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Wight Aviation Museum is extremely saddened to hear the news of the death of Mary Ellis at the age of 101. The Chair of the Museum, John Kenyon, wished to express the deep condolences of all its members to Mary’s family and friends at this sad time. “I have known Mary for a number of years now and she will be remembered locally as a heroine who helped to establish the role of aviatrix pilots at a critical time for the nation.
Without the ATA’s wartime efforts the RAF would not have had enough aircraft to put into the sky to counter the war in the Air.” Mary was an extraordinary lady and her legacy as a World War II pilot and her pivotal role at Sandown Airport, were key inspirations for the creation of the Wight Aviation Museum. It's aim is to celebrate the considerable history in aircraft design & production on the Isle of Wight, as well those individuals on the Island who have made an outstanding contribution to aviation, of which Mary was certainly one.
We had been working with Mary and her associates to bring her story to our new museum and we hope our Mary Ellis exhibit will be a fitting tribute to this truly inspirational lady. Mary was born in 1917 and had her first flying lesson in 1938 at the age of 21 soon after gaining her civilian pilots licence. With the outbreak of WW2 in 1939, she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) on the 1st October 1941. The role of the Air Transport Auxiliary ( ATA) was to ferry fighter and bomber aircraft from the factories to the airfields, as well as to return damaged aircraft for repair. Although there were no female fighter pilots during the war, 168 woman pilots took part in ATA operations flying aircraft to front line active airfields around the UK, often with only rudimentary navigation aids, no radios or any kind of defences and, in consequence, several lost their lives during operational service.
Mary flew a total of 400 Spitfires, delivering over 1000 planes to RAF stations. By the end of the war she had amassed 1100 hours flying on nearly 80 types of aircraft, including the Wellington heavy bomber and Britain's first jet fighter aircraft, the Gloster Meteor which could fly at speeds of up to 600 mph. After the war she moved to the Isle of Wight and became Commandant of Sandown Airport from 1950 to 1970 helping it to develop into a thriving commercial airfield. She pioneered regular air services in the 60’s from the North of England and was the air traffic controller as well as running the airfield by installing CRDF direction finding equipment enabling planes to still land in inclement weather.
Mary even laid on coaches to take holidaymakers to their hotels in Sandown and Shanklin! In 2017 she celebrated her 100th Birthday with a flight from Sandown in her favourite aircraft, the Spitfire, becoming the oldest person to do so. More recently, Mary was awarded the Freedom of the Isle of Wight and, presenting the award the Leader of the Council exalted Mary as a “national, international and Island heroine”.
No single center exists where the extensive history of aviation on the Isle of Wight can be exhibited, seen and experienced by the public.
Working in partnership with our member groups and with support from the public, our aim is to convert one of the aircraft hangars at Sandown Airport to create the Wight Aviation Museum. This will allow us to display our current exhibits as well as build our collection for the future.
The Princess Flying Boat under construction at the Columbine building in East Cowes.
The museum will recognise the fusion of marine and aviation skills that led to the building of 600 aircraft on the Island during WW1 and we will illustrate the intense "War in the Air" over the Isle of Wight, during the Battle of Britain.
An early Seaplane built by J S White of West Cowes, in 1916
We plan to unite two special icons of Island engineering excellence, the Spartan 3-seater and the Britten-Norman Islander.
The Simmonds Spartan 3 seater G-ABYN built at Somerton in Cowes, it's still airworthy & currently in New Zealand. The current owner Rod Hall Jones has lovingly restored the aircraft and would like her preserved at the Wight Aviation Museum. With your help & financial support combined with grant & fundraising assistance, we can bring one of the worlds rarest aircraft back home to the Isle of Wight.
Artist's Ivan Berryman’s painting of the BN2 Islander G-AVCN C/N 003 currently being restored by the volunteers of the "Britten-Norman Aircraft Preservation Society" (BNAPS) for public display.
We also want to show the diversity of aerospace skills through showcasing a replica Black Arrow Rocket and bring people up to date with the current work of GKN Aerospace, IFPL Ltd, Airframe Assemblies, Britten-Norman and BAE Systems.
An artists impression showing the full scale replica Black Arrow at Sandown Airport
Our plans are to lease one of the main hangars at Sandown Airport and convert this into our first aviation museum. This will allow us to both build our collection and establish the museum as a viable tourist attraction.
Positioned close to the airport Control Tower and Bistro, the museum will be a short distance from the parking facilities.
The airport is located on the main route between Newport & Sandown and is in the ideal position for attracting visitors. The airport is also home to Airframe Assemblies one of the worlds leading Spitfire and classic war bird restoration companies and these aircraft are regular visitors to the airfield.
The museum will be free to enter and staffed by volunteers, enabling maximum access to all visitors.
We hope to obtain planning permission for a purpose built museum at Sandown Airport. This larger facility will be both a major tourist attraction and heritage center, enabling us to house many more classic aircraft and expand the space technology exhibition.
This will be a world leading attraction with a high level of public interaction and will also feature an education and hospitality center.
Wight Aviation Museum aims to have a pro-active outreach program, engaging with education providers across the Isle of Wight.
Our team recently attend the 2017 Noel Turner Physics Festival at Cowes Enterprise College, the event was attended by over 2000 pupils from across the Island.
We are raising funds to help set up the museum, if you would like to support us and donate, our bank details are below.
If you are a UK Tax Payer we can also claim Gift Aid on your donation and increase this by 25%, please see the Gift Aid section of our membership form below for details.
For £3 per month or for a single of payment of £36 per year, you can also become a member supporter, please download the form below to join.
click here for membership form ( opens in new tab ).
You can also join by using the Mydonate button below and donating £36 or by setting up a recurring payment of £3 per month, simply choose the "Regular Donation" option and put a minimum of £3 in the donation amount box. Please state "New WAM Member" in the "Personalised Message" section. You will be contacted by email in due course with your membership details. The membership donations are also eligable for Gift Aid.
If you would like to donate and support us you can do so through internet banking or by crediting our account with a cheque at any branch. You can do this anonymously if you prefer, our account details are below:
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If you have any enquiries our contact details are below
Wight Aviation Museum, Sandown Airport, Scotchells Brook Lane, Isle of Wight, PO36 0JP.
Wight Aviation Museum is a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee.
Company Reg No: 10784045 Charitable Registration No: 1175948