20 FEBRUARY 2012
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The name Mike Collett, Chairman of Air Atlantique, may not be familiar to the average business traveller or even many aviation buffs. The quiet, tall Yorkshireman, now 68, a Jersey resident for many years, is in fact Britain’s largest collector of vintage jet aircraft that actually fly. He is a passionate in his belief that planes need to be flown and that the country’s aviation heritage should be kept in the UK and not sold abroad (where they would fetch a great deal of money). The Classic Aircraft Trust (see below) is his way of dealing with this problem. His wife Mandy is a retired British Airways 747 Captain.
Mr Collett’s history is fascinating and spans the years that his collection covers.
Born near Doncaster, Mike was brought up with the noise of Britain’s V bomber force taking off in masses from the local RAF airfields. He is a former Chairman of Doncaster Rovers (he still sits on the Board) and helps out financially from time to time.
The Air Atlantique Group started as an air taxi operation in 1969 under the name of General Aviation Services, based in Jersey (Channel Islands). The Air Atlantique name was adopted in June 1977 when freight charter flights were launched with Douglas DC-3 aircraft. At one time or another nine DC3s were operated, two DC6, and eight Lockheed Electras. He still has a small financial interest in West Atlantic, the Anglo-Swedish cargo airline, Europe’s largest regional freight operator.
The Group moved to its present base at Coventry Airport in December 1985 and for a period actually owned the airport. Between then and the late 1990s it expanded its operations to create pilot training facilities, aircraft engineering shops, survey and aerial reconnaissance work and other aviation-related activities. Mike tried passenger operations at various times including scheduled services from the Channel Islands as Air Corbiere and Atlantic Express.
Britain’s post-war aircraft heritage is represented by some fine static displays such as Duxford and Brooklands, and the National Museum of Flight near Edinburgh. Dedicated military flying is well symbolised by the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Army historical activities, Hurricanes and Spitfires fly by the score, and the unique Vulcan in the Sky project is in many ways awesome. Mike Collett’s belief is that planes should fly, that pilots should be trained to handle them, and engineers learn of their idiosyncrasies.
The creation of The Classic Aircraft Trust (TCAT) follows in the tradition of preserving the nation’s industrial and technological heritage. It is part of building Britain for the future. It is very much to be applauded.
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