- 04 Mar 2022
- GA Buyer Europe
In this Article, Jamie Chalkley tells how he and two other like-minded individuals joined forces and combined their experience, connections, and knowledge into one professional organisation that specialises in Vintage and Warbird transactions.
As the tale often goes, it’s about being in the right place at the right time [in life], and just ‘pre-Covid,’ my good friend Andy Durston said, “I’ve got a great idea!” Two months later, we were ‘TASC Vintage’. But as much as it was a new company, it definitely wasn’t a case of ‘New Kids on the Block’.
Instead, it was the coming together of three like-minded individuals who’d been in the industry for a number of years independently (with occasional crossover) that decided to join forces and combine experience, connections and knowledge into one professional organisation that specialised in Vintage and Warbird transactions (and everything that goes with it!)
What's so special about us? Actually, we don’t think we’re ‘special’ at all! But we do count ourselves as incredibly fortunate and indeed privileged, not just to be living and working in aviation but to have the experiences we’ve had in some of the most historical aircraft on the planet (literally!) And having had a few decades of that each, our combined experience and worldwide connections are really quite something when brought all together.
Who are we? First, we have Mr. Richard Grace; Richard is a hugely experienced Warbird pilot and engineer and he knows first-hand the ins and outs of owning a 1940s plane, for his own aircraft is the much loved two-seat Spitfire Mk. IX ‘ML407’.
Richard has been called to all corners of the globe to carry out inspections and test flights on numerous Warbird aircraft and various vintage types. He also has a well- known display flying background and flies the Buchon in the brilliant four-ship close formation Warbird display team of The Ultimate Fighters. I’ve spent many an hour listening and learning from Richard’s technical knowledge; he is quite the craftsman and basically a walking encyclopaedia!
Next we have Mr. Andy Durston; Andy is head of training on the fleet of Warbirds Richard operates. This includes Spitfires (various Mks), Mustangs, a pair of Buchons, a Thunderbolt, a Sea Fury and more! Andy is one of the most disciplined pilots I’ve ever flown with, which is what I guess you would expect from an ex- Navy Hawk and Harrier Pilot! Andy flies the Mustang in the Ultimate Fighters Display Team which if you’ve not checked out before, I highly recommend jumping onto a Google page, finding them, and checking out some of their displays.
And as for myself, I’m Jamie Chalkley and as for aviation opportunities, I feel like I won the lottery when it comes to finding good luck! My Grandfather was world renowned Warbird Hunter Jim Pearce, so from the age of ‘I can’t even remember’, I was lucky enough to be climbing over Warbirds and helping out around the hangar.
That meant working from the ground up; cleaning, degreasing, pushing a wing and even making chocks — I’d have a go at anything that was on offer. Eventually, though my career path led me to helicopters after one day having a tour around a police helicopter and falling in love with the idea of chasing some bad guys!
After a mixture of professional flying and instructing I find myself today settled in a career of aircraft sales, consultancy (and still flying of course!) — this being between Eastern Atlantic Helicopters and TASC Vintage. So, if you want to land then stop, or stop then land...
I’ve usually got something of interest to chat about! After some 500+ transactions and having been dropped in the deep end in some amazing places around the world, I still don’t believe for a second I’ve seen every variable, but I reckon I’ve seen and experienced more than my fair share. From finding ways to ground move aircraft over sand in the Sahara (not easy!) to working around volcanic eruptions in the Philippines, I love a challenge!
What do we do and why does it matter? Well, as I said above, we count ourselves very lucky indeed and we don’t forget that for a minute. Basically, we LOVE these aircraft! We are passionate about them, and in doing a good job in every aspect of being in, near and around them. And that’s important; aviation is something you either kinda just like, or you totally breath. We’re the latter. And that means we ‘want to serve’ both the industry and our customers. We want to keep the industry alive and well, and to keep people flying and happy. It’s important to us that legacy finds its way and that these wonderful Warbirds and Vintage masterpieces are kept flying.
So, to answer the first question, “What do we do?” the answer is: “Everything we can”. Even down to our specifications, we love to do the research and include details about the history of the aircraft (which is often a wonderful journey of discovery and an interesting fact-finding mission). Our services include contract writing (happy to provide a contract and all supporting steps or work directly with lawyers and finance companies), we’re experienced in dealing with UK and foreign escrow companies. We have a huge amount of experience in shipping aircraft and working with everyone from foreign Civil Aviation Authorities to the people at the shipping port authorities.
Ultimately, you can’t buy experience, but you can choose to work with people who have it. So, if you need anything at all, even just down to some advice, please get in touch. And, in particular, if you have an aircraft to sell or an appetite or interest to purchase and operate anything vintage or Warbird era, please give us a chance, we would love to work with you.
The Grace Spitfire ‘ML407’
Having already covered the background story behind the magnificent Mk. IX Spitfire in a previous article, I wanted to highlight another particularly wonderful example; the two-seat ‘Grace Spitfire’, and offer just a snapshot of its impressive wartime history:
‘ML407’ rolled off the production line at Castle Bromwich in early 1944 and found active service flying some 176 combat missions (accruing some 320 combat hours!) through the last twelve months of World War II.
In April 1944, ‘ML407’ was delivered to 485 New Zealand Squadron by Jackie Moggridge (one of the top female pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary), where it was handed over to Flying Officer Johnnie Houlton DFC who was accredited, while flying ‘ML407’, with the first enemy aircraft shot down over the Normandy beach head on 6th June 1944 (D-Day!).
‘ML407’ was transferred to 341 Free French Squadron to Sergeant Jean Dabos in December 1944. Thereafter it moved on through a number of Allied Squadrons including: 308 (Polish), 349 (Belgian), 345 (Free French), 332 (Norwegian) and back to 485 (New Zealand) Squadron at the cessation of hostilities.
‘ML407’ didn’t retire but found a quieter life at an RAF Maintenance Unit where it remained until being selected by Vickers-Armstrongs at Eastleigh, Southampton for conversion in 1950 to the two-seat configuration for the Irish Air Corps as an advanced fighter trainer.
‘ML407’ is maintained to the highest possible standard and is not just an exceptional example of the type, but is an iconic example of an iconic aircraft! You’ll notice it is sporting the rear-seat ‘Grace Canopy’ which is the more streamlined version of the rear bubble design. This was designed by Richard’s father Nick Grace who restored the aircraft himself between 1979 and 1985.
The aircraft is available to experience yourself both inside and outside! ‘ML407’ can be spotted at many airshows around the UK and as part of the already mentioned four-ship display team ‘The Ultimate Fighters Display Team’ (the fourth aircraft by the way is the mighty P47 Thunderbolt... look out for an upcoming article about that amazing aircraft soon!) And if you fancy seeing, feeling, smelling and ‘breathing’ it from the inside, then you can do that too! You can take a flight at the controls yourself in an airborne experience flight via warbirdflights.co.uk