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A fascinating slice of aviation history... what a pity politics is keeping it hidden

By Malachi O'Doherty

Published 05/08/2015

On an ordinary day they look like middle-aged men with spanners.

And the hangars in Long Kesh where they work, assembling and repairing old planes, looks like the ultimate in sheds, a retreat into assemblage and repair work of the kind that keeps some men perpetually content.

But it is more than that. It is a repository of our history in the air. The Ulster Aviation Society has been collecting and repairing old aircraft and bits of aircraft. They have ejector seats and radar. They have old radios and helmets and little models even.

Go into one of the hangers and the only sound is of screeching crows that have got in but can't get out. But there is a fighter jet with a bomb bay adapted to take nuclear weapons. There is a Puma helicopter and a Wessex.

You should see all this stuff and the society wants you to, but for the second year in a row their traditional open day will not happen because funding and approval will not come from an Executive at Stormont which is deadlocked and parsimonious. And this is not the worst consequence of dilatory decision-making at Stormont but it rankles that something that stems from so much voluntary effort can't come out and show its face.

The vision of tourism at the heart of the Executive put our maritime history at the centre of its pitch to the world that Northern Ireland is a fascinating place, worth coming to spend money in. Surely our history in the air is as fascinating, as integral to the story of our place in world trade, of danger and rescue and warfare.

The hangers in Long Kesh are a museum, the encapsulation of a huge and varied history under leaky and battered roofs, an asset worth preserving.

But you're not going to get to see it.

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