For 25 years, David Kirkpatrick has walked around Carlisle airport.

But he’s never actually flown anywhere.

He’s admired the classic aircraft that are grounded there and worked on maintaining them.

But the only flights he has taken are ones of fantasy.

David retired from his paid work as systems design engineer at ADT in Carlisle in June last year.

Now he can concentrate on his work as a member of the Solway Aviation Society in maintaining the Solway Aviation Museum.

It started 25 years ago when he brought his children Michelle and Graham to an airshow.

He looked round the museum’s famed Vulcan bomber and said it would look better if it was lit up inside so people could see the consoles.

He didn’t need any persuading when one of the guides suggested he join and do it himself: “I joined and got the service manuals for the plane. There are 14 miles of cables. It was easy to follow the plans and work out, the problem was that it has three different wattage systems.

“It took months and months to do.

“I just got fascinated with it. It was big boys’ toys.”

When David joined, the museum was based in a portable office.

“If you got £20 over a weekend it was so exciting we would go out and buy a tin of paint on the Monday and decide what we would splash it on,” he smiles.

Most people come to see the Vulcan and this year it is getting a rare makeover.

It is being repainted in its maritime reconnaissance operational colours from when it was based in Cyprus, which means painting it in... gloss.

Painting a small skirting board in the still air of a room is hard enough to do, imagine how hard a job it will be to repaint an entire aircraft on a windswept airfield in Cumbria.

David was chairman of the society for 13 years but is now procurement director, which means sourcing and buying paint, equipment and other items for the aircraft and the museum including the gloss for the Vulcan.

That is being provided by Johnstone Paints who sent their technical manager and their general manager to inspect the aircraft.

“It is the last maritime radar reconnaissance aircraft in the world and it should be painted in gloss so when it came back from over the sea it could be washed down.

“We can’t wait for a calm day round here to paint it. I’ve been thinking about it and I think it is going to be a four-inch roller with a brush to finish it.”

David Kirkpatrick

David, 65, lives at Low Crosby with wife Margaret and works at the museum twice a week.

There are more than 60 paid up, mostly retired members of the society, but there has been an increase in younger members recently.

It’s a labour of love for David and for Brian who is cataloguing every item in the museum – he’s up to 4,500 and there’s thousands more to go.

Then there’s Lynn who travels from Morecambe to help out. We found her furiously polishing the Vulcan with WD40.

“I don’t really know why we do it,” smiles David. “But we all enjoy it and have a really good laugh. We’re a band of brothers and sisters. We have a lot more women involved now than we ever did, which is also great. We put in a lottery bid and they asked how many hours we put in a year and we worked it out at 10,500. That is a hell of a lot of time.”

The museum may be closed to visitors, but this is when the work is carried out.

Buildings are repaired, projects planned, activity displays dismantled and new ones created and put into place.

“We get a lot of repeat visitors and people like to see the changes. There is an awful lot going on behind the scenes, even when we are closed,” says David.

One new exhibition is airfield defence weapons which has been contributed by one of the members who is a former RAF ground crew flight sergeant

The society started life in the early sixties as a group of aircraft spotters who would meet in the airport’s control tower and swap registrations and call signs.

Over the years, the Jet Provost, the Hunter, the Phantom and others have been added.

The Hunter was bought off eBay for around £7,000 four years ago, but David says it is getting harder and harder to buy a plane.

The group would love to buy a Javelin or a Hawker Harrier but David shakes his head: “I don’t think we will ever see those.

“We are fighting against scrap metal merchants who have a lot of money now.

“The Ministry of Defence have to maximise their return on everything they have bought. The Government do not seem very keen on maintaining their history.

“These aircraft are full of titanium and gold and other bits and pieces that are very valuable.”

The museum is rated 4.5 on Tripadvisor, ranked second out of 47 things to do in Carlisle and David says visitor numbers increase year on year.

Not bad for a venue only open at weekends and which is closed for five months of the year.

“Most visitors are from outside the county, mainly holidaymakers,” says David. “We had two people fly into the airport last year on their own aircraft from the US just to visit us.”

The museum gets no grants and David reckons it needs £15,000 a year to keep running.

There is no lottery funding until they can get a 25-year lease. All income comes from private sources.

While visitor numbers are on the up, society members are also looking to start up a Solway military trail, involving the Carlisle Museum of Military Life, Devil’s Porridge and the Dumfries Aviation Museum to create more interest in the region’s military history.

In the meantime, there’s still some work to do before this weekend’s big launch.

“What is the point of it?” David wonders. “The preservation of our air history and heritage. We led the world with aircraft manufacture and we have some of the best designs here.

“It is the enjoyment of it, of meeting people, working with the different tools and putting your talents to use and knowing you have achieved something.”

It’s a bit like working on the Airfix models he used to make as a young lad then.

“Possibly, yes, but I did not work on them with the same intricacy.”

The museum revs back into life today and is open every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday until October 29. For more information, go to