We are a volunteer organisation with a rich heritage in Army Aviation. The Historic Army Aircraft Flight (HAAF) is a registered charity based at Middle Wallop in Hampshire and home to the Army Air Corps Fixed and Rotary wing historic aircraft. These aircraft are flown and supported by volunteers from all walks of life including a fair proportion of ex-Military AAC and REME personnel. The HAAF aircraft are regular visitors to major displays and events and can also be seen locally including Fly-pasts for occasions such as Remembrance Day.
The Historic Army Aircraft Flight (HAAF) provides a unique ‘Live Flying’ contribution to the heritage and commemoration outputs of the Army Air Corps (AAC) and wider Army and MoD. This element of live flying acts to enhance and bring to life a number of other associations and charities. This includes the Army Flying Museum which, is co-located with HAAF at the Army Aviation Centre at Middle Wallop.
The HAAF provides significant support to the veteran community. All maintenance and operation of HAAF aircraft is provided free of charge by volunteers. The majority of the volunteers are veterans who freely give their time to ensure the smooth running of the organisation. In return, the HAAF provides a veteran hub and focus which allows ex-service personnel to keep in touch with each other and signposts veterans to other organisations if further support is required.
HAAF’s contribution is complimentary with the other AAC heritage and commemoration providers. It uniquely enables audiences to experience the ‘dynamism, sounds and smells’ of real aircraft being flown by ex-military pilots. In addition, HAAF’s outreach to schools programmes promotes, educates and inspires young people in STEM topics and provides wider social values to the community.
The direct predecessor to HAAF, the Army Historic Aircraft Flight (AHAF) was formed in 1980 as a non-operational military unit and was equipped with a single Auster Mk 9 aircraft. Its main focus was to preserve the AAC’s aviation heritage since its inception in 1957. The Flight was informally established to maintain one example of each aircraft operated by the Corps. AHAF was later formally recognised by the Army Board in 1990 and governed by a Military Charter under the guidance of the AAC Regimental Head Quarters.
The aircraft were flown by volunteer military aircrew from the serving staff of the Army Aviation Centre Middle Wallop and maintained under the existing MOD operating fleet aircraft contractors. By the early 1990s, the Flight consisted of 6 aircraft (3 Fixed Wing – Beaver, Auster, Chipmunk, and 3 Rotary – Scout, Sioux and Alouette). It benefited from a significant surplus of spares accumulated as aircraft were retired from active service. Additionally, the (Francis) Chamberlain Trust gifted 3 of its Skeeter helicopters and spares to the Flight. This allowed AHAF to operate the only airworthy Skeeter in the world.
From 2000 onwards, AHAF undertook a more dynamic direction and greater external engagement, following a refresh of its management under the direction of a newly ‘home-grown’ AAC Director, Brigadier Richard Folkes. Working closely with equally committed support from the Flying Wing Chief Instructor, Lt Col Hugh Northam and the Dep COS of the Centre HQ, Maj George Bacon, the Flight was re-launched as a 6-ship Military Air Display Team. It achieved widespread success, often alongside the hugely popular AAC Blues Eagles Display Team. They often combined into an impressive 11-ship AAC display programme which collected numerous accolades and awards across many major UK event venues.
In 1993, the then Director AAC, Maj Gen Simon Lytle, established a Military Charitable Trust Fund to attract additional income and donations to provide for longer term investment in the aircraft where not already funded by the MOD.
Sadly, AHAF’s Military status was not to last and following the incorporation of all AAC operations within the emerging Joint Helicopter Command, direct MoD funding was withdrawn in 2013. The Flight was placed into a state of ‘suspended animation’ pending further review and likely disposal. By then, however, George Bacon, having flown most of AHAF’s aircraft, and as a leading member of the 2001 AHAF renaissance, led a lone and ambitious campaign to retain the complete AHAF at Wallop, rather than its disposal.
His proposal was to incorporate the entire AHAF into an all-volunteer, Charitable Trust operation – the Historic Army Aircraft Flight (HAAF). This is to be for the wider benefit of all AAC serving and veteran communities. Following nearly 2 years of active persuasion and lobbying at the highest levels, permission was eventually given by HQ Army to gift all the aircraft and spares to a revised version of the existing Charitable Trust. All aircraft were transferred to the CAA Register.
The Flight prospered under George Bacon’s leadership, successfully navigating the Covid pandemic and emerging stronger. George finally retired as Chairman at the end of 2022. HAAF continues to operate under the direction of the Charitable Trust.