Published on October 29th, 2021 | by Mark Dwyer


A Tornado Sweeps into the North

Ireland’s largest aviation museum has increased its impressive collection with the addition of a Tornado GR4 attack aircraft from the Royal Air Force. 

“Its arrival a few days ago was absolutely thrilling,” said Ray Burrows, Chairman of the Ulster Aviation Society, which operates the large museum at the edge of Lisburn.  “The convoy of low-loaders and lorries after its docking at Belfast Harbour was a terrific sight to see as it roared along the highways and side roads to our site.”

Specialists from the Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transport Squadron spent three days re-assembling the Tornado (ZG771) with the help of a massive crane and some assistance from UAS volunteers. The Tornado’s arrival had been delayed by 18 months due to restrictions resulting from Covid-19 lockdowns. Even so, very few GR4 versions have been delivered to museums in the UK. Its acquisition was initially progressed by the Society’s patron, RAF Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, a native of Northern Ireland. 

“We’ve now about 40 aircraft—I’m losing count as we expand—and we expect to add two more in the near future, those ones from the Irish government,” said Mr. Burrows. 

Entry to the Society’s museum is free, on a pre-booked basis, via its website,  It’s run entirely by volunteers from within the 600 members of the Society, a Northern Ireland registered charity.  It’s also on Facebook, where a link will direct visitors to a three-minute news feature of the Tornado’s arrival and assembly.

The fuselage of Tornado ZG771 turns in at the gate to its new home, the compound of the Ulster Aviation Society at Lisburn. Its re-assembly is about to begin. Photo by Edgar England.
Finally, the welcome! After a Covid lockdown delay of 18 months, UAS Chairman Ray Burrows (right) directs the low loader driver to the gate of the museum compound. Photo by Alan Jarden.
The tail provides a happy ending:  Specialists from the Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron (JARTS) attach the huge component to the Tornado’s rear fuselage.  The total re-assembly operation took a dozen men three days. Photo by Alan Jarden.
The twin hangars of the Ulster Aviation Society, at the Maze/Long Kesh development site, south Lisburn, were host to the arrival of the Tornado, seen here in front of the open hangar doors. Photo by Edgar England.

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About the Author

Mark is an airline pilot flying the Boeing 737 for a major European airline. In addition he is also a Type Rating Instructor, Type Rating Examiner and Base Training Captain on the B737. Outside of commercial flying Mark enjoys flying light aircraft from the smallest 3 Axis microlights up to heavier singles. He is also an instructor and EASA Examiner on single engines and a UK CAA Examiner. He flies the Chipmunk for the Irish Historic Flight Foundation (IHFF). Mark became the Chairman of the National Microlight Association of Ireland (NMAI) in 2013 and has overseen a massive growth in the organisation. In this role he has worked at local and national levels. In 2015, Mark won ‘Upcoming Aviation Professional Award’ at the Aviation Industry Awards sponsored by the IAA. Mark launched this website back in 2002 while always managing the website, he has also been Editor and Deputy Editor of FlyingInIreland Magazine from 2005 to 2015.

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