EIGHT BLESMA members are helping to restore “Gladys”, a Gazelle AH1 helicopter which has seen 40 years’ service in the Forces, while gaining valuable skills that could help them back into employment.
The project is being run by the Gazelle Military Helicopter Trust, which restores Gazelle helicopters that have been retired from active service and uses them to teach veterans how to rebuild and fly them.
It was the idea of Marc Le Gresley, civilian Chief Flying Instructor of The Army Flying Association (AFA). Marc previously served in the Army Air Corps and is now the Display Team Leader of the Gazelle Squadron Display Team.
Supporting our veterans
The BLESMA members have worked voluntarily at Bourne Park with Falcon Aviation, which maintains the AFA’s training aircraft and has generously sponsored the rebuild of Gladys, at the same time giving BLESMA members the opportunity to gain an aeronautical engineering accreditation.
The team has been taking the helicopters to air shows this year for a static display where they have also collected donations for BLESMA. To date, they have raised around £3,000.
New skills through teamwork
The team hopes to build up to a four-aircraft flying display routine for next year. Marc says: “To help educate and train veterans in aircraft restoration skills and to give them flying experiences has been amazingly rewarding. Two of the BLESMA members with us have also been helped back into civilian employment as a result of the project.”
Barry Le Grys, Chief Executive at BLESMA, added: “This is a project with unique character. It’s about members working together, to completely rebuild an iconic helicopter.
“It’s not a project driven by some large institution; it is driven by the small crew of the Gazelle Military Helicopter Trust to whom we are thankful, and members, all with a passion for a project that promotes team work, confidence building, skills development and will one day be a complete helicopter display team, all from wreckage.”