Hopes for a bright future for a piece of aviation history

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The 14-seater De Havilland Heron, which arrived at the Airport on Tuesday evening, was once part of the Jersey Airlines fleet.

It was purchased by the airline in 1956 but the plane – renowned for its beauty and comfort, with passengers having leather seats and large windows – was later replaced by larger aircraft.

Co-owner Peter ‘Willy’ Weber said he felt ‘absolutely ecstatic’ on Tuesday evening as the Island came into view from the cockpit of call sign GAO.

The plane has been undergoing maintenance work in Coventry for more than a decade, the former Jersey Airlines and British Airways pilot told the JEP.

‘The work was supposed to take six weeks and it ended up taking 11 years,’ said Mr Weber. ‘That’s airplanes for you.’

In 1960, you could take a round-trip from Jersey to Southampton in a Heron for the princely sum of £5 and ten shillings.

The planes – which were once part of the Queen’s Flight – were taken up by the British military after they were replaced by 32-seat Dakotas and 55-seat Heralds on the Island’s namesake airline.

The military used the Herons for fuel transport for many years but demobilised the planes in 1989, with many placed into storage.

In 1990, when one came up for auction at Sotheby’s, Mr Weber and other local aircraft enthusiasts – including former pilot and St Brelade Centenier Derek Lane – pounced and purchased the Heron.

‘We bought it from the Ministry of Defence,’ Mr Weber said.

Bringing the plane back on Tuesday with fellow pilot Lee McConnell was a delight.

‘The plane looks exactly the same,’ Mr Weber said. ‘She was flying beautifully and is as good as ever.’

Mr Weber said the Heron would now live in Jersey and he and his co-owners hoped it might be used for special events.

‘It’s a private plane,’ Mr Weber said.

‘We will be looking for groups of enthusiasts to get involved and for them and us to use it, but they must take an active interest.’

He hopes it may be used for air shows, golf events and island-hopping.

‘It’s a beautiful piece of Island history,’ he said.

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