the Tornado F3 to the region.
AVM Da’ Silva and Sqn Leader Porteus as Navigator and pilot have both flown ZE204 on a number of occasions during their time at RAF Leeming. This includes combat operations over the former Yugoslavia.
The aircraft now stands on display at the museum and will be a central part of celebrating the RAF legacy in the region.
The aircraft will also be used with schools, colleges and the Air Training Corps through Science Technology and Maths initiatives to inspire our future aerospace aerospace engineers.
The museum trustees wish to thank the Reserve and Cadets Forces Association, the Lord Lieutenants Offices of the four regions and the Royal Air Force for the work over the last three years to make this gift possible.
As Chair of the Volunteer managed and run museum my final thanks go to the dedicated volunteers who give up much time and worked tirelessly to prepare for the Tornado gifting. The dedicated bunch make me proud of what has been, and can be, achieved; I hope the North of England can be proud of our museum and show support by visiting.
Image: Crown Copyright 2021.

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