The Herculean task of taking apart the world’s last surviving Blackburn Beverley XB259 is now in its fourth week, and there’s a still a long haul yet.
The huge transport plane, built at Brough, took to the air on January 29, 1955, and has been an exhibit for nearly two decades at Fort Paull, close to where it trundled to a halt after its last flight in 1974.
Mr Wiseman’s team can’t rush the job - every bolt is rusted solid after 17 years of exposure to the elements at the former military museum. Mr Wiseman, who runs Condor Aviation, bought the giant aircraft at auction last year saving it from scrap merchants, who stood to make £20,000 from its 35 tonnes of aluminium.
It will be going to his airfield near Selby, Birchwood Lodge, once part of RAF Riccall, and he jokes that his wife is not keen: “She wanted a water feature so she gets a big aircraft instead.”
There the plane, which has a hold which once held a bunch of wild oryx, rescued from floods in Kenya in the 1970s, will act as a conference centre for the universities which partner Condor on projects and also as a unique Airbnb.
Mr Wiseman, who has a civil engineering firm and also makes bespoke experimental designs for light aircraft, said the first week was spent figuring out what to do with a structure “so delicate, so close to falling apart”.
He said: “The props are off, the wing tips are off, the engines are ready to lift off, the tail is dismantled. It is really ugly, but so ugly, it’s beautiful.
“The long term idea is to have it up at Birchwood, to reassemble and rebuild it and completely equip it out. It has to be self financing or it will end up for scrap. There are no other options.”
The team hopes to make the plane as energy-efficient as possible - by converting the propellors to mini-wind turbines to generate electricity.
The plane - which will have two bedrooms in the bay where paratroopers used to jump from - will need much better insulation to keep it warm and useable throughout the winter.
The cockpit will be preserved, with the pilot and co-pilot’s seats reupholstered and put on swivels, and the navigator’s and engineer’s stations removed to create space for a lounge.
Mr Wiseman said he hasn’t a clue of the cost, adding: “If I did I wouldn’t dare add it up.” He said without the help of philanthropist Georg Von der Muehll, a Swiss banker - both chipped in £28,000 each at the start - “this would not have happened”.
He added: “In terms of any regrets I have none at all - she is a fabulous old thing.”
The mammoth task has seen him invest in £80,000 of equipment, to assist his team, chief foreman Wayne Ali, junior engineer Conner Petty and aerospace graduate Oliver Melville, who are having to squeeze into the wings to take them apart.
Aviation restorer Paul Flynn said many years ago he saw a Blackburn Beverley being bulldozed at RAF Hendon. He said: “These things suck money out of you like there’s no tomorrow.
"It’s a brave but inspiring move. Martyn got a lot of criticism online but at the end of the day he is saving the aircraft, which would have gone to scrap.”
Founder of veterans charity Hull 4 Heroes Paul Matson was also at Paull Fort and said he hopes ex-service personnel with RAF backgrounds will get involved in the project. He grew up in the village and the fort was his “den”.
He said: “I’m sure many of the veterans would love to be involved in something like this - it is taking something to bits and then putting it together again.”