The engineering skills gap that hangs over the future of historic aircraft restoration is being addressed by the newly launched Parnall Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation based at Truro, Cornwall. Two Spitfire restorations are under way, one of which, MkVb BL688/ G-CJWO, is being rebuilt to fly.

There are currently two apprentices working on the project, Murphy Ransley-Miles and Lawrence Bysouth. They are also enrolled at Cornwall College studying on a BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) level 3 aeronautical engineering course.

Tim Fane, chief engineer, historic aviation at the Parnall Aircraft Company says, “the project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young engineers in Cornwall to get involved in a professional organisation within this specialist industry, to restore one of the most well-recognised historic aircraft types. Historic Flying Ltd/the Aircraft Restoration Company based at Duxford have committed to support the projects and have already supplied parts on loan along with jigs, their time and support. Others within the industry have also offered their support and are only too aware of the shortage of suitably experienced engineers for the future.

One of the workshops at Parnall Advanced Engineering, with the fuselage frame of Spitfire Vb BL688/G-CJWO Spirit of Truro in the background.

“The aim of the foundation is to provide young people with the necessary skills to be able to ensure these valued industries continue to thrive. Both of our current aviation apprentices contribute greatly and are already proving a great addition to the team.”

Parnall Advanced Engineering, which is part of the foundation, is being developed by Mark Parnall, the great-grandson of Cornishman John Parnall, who owned Parnall Aircraft of Bristol. The Parnall name is associated with a succession of very individualistic civil and military biplane designs, the only survivor being airworthy Parnall Elf G-AAIN with the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden.