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The History of WG430
de Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk, Mark T.10, serial number C1-0504 DHB f373, was built at the Broughton Aircraft Factory during 1951 for the RAF (Royal Air Force). The first flight took place on 19th October 1951 before being delivered to No. 16 Reserve Flying School (Burnaston) four days later, with the RAF designation WG430. In December 1951, WG430 was coded as aircraft “37” and joined No. 3 BFTS (Basic Flying Training School), also at Burnaston Airport, to train National Service pilots for the Korean conflict. In June 1953, WG430 was used by Bristol UAS (University Air Squadron) for a summer camp at RAF Andover. At the close of 1953, a new engine was fitted by No. 9 MU (Maintenance Unit) at RAF Cosford before WG430 was transferred to 12 Group FCCS (Fighter Command Communications Squadron) at RAF Bovingdon in April 1954. However, two days later, WG430 was flown by Squadron Leader Casels to RAF Newton, for a posting to 12 Group Communications Flight. Photographs (see tab above) from this period show WG430 painted silver, with yellow training bands on the inner wings and around the fuselage just forward of the tail fin. However, the yellow training bands were removed sometime between 1956 and 1957. The crest of 12 Group is shown on the engine cowling and the registration marking was initially a stenciled font just forward of the elevator, repainted later as a solid font.
In August 1961, WG430 was moved to a new base at RAF Horsham St. Faith, remaining with No. 12 Group Communications Flight until base closure in March 1963. At this time, No. 27 MU at RAF Shawbury fitted a glider towing hook and painted the new training scheme of silver combined with ‘dayglo’ orange stickers. In March 1965, WG430 joined 30 other Chipmunks to tow gliders for the World Gliding Championships at RAF South Cerney, which was won by J. Wroblewski of Poland in a Foka 4 sailplane in Open Class and F. Henry of France in an Edelweiss sailplane in Standard Class. In May 1965, WG430 became a tow aircraft for the RAFGSA (Gliding & Soaring Association) at RAF Bicester and was also used by Oxford UAS at the same base. In February 1966, WG430 spent five months at RAF Leconfield with Hull UAS before moving to the University of London Air Squadron and 6 AEF (Air Experience Flight) for three months at White Waltham Airfield, an airfield that was originally purchased by the de Havilland family in 1928. The remainder of 1966 saw a move to Central Flying School at RAF Little Rissington with a new aircraft coding of “14”. In August 1967, WG430 conducted some more glider towing for the National Gliding Championships at RAF Bicester, won by L. Tanner in a Ka-6e sailplane in Open Class and T. Slater in a SF-26 in Sport Class. WG430 was in Biggin Hill for the Battle of Britain Day display in September 1969 to tow gliders before returning back to RAF Bicester with Oxford UAS until December when No. 71 MU conducted required maintenance.
For the first few months of 1970, WG430 moved from CFS RAF Little Rissington (February) to RAF Bicester (April) and back again to CFS in July. A light grey paint scheme was applied in October 1970 by No. 27 MU (RAF Shawbury). The RAF loaned WG430 to RAFGSA (Fenland) at RAF Marham for six months in 1971 before moving to RAF West Malling in June 1971 and back to RAF Marham in August 1972. In April 1973, the RAF Historic Aircraft Flight at RAF Biggin Hill moved to RAF Coltishall and was renamed the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The flight comprised of one Hawker Hurricane (LF363), three Supermarine Spitfires (PM631, PS853 and PS915) and a recently acquired Avro Lancaster (PA474). As part of this move, WG430 joined the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight to be used as a tailwheel currency resource for the pilots of the flight. In August 1973, WG430 moved to RNAS (Royal Navy Air Station) Culdrose (HMS Seahawk) for one month and then to RAF Abingdon with 6 AEF, coded as aircraft “G”. February 1974 saw WG430 temporarily replace a Royal Navy Chipmunk (probably WP906) and conduct glider towing at RNAS Lee on Solent (HMS Daedalus) for two months with No. 781 Naval Air Squadron. June 1974, saw a move to Teversham Airport to support Cambridge UAS, that years winners of the Hack Trophy for outstanding performance among University Air Squadrons. For the next four years, WG430 was stored at RAF Kemble with No. 5 MU. It is believed that the new RAF training scheme of Red, White and Grey with a black anti-dazzle area on the nose forward of the cockpit was applied during this period. Early in 1979, WG430 spent a short amount of time at RAF Scampton before landing at RAF Manston, with No. 1 AEF in May 1979. The bulk of the next fifteen years of RAF service would be spent at RAF Manston.
During its time at No. 1 AEF at RAF Manston, a distinctive emblem was painted on the forward fuselage of WG430, depicting a grey elephant on a green background. A convenient local route was often used to give Air Cadets experience flights. This route would include a turn over Howletts Wild Animal Park, which was easy to identify from the air as the large grey elephants stood out well on the green grass enclosures below, hence the adopted emblem. In August 1980, WG430 was one of two Chipmunks loaned to RAF Wattisham to give CCF (Combined Cadet Forces) experience flights. Much of the flying was conducted by Squadron Leader Bill Purchase M.B.E, who would later fly Chipmunk WP833 around the world as part of the RAF 1997 Exercise Northern Venture. From June to November 1981, WG430 was on loan to RAF Honington, and was flown several times by Flight Lieutenant Dave Southwood, who was later followed by a BBC documentary crew through the ETPS (Empire Test Pilot School) course of 1985 for the making of the series “Test Pilot”. WG430 was loaned to RAF Coltishall for AEF operations in Aug 1982, July 1984, and July 1985. The Inter-Services Gliding Championships took place in Roanne (France) during August 1987, July 1988, and July 1989, and WG430 made the journey across the English Channel each year to act as a glider tug. In August 1988, WG430 was at RAF Cranwell on a one-month loan. At some point around June 1989, WG430 was designated as aircraft number “3” of 1 AEF, and an orange number 3 sticker was applied to the fin.
The last decade of RAF flying for WG430 continued at 1 AEF RAF Manston. Once again, a trip to Roanne (France) was made in May 1990 for the Inter-Services Gliding Championships, and more loans saw WG430 at RAF Valley for three months from June 1990 and at 2 AEF Hurn Airport in February 1991. In June 1991, more glider towing duties were conducted using WG430 at AAEE (Aircraft & Armament Evaluation Establishment) Boscombe Down. For the next five years, WG430 remained with 1 AEF at RAF Manston until its last RAF service flight to RAF Newton for storage on 3rd April 1996. The total airframe hours at this time were 11,778 and some 33,186 landings were recorded for the 45 years of RAF service. In February 1997, WG430 was sold at auction to civilian owners Jason Newburg and Peter Muehlegg of Ontario (Canada) before being dismantled and shipped to Canada. In March 1998, WG430 received its first civilian registration from Transport Canada, C-GBNM, and was based at Bredin, Alberta. In July 1998, WG430 flew from Alberta to the 1998 EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) Convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, making six stops along the way before returning to Brechin the following month. In September 1998, WG430 had been re-registered with the FAA as N430WG to new owner Michael Meister, and was flown to Shelbyville Airport in Indiana where it would remain in storage for the next four years.
Two test flights were carried out in May 2002 before another period of storage. In August 2004, WG430 was sold to Michael Williams of Indiana, remaining at Shelbyville Airport. The following month, the FAA issued an Experimental Exhibition Airworthiness Certificate to N430WG. June 2005 saw WG430 at a National Waco Club meeting in Creve Coeur Airport in Missouri, flown by author Rod Brown (DHC-1 Chipmunk, The Poor Man’s Spitfire). In October 2005, the Gipsy Major 10 engine had just under 2,000 hours recorded since installation by the RAF at Airwork Hurn in 1995, and so it was completely overhauled. In 2007, WG430 was sold to John Gottschalk in Pennsylvania, who had initially intended to use the Chipmunk for tailwheel training at the flight school operated by Azhar Husain at Van Sant Airfield, north of Philadelphia. Ultimately, John formed a private owner partnership with fellow pilots Pete Sleeman and Steve Warwick, who continued to operate WG430 from Van Sant Airfield through to the next decade. A complete fabric recovering of the wings, elevator, ailerons and rudder was carried out by George Taylor (Old School Aviation) in May 2009.
In October 2014, Azhar Husain and author Nathan Harnagel flew a formation photoshoot for a magazine article published in Warbird Digest (Sept-Oct 2015). The three partners continued to enjoy flying WG430 until 2018, when a medical issue and partner relocation forced a sale. In November 2018, WG430 was purchased by Steve Randall, an airline pilot from Rancho Mirage, California (originally from the UK). WG430 was kept in storage at Van Sant until April 2019, when Steve flew the Chipmunk 2,200 miles from Van Sant (Pennsylvania) to Thermal Airport (California), stopping at 22 airports along the way. In May 2019, WG430 attended a Ninety-Nines event at Palm Springs Airport and the Flabob Airport Open Day, joining two other Chipmunks displaying at the event. One of the attending Chipmunks was WP833, the RAF Chipmunk flown around the world by Sqn. Ldr. Bill Purchase in 1997, and now owned by Richard Wilsher from Orange County, California (also originally from the UK). In June 2019, WG430 was flown over the Coachella Valley area to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, before heading to West Coast Air Creations at Flabob Airport (California) for an extensive inspection, corrosion and fatigue check. A radio, transponder and ADS-B system was also installed to ensure compliance with regulations due in 2020.
This decade will mark the 70th anniversary of WG430’s first flight (19th October 1951) and the 75th anniversary of the first DHC-1 flight (22nd May 1946). For the 75th anniversary, two former RAF Chipmunks (WG430 and WP833) flew close formation flights for photographers and enthusiasts at Flabob Airport in Southern California. This event was part of a global gathering of Chipmunks, with similar displays taking part in the UK, New Zealand and South Africa, to name a few. Representatives and videographers from the Experimental Aircraft Association were on hand to record the event for a video shown at the EAA Air Venture show in 2021. The July 2020 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine included two photographs of WG430 taken while maintenance was being conducted by the subjects of the article, Nando and Hualdo Mendoza of West Coast Air Creations. A thorough and extensive maintenance schedule is being followed to ensure that WG430 will be kept in airworthy condition for historical display well into the next decade. Attendance at the EAA Air Venture airshow in 2021 at Oshkosh was planned to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the DHC-1. Unfortunately, after flying for three days, WG430 was grounded with a faulty magneto just 100nm short of Oshkosh. The decision was made to install new modern magnetos and a return journey to California was made soon after. WG430 was used to validate a FAST (Formation Safety Team) qualification for the pilot owners of WG430 and WP833. A future formation display pair is under consideration to enable demonstration and raise awareness at various events and airshows. Due to global shortage of Gipsy Major engine parts, new pistons (Ed Clark) and reconditioned cylinders & cylinder heads (Chris Harrison) were installed in 2023 to ensure WG430 will remain mechanically airworthy for many years to come.
Updated Jan 2023
Researched by Steve Randall and Rod Brown, using RAF and civilian records, including data previously researched by Geoff Ambrose of Air Britain. If you have any additional information, corrections or suggestions, kindly email Steve Randall using the contact tab on this website. Thank you.
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