Tourism has many forms, and this week the Region of Murcia was the destination of an unusual group of travellers.
On Sunday, Air Squadron Marshall flew into San Javier, 14 privately owned aircraft, including a Cessna 172, two Beech Be55 Barons, a Jodel DR1051, a Piper Club, a Robin DR400, a Rallye Minerva a Cessna 180, a Cessna 195B , a RV9 and a Grumman AA5, a group of pilots booked in for landing and refuelling as "Air Squadron Marshall."
This select group of pilots is formed by around one hundred members, many of whom occupy important executive positions in the British business world, or are amongst the upper echelons of British Society, all with one common pleasure: piloting private aircraft.
The group declines to call itself a club, preferring to use the description of a group of good friends, and was founded in 1966 by Sir Peter Vanneck, pilot and engineer, who was a member of Parliament and at one time the Lord Mayor of London. Amongst its members have figured Second World War fighter pilots and even Prince Philip, husband of the Queen of England, the current "leader of the pack" being Michael Marshall, Chairman of Marshall Aerospace.
Each year the group take time out to enjoy a trip: in 2000 they went to Alaska and from there flew around the US, and other jaunts have included Norway, France and Italy.
We spoke to the Vice-chairman of the group, Terry Holloway, and asked them why they had chosen Spain, and more specifically, Murcia for their holiday this year, the answer to which was, "Murcia is a fantastic destination, and we´re staying at the La Manga Resort, where ( Michael) has a house, which is terrific. He´s been planning to bring us all here for some time. It's the perfect location for a holiday. Murcia has got everything for golfers, for sportsmen, the weather.....it's just top-notch."
He also said that arriving in Spain was an "absolute joy" as the pilots had "struggled through rain, cloud, and terrible conditions in northern Europe on the way down" so it was a pleasure to arrive in "such superb conditions."
The 28 pilots and passengers enjoyed a 2 day stop in the La Manga Club resort before continuing their journey across Spain to Seville, where they were being "looked after by Airbus"
That statement is not as outlandish as it may sound, as Marshall Aerospace is one of the most prestigious aerospace businesses in the UK, having been established in 1909 in Cambridge by David Gregory Marshall.
He was originally involved in the automobile industry, but with aviation in its infancy, much of the technology for the emerging and developing industry came via automotive engineering. The company's first real involvement in aviation went back to 1912, when mechanics from the company helped to repair the engine of a British Army airship which had made an emergency landing behind the Company´s garage workshop.
Arthur Marshall, son of the original founder learnt to fly after gaining an engineering degree in Cambridge in 1926 and helped to open a new aerodrome on the outskirts of the city next to the family home. In 1929 fighter training began at this location, and a year later, the Marshalls Flying School Ltd was formed. Business boomed and in 1938, the company opened its new airport facilities, Cambridge airport, just in time for the boom in demand for pilots and planes, fuelled by the Second World War. Over 600 new RAF pilots trained at the flying School before the Battle of Britain had even commenced. By the end of the Second World War, the flying School, had trained over 20,000 aircrew, pilots, observers and instructors and alongside the flight training, the Marshall workshops had repaired or rebuilt over 5000 aircraft, ranging in size from the Oxfords and Ansons belonging to Flying Training Command to Spitfires, Mosquitoes, Wellingtons, B-17's and Hurricanes.
After the end of the war, the company continued to expand into the aircraft business, and whilst much of the work focused on repair, structural modifications and conversions, the company also became involved in the final assembly of production aircraft.
Marshall Aerospace was involved as part of the design authority of the Royal Air Force fleet of Lockheed L-10, and LE 11 TriStar tanker/freighter aircraft, which the company converted to these roles. The company also undertakes military conversion and has a number of MOD contracts working with companies such as Lockheed and Hercules, undertaking complex modification job such as fuselage extension jobs and modification work for the RAF and export clients.
And as well as the military contracts and private work with companies such as Cessna, the company is also part of historic aircraft restoration projects including that undertaken with the iconic Vulcan XH558 bomber. Anyone who has ever stood at an air show and felt the ground tremble as this magnificent plane screamed overhead, will appreciate the importance of ensuring that this unique and awe-inspiring plane returned to airworthiness, a project undertaken by the Sky Trust after 15 years of absence from the skies.
Marshall are also involved with Airbus military on the A400 M transporter aircraft project, the reason why this group of flying enthusiasts have the contacts to be "looked after by Airbus."
So, tourism in Murcia has many facets, residential tourism bringing visitors of many types to enjoy the superb leisure facilities the region has to offer, amongst which are some of the residential and leisure urbanisations built to cater for overseas purchasers.
Residential tourism brings a constant stream of visitors to the region, friends coming over to stay for a few days, spending money in the region's businesses, supporting the local economy and supporting Spanish as well as expat owned businesses, even if most of us don´t pop over for a couple of days in our own private planes!
Images: 2 historic images, Marshall Aerospace, other images Murcia Today.
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