MULTI-MILLION pound plans for an aviation heritage centre for Moray – with a Nimrod MR2 from RAF Kinloss as its central exhibit – have been unveiled to ‘The Northern Scot’.
The ambitious move by the Moravia group, which comprises ex-RAF personnel and aviation enthusiasts, has already seen a concept paper and an architect’s impression of the proposed centre drawn up in a matter of weeks.
The group, fronted by Mark Mair who runs the Search and Rescue Trust Fund, are in discussion with the Ministry of Defence over keeping the Nimrod MR2, XV244, in Moray.
The aircraft was due to be scrapped but has now been spared from being cut up while the negotiations continue.
Stan Barber, a former Nimrod navigator and Officer in Command of the operations wing at RAF Kinloss, is a leading member of the group. He is convinced the centre, which would include other Moray-based aircraft, interactive displays, IMAX theatre, conference and restaurant facilities, and a chapel, will capture the imagination of the Moray public.
Mr Barber, who lives in Burghead, flew countless sorties in the aircraft that the group is trying to save and use as the showpiece exhibit. "This is something for the future of Moray. A heritage centre makes massive sense and I think it is achievable," he said.
"There is a story to be told of the base from 1939 and a legacy which is important."
Mr Barber flew over 3,500 hours in Nimrods during a 32-year RAF career, which ended in 2005. However, he remains passionate about the aircraft and the role of the base in the Moray community.
"We have 40 odd years of Nimrods at Kinloss and that is a serious span of time. You can’t help but be passionate about this aircraft and the special teamwork that was required to fly it, whether that was aircrew, ground crew or engineers.
Mr Barber wants to harness that energy to drive the heritage centre project forward. "We have a unique asset in Moray which is the retired and serving personnel, and we also have local enthusiasts. Their efforts will bring this place alive," he said.
Mr Mair, who has raised thousands of pounds over the years in support of the work of the search and rescue helicopters at nearby RAF Lossiemouth and elsewhere, believes Moray will get behind the idea.
"This is a cracking project and the Nimrod is a beautiful aircraft. To see it wasted would be a crime," he said.
"The campaign to save RAF Lossiemouth has been fantastic and this is taking that support to a new level. This is about creating employment, marking history and a future for Moray," he added.
"It will be feasible to do it but we will need the backing of the people and businesses."
Mr Mair, who lives in Elgin, believes the centre has the potential to become a tourism attraction for the whole of Scotland and further afield.
The Moravia group has drawn on work initiated by the Nimrod Heritage Group to move forward with its new concept and plans have been drawn up by local firm CM Architecture.
A website – www.moravia.org.uk – will be launched soon where people can find out more and add their comments or support to the campaign and they can also e-mail email@example.com
See the full story in 'The Northern Scot'.