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30.06.10

Capernwray gets its wings

There are a few airplane wrecks in inland sites around the UK, from Gildy’s Jet Provost to Stoney Cove’s Cessna, but none of them are anywhere near as big or impressive as Capernwray’s recently sunk attraction, a Hawker Siddley HS-748. Vobster Quay actually has an HS-748 as well, but it is broken up into three pieces, so doesn’t have the visual impact of the Lancashire plane, which is pretty much intact and sitting on its under-carriage.


The tail section is separate, but Chris Collingswood and the team from Capernwray have positioned it so that it sits just back from the rear of the fuselage, so to all intents and purposes, everything you’d expect to see on the plane is right there in front of you and right where it is supposed to be.
I hadn’t been to Capernwray since we did the ‘Guide to the inland sites’ series, and once again I was joined by some of the team from Odyssey Dive Centre, based in Cheadle Hulme, who often use Capers – as the site is fondly referred to – for much of their training. This time, director Andrew Tonge and dive centre manager Al Wright were roped in as dive buddies and impromptu models!


Heading down to the water’s edge, the whereabouts of the airplane is in no doubt – a large yellow buoy marks its position. G-BVOV (the plane is known by its official aircraft registration) sits not far from the main entry point. Jump in off the jetty or walk in down the concrete ramp and you only have to swim some eight or nine metres straight out and you come to the end of one of the wings. Swimming along the wing, the fuselage - resplendent in bright white paintwork and Emerald Airways logos (along with a few from Northern Diver, who helped with some of the costs involved in the project) – soon looms into view.


It is at this point that the sheer scale of the aircraft becomes clear. It is simply gigantic. Seeing shots of the fuselage arriving at Capernwray on a low-loader it looked big, but underwater it seems to stretch into the distance forever. The wings span an immense 30 metres, and the fuselage itself is over 21 metres long. Standing proudly on its under-carriage, it stands eight metres tall from the bottom of the quarry!
The cockpit is the focal point of the wreck, and it just asks for shots with divers hovering next to it, which really helps show the size of the aircraft. The Capernwray team have left the cockpit pretty much intact, but to protect it from the minority of idiots out there who take great delight in vandalising sunken attractions, they have wisely installed a perspex sheet blocking entry into the cockpit from the main fuselage. Looking through the empty cockpit windows, it is possible to see dials, switches and levers, and you can even reach in and move the main controls back and forth.


Entering the main fuselage through the front entrance just behind the cockpit, you are faced with a vast empty space. All the seating has been removed, and with light streaming in through the windows running down either side, you have an atmospheric swim-through. Reaching the rear of the plane, you can exit through either side door or through the back of the fuselage, which is completely open. En-route you can peer through the windows, or pose in the emergency exit over the wing. Al and Andrew proved more than capable of this task!
Exiting the fuselage, you can swim around the large tail section, then venture on to the wings to see the remains of the large turbo-prop engines. It is also worth dropping down to the bottom to see the under-carriage – the front wheel hubs are bright red and look great in photographs.


Capernwray already boasted a large number of sunken attractions to keep visiting divers occupied during their time in the water, and this aircraft makes a fine centerpiece to this eclectic collection, which includes boats, helicopters, cars, a diving bell, plastic horses, a red devil and even a couple of giant dancing pigs.
 

History of G-BVOV
G-BVOV is a Hawker Siddeley (HS) 748, which to those of us not up on our aircraft recognition is a full-sized airliner from the 1960s! Powered by two Rolls Royce Dart turboprop engines, this elegant lady was designed to carry up to 48 passengers to glamorous destinations in great comfort.
The history of this particular aircraft makes fascinating reading. A series 2A HS748, she was built at the end of this aircraft’s production run in 1980 and was first employed by a Portuguese airline, flying between Lisbon and the Azores. Later, she was re-registered in the UK and flew from Liverpool under the Emerald Airways banner until her last flight in 2006, when that airline finally went out of business. Many adventures befell her along the way, including a decidedly dodgy landing at Guernsey Airport in early 2006 when the pilot had a bit of a mishap and managed to run off the end of the runway!
The Capernwray team acquired G-BVOV late last year and spent the cold winter months (and some £25,000!) preparing her for her final resting place beneath the clear waters of the dive centre. A credit to the whole Capernwray team after many months of hard work and expense, this is a fantastic new dive and a fitting centerpiece to the many famous underwater attractions at Capernwray.
 

Sport Diver verdict
The HS-748 aircraft makes a fine centrepiece at Capernwray and further adds to its reputation as one of the best inland sites in the UK
 


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