Three decades after its retirement from frontline service, Steven Taylor details the much-loved de Havilland Beaver’s career with the Army Air Corps

The flight over the notorious ‘bandit country’ of South Armagh on November 13, 1979 was turning out to be just another routine reconnaissance for the crew of an Army Air Corps (AAC) Beaver AL.1. It was one of countless such sorties crews of the type performed during the long war against terrorism in Northern Ireland. But at around 1pm, while flying over the town of Crossmaglen, close to the border with the Irish Republic, the crew spotted several men carrying rifles, blocking a road with a van. To the aircraft’s observer, it looked like an illegal vehicle check point often set up by the Provisional IRA in Ulster’s borderlands, as a demonstration of their control of the area.

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