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 What is Aviation Archaeology ?

Updated: 11.11.2010

What is Aviation Archaeology?

Aviation Archaeology may cover almost any form of research into or collecting of artifacts connected with the history of aviation. However it is most commonly associated with the research into and more specifically the recovery of artifacts from the crash sites of WW2 aircraft. The hobby started in the UK in the late 1960s and early70s and was mainly concerned with the recovery of relics from the crash sites of aircraft, which took part in the Battle of Britain. Following media coverage and the publication of a small number of books on the subject, the hobby gained increasing popularity and enthusiasts in various parts of the country began to explore their own areas, looking for sites to excavate. As with much of the UK, many sites in the North West have already been "investigated" over the years. Though all too often little research was done, often confined to merely ascertaining the basic details in order to obtain an MOD permit to dig and in some cases sites were even incorrectly identified! Our small group is primarily concerned with "in-depth" research into these incidents, including tracing of eyewitnesses while they are still available to be interviewed. However we have come to realize that many sites were only partially excavated or in some cases even discounted altogether in the past, as the crude metal detectors of the time failed to indicate wreckage was in fact present.

LAIT members are also fully aware of the dangers inherent in our hobby both from the nature of the crash sites themselves and from the remote areas where such sites often lie and at all times we maintain a responsible attitude towards our own safety and that of others. Also we pride ourselves on the standard to which we reinstate any site investigated, including removal of debris that may be hazardous to livestock, repair of any disturbed land drains etc. and re-seeding if required. Finally this activity is purely a hobby, financed by the members of our group with no outside sponsorship. No income is generated from any of our display work and no recovered material is sold, as we believe this to be disrespectful towards those who lost their lives in these incidents.

Aviation Archaeology and the Law

In the UK the remains of all aircraft which have crashed whilst in military service (whether on land or sea) are protected by "The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986". Under which "it is an offence to tamper with, damage, move or unearth the remains unless the Secretary of State has issued a licence authorising those things to be done and that they are done in accordance with the conditions of the licence" Application forms for licences and a copy of the "Notes for guidance of Recovery Groups" are obtainable from the RAF Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC):

Service Personnel and Veterans Agency,
JCCC (Commemorations & Licensing),
Room G35, Innsworth House,
Imjin Barracks,
Gloucester. GL3 1HW

More informally the hobby also has a self regulating body, the "British Aviation Archeological Council" (BAAC), which aims to "maintain ethical standards of behaviour, coordinate activities and provide a forum for discussion" for member groups. Though by no means all the active groups in the UK are members of this organisation. BAAC may be contacted via Email at: [email protected] or by post:

BAAC Chairman.
Mr. D. Stansfield
54 Hillcrest Road
BB10 4JA


This page & all articles on this site Copyright Nick Wotherspoon 2007