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The Real Aeroplane Company (RAC) was founded in 1989 by Tony 'Taff' Smith as the operating company of his airstrip on the former World War two bomber base at Breighton, near Selby. It had been Taff's dream to establish a flying group where like minded individuals could operate their 'Real' aeroplanes away from the pressures of normal aero club flying, in addition, he needed an operating base for his own growing collection of veteran aeroplanes - Breighton was the ideal setting.

Initially, the site consisted of a workshop, two hangars and four aeroplanes. It now has eight hangars and over forty magnificent flying machines in residency ranging from classic military types such as the Miles Magister and North American Harvard to the very non-warlike Aeronca 100, which was built in 1936 one of very few factory built examples currently airworthy.

Aircraft restoration is an important part of the RAC operation, the most ambitious project to date having been the World War Two era ME 109 fighter (actually a Spanish built post World War Two Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchón C4K-154 with a Rolls Royce Merlin engine in place of the Daimler Benz powerplant used by the Germans) which flew for the first time in May 2006. However, one particular aircraft type synonymous with Breighton is the Bucker family of biplanes with numerous single-seat Jungmeisters and two-seat Jungmanns having being built and flown there over the years.

In 1995, RAC became the first civilian organization to certify and operate an Aero Vodochody L-39ZO Albatros on the Western European display circuit. The agile Czech advanced jet trainer/ground attack/fighter aircraft delighted airshow crowds everywhere, looking resplendent in its custom paint scheme. This aeroplane went on to star, along with Taff (and the late Mark Hanna, renowned warbird pilot and owner of the Duxford based Old Flying Machine Company), in the James Bond film 'Tomorrow never dies'. Significantly, this was the point at which successful businessman and aviation enthusiast Rob Fleming, began his long association with the RAC.

Following on from Eastern Bloc jets, Taff and Rob then tentatively dipped their toes into the warbird scene with the purchase of a North American T-6 (Harvard) followed by a very rare airworthy PR Mk XI Spitfire. Taff soon got to grips with flying the 'Spitty' and one of his first public displays remains one of his personal highlights - flying alongside a genuine former Luftwaffe Daimler Benz powered BF109G (the famous 'Black Six' - captured by Allied forces in Libya during World War Two and used for fighter evaluation trials in the UK) during a Battle of Britain commemoration at the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington.

The RAC then went on to operate a small 'squadron' of historically significant fighters which, in addition to the Spitfire, included a Mustang, Hurricane and a Spanish built ME 109/Buchon (completely rebuilt to airworthy status by the RAC) - the UK's northernmost operator of such hardware. These aircraft popularised the RAC a great deal and were seen at airshows across the length and breadth of the UK and Europe flown by Taff Smith and Brian Brown (the Mustang and Hurricane ventured as far afield as Roudnice Nad Labem in the Czech Republic). The Spitfire also spent some time at Taff's winter retreat in Florida where it was displayed at numerous US events including Oshkosh. Ten amazing years later and a change of collecting policy at Breighton saw the Spitfire, Hurricane and ME 109 depart to pastures new, the Spitfire to a new collection based at North Weald, the Hurricane and ME 109 to an American collector who was assembling his new warbird collection at Duxford. Tragically, Breighton's Airfield Manager and one of the RAC's most prolific characters, Brian Brown, lost his life in an airshow accident while flying the Hawker Hurricane on behalf of another warbird operator. Soon after that terrible tragedy the P-51 Mustang departed Breighton for a new life in Germany thus bringing to a close a bittersweet chapter in the Real Aeroplane Company's incredible history.

More recently, the Company's collection has concentrated on flying from an earlier era. The unique Percival Mew Gull, a classic racer from the Golden Age of aviation, perhaps being the most famous in recent years. The RAC is currently engaged in a number of rebuilds and restoration projects including a former Royal Navy Westland Wasp helicopter and an exciting Sopwith Pup project.

© The Real Aeroplane Company, The Aerodrome, Breighton, SELBY YO8 6DS • Tel: 01757 289065

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Photographs on this page © Steve Blee, Trevor Holmes, Ian Herbert and Realaero.com