In hangars and machine shops the length and breadth of Britain a brave bunch of engineers and aviators are battling to keep the UK’s most historic warplanes in the air. From Spitfires to C47 paratroop planes, Cold War jets to helicopters, the skies of 2020 are home to a growing fleet of antique warbirds – 20th century military aircraft rebuilt or even recreated from scratch.
Now Warbird Workshop is climbing into the cockpit with the pilots and professional engineers committed to returning planes that fought and won wars to the skies.
We’ll watch as vintage engines are coaxed back into life and restorers puzzle out the problems presented by aircraft designed before their grand dads were born.
And we’ll capture the nostalgia and the drama of first test flights as iconic fighters like the Spitfire soar into the sky again after rebuilds that can take decades.
Episode 1 – Spitfire
On the legendary Battle of Britain airfield at Biggin Hill, a dedicated team of young engineers fight to restore a Spitfire that fought over Europe in 1944 to flight.
Episode 2 – Douglas C47
A US Army Air Force C47 that dropped paratroopers on D Day is at the centre of one of the UK’s most ambitious warbird rebuilds…but will it be ready to carry the engineering team and its pilot owner to the 75th anniversary celebrations?
Episode 3 – Westland Wessex
A team of engineers fight to return a veteran Westland Wessex helicopter to the skies – 30 years after its last flight – in time for a star appearance at one of the UK’s biggest air shows.
Episode 4 – Piper Cub
A group of amateur pilots find their light plane has a glorious war record – and launch an ambitious project to rebuild the Piper Cub and restore its military markings in time for an epic flight to France to take part in the 75th anniversary of D Day.
Episode 5 – Aeronca Defender
Aircraft restoration expert Mark Masters and his son James rebuild a 1943 US Army Aeronca Defender liaison plane for its German owner. What starts out as a simple repair turns into a major rebuild as work exposes the toll time has taken on its wooden wins.
Episode 6 – L39 Albatros
Following businessman and racing driver Steve Hartley’s quest for speed on board his own warplane. His L39 Cold War era jet was rescued from a hangar in the Baltic States but a team of ex-RAF and Navy engineers must now work out how it works…
Warbird Workshop – new series starts April 2021 on Yesterday
Episode 1 – Hawker Hurricane
One of a handful of survivors of the plane that helped the RAF win the Battle of Britain in 1940. In a hangar in Essex engineer Andrew Wenham and his team are recreating the rarest version of the legendary warbird – a two-seat fighter-bomber. The problem is, the original plans have vanished and they’re having to make up the design as they work and recreate the parts to the exacting standards demanded by the Civil Aviation Authority.
There’s a tight deadline – the plane is wanted in the air for the 80th anniversary of its finest hour. There are glitches and setbacks…but finally the Hurricane flies – with the daughter of its wartime pilot as the passenger.
Episode 2 – Avro Waterbird Seaplane
In 1911 just seven years after the Wright Brothers first flew, Winston Churchill personally sponsored the creation of Britain’s first seaplane, the Waterbird.
Now, a century later, a charitable trust is bankrolling an ambitious project to recreate the primitive Edwardiann flying machine and return it to Lake WIndermere in the English Lake District.
Shot over ten years, this film follows the epic quest to rebuild the new Waterbird all the way from planks of wood to finished plane…and on one heart-stopping day, into the sky.
Episode 3 – Westland Sea King
Westland Sea King: It’s the helicopter that has saved thousands of lives – from the first men on the moon to the survivors of the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster. But now – 15 years after its final flight – the Sea King is back. In a shed in Chard in Somerset ex-soldier Andrew Whitehouse is on a one-man mission to save the UK’s helicopter heritage by putting a retired RAF Rescue Sea King back in the air.
It’s a task so complicated many veterans said it couldn’t be done…. and for a time it looks like they’re right. Especially when Andrew decides it’s going to be flown by an all-female crew only one of whom has ever flown a Sea King before. But Andrew refuses to surrender and the team prove the doubters wrong…with stunning footage of real rescues and testimony from retired Sea King crew this is a show with real drama.
Episode 4 – Morane Saulnier MS317 Fighter/US Navy N3N Biplane
Veteran pilot Gerald Cooper has spent 20,000 hours in the air, shipping rockets to Africa, crop-dusting locusts in the Sudan and surveying burning Kuwaiti oil wells in the middle of the Gulf War. Now, aged 79 with numerous engine failures and one major crash behind him, he’s embarking on his biggest job yet: putting two pre-war planes back in the air from his hangar in Lincolnshire.
The MS315 is a 1930s French monoplane that only survived the German occupation because its pilots hid it in a barn. Then it crashed on a beach in Devon four years ago. Repairing it is a labour of love for Gerald and his wife Jenny because it was originally restored by their daughter Susan who died of cancer recently in her 30s.