We are now six months on from the successful conclusion of the £200,000 Survival Campaign, required because of the effects of the loss of the Trust’s ability to host visitor tours and events at Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA).
As a business, the Trust needs to do whatever is required to remain trading and solvent, and to discharge its contractual responsibilities. As a charity, the Trust has a duty to provide public benefits, specifically the safeguarding of its heritage assets XH558 and WK163 but importantly also to explain and educate in any way possible what is interesting, valuable and relevant about these assets.
As a summary for new readers of these newsletters, the loss of the Trust’s ability to trade in DSA’s Hangar 3 at the end of January necessitated a radical restructure of the Trust, to reflect the significant reduction in revenue but also the temporary cessation of many activities. Undoubtedly the most significant loss was that of the ability for the public to visit the aircraft, due to the move of the aircraft to Hangar 1, to which public access was denied, and subsequently to external airside parking. In 2016, the Trust welcomed over 19,000 visitors to Hangar 3. In 2017, that has shrunk to the couple of hundred visitors participating in XH558’s ground engine run days, plus a few hundred more that have attended events and talks that the Trust has arranged around the country.
The Trust went from 22 full-time employees plus 2 part-time employees (five of whom the Trust inherited when it took over the lease of Hangar 3 in January 2016), supporting a £2.4million annual turnover, to 8 full-time employees plus 1 part-timer (three of whom still service a profitable facilities management contract for Hangar 3) for a projected annual revenue of £800,000. As ever, a few contracted consultants continue to contribute in specialist areas such as fund-raising. The Survival Appeal enabled the Trust to absorb the shock of this huge change.
DSA’s offer of a lease on a plot of land on the airport’s boundary on which a purpose-built Heritage Hangar could be constructed provided a feasible route forward to the eventual resumption of the Trust’s charitable activities, and the way by which the Trust could discharge its responsibilities to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the preservation of XH558 in full working order, and the delivery of educational activities for the rest of the century.
Over the spring and summer months, under Andrew Edmondson’s leadership, considerable work has been done pro bono by a team of local design, engineering and construction companies, firstly to create a workable but cost-effective design for the new 2500m2 Heritage Hangar tailor-made for public visits and events alongside aircraft engineering, but also to carry out the tests and inspections required for a successful application for planning permission to Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council. Last week, that application was submitted, together with the required and not insubstantial fee of over £15,000. We expect to receive a decision in December.
The work done on the design of the new hangar also generated an estimate for the total cost of construction and fit-out – some £2.8million, including start-up working capital. Unlike many other charities, the Trust does not have an endowment or capital reserves, so the plan is to find an investor or consortium to fund the build, with the added attraction of contributing to the development of the Airport.
In parallel with the planning activity, a Business Plan for the Heritage Hangar has been created, based on the successful business model in Hangar 3 of visitor tours, events, merchandising and catering. This Business Plan has been to subject of extensive review and will continue to be updated, as we need it to be as robust as possible. The Business Plan is aimed at demonstrating that an investor funding the construction of the new Heritage Hangar will be assured of an acceptable return on an investment.
We are already talking to prospective investors, and expect to gain valuable feedback on optimising the attractiveness of our proposition over coming weeks. As with any charity embarking on a new direction, we are drawing on advice from various quarters, especially from those who have experience of similar projects. It’s difficult to be definite on timescales, but we very much hope to open for business in the new Heritage Hangar in 2018. If there is anyone reading this who believes they have the relevant experience to help, please contact me – firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to all this work aimed at securing the future for the Trust, the team’s fundraising, merchandising, events and outreach activities have continued with a stream of imaginative and exciting ideas. These have been and will continue to be vital to the continued existence of the Trust since its restructuring; please watch out for further initiatives in coming weeks and months.
Support of the Trust’s activities by growing numbers of volunteers all around the country is becoming very important, especially to the Trust’s abilities to deliver public benefits in terms of talks and events away from Doncaster Sheffield Airport itself. During the summer, our volunteers enabled the Trust to be represented at several of the major airshows, where we were heartened by the expressions of interest and good wishes from the many supporters who visited the stand. The Trust now has over 50 active volunteers, and we expect this to grow – do let us know if you would like to join the team. (See here for an appeal for specific volunteer roles.)
We understand that there are a number of questions that have arisen over recent weeks to which Dr Stephen Liddle, one of our Trustees, has kindly responded in a “Question and Answer” page, which follows on below.
I hope we will have further significant news on progress to bring you in the coming few months, and will broadcast this to you all in our regular e-newsletters and on social media, however I also plan to provide a further comprehensive update to supporters in six months’ time.