Nige says “Goodbye” to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight after 32 Years
Cpl Nigel ‘Sticky’ Bunn (the RAF love of nicknames is very evident here) is finally leaving the RAF after 22 years’ Regular Service and 20 years’ Full Time Reserve Service, the last 32 (almost 33) of which have been with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF).
Sticky leaving will have a huge impact on the BBMF. He has been on the Flight longer than anyone before and maybe longer than anyone will be in the future; he has the utmost respect of his fellow engineers and his advice is constantly requested.
The BBMF aircraft are all individual, no two are identical, so it takes a lot of experience and understanding to know how to keep them flying safely and with optimal performance.
In 1999, the RAF announced that they were disposing of two Mk XVI Spitfires (TB382 and TE311). However, with the BBMF pointing out that these could be a useful source of spares, TE311 and TB382 were delivered to RAF Coningsby to eventually be allocated to the BBMF, but only for ‘spares recovery’.
Once the two Spitfires had been stripped of parts to be used on the other BBMF aircraft, they were left with two fuselages and four wings. Sticky, along with CT Paul Blackah as the lead, Cpl Andy Bale and Cpl Clive O’Connell, thought that they could make something of the lowback (TE311), and Sqn Ldr Day (OC BBMF at the time) gave them permission to work on it in their spare time.
Eventually official backing for returning TE311 to the air was gained. In 2012 the Mk XVI Spitfire took to the skies for the first time in over 58 years, flown by Sqn Ldr Ian Smith MBE, the out-going OC BBMF.
To mark Sticky’s time at BBMF, his colleagues put together a personalised guitar signed by all of them and marked it with the dates he has been with the Flight. Now he’ll have more time to play music – though some would say a Merlin engine has its own music.
On his last day, his colleagues pushed him out of the BBMF hangar in Spitfire TE311.
“I am most proud of being part of the team who brought Spitfire TE311 back to the air.”
By Helen Fearn