Saving the Gloster Sea-Gladiator Faith
The authorities must come to a quick decision if the shell of the Gloster Sea-Gladiator N5520 Faith is to be saved.
The skeleton of the biplane, which was recovered from a disused quarry at Kalafrana and presented to Malta by the Royal Air Force in September 1943 after it had been somewhat repaired and decorated, was refurbished in 1961 and 1973 since when it has been displayed at the War Museum at Fort St Elmo - and rusting.
The museum is momentarily closed and the aircraft is in a very bad state and now approaching the point of no repair. Some officials of Heritage Malta, responsible for it, have failed to take the sensible decision to transfer the aircraft to the Malta Aviation Museum Foundation at Ta' Qali for it to be completely repaired and reconstructed to join the other aircraft, including a Hurricane and Spitfire, which have been so professionally rebuilt by an enthusiastic and dedicated team of the Malta Historic Aircraft Preservation Group.
On a recent visit to the Air Battle of Malta Memorial Hanger at Ta' Qali, the Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, Mario Demarco, stated that in his personal opinion the Gladiator should move there to be conserved by the specialists and be fully restored to its original wartime condition.
The decision must be taken at top level now to save the relic. While the aircraft has languished at St Elmo, the Foundation has acquired enough parts from the RAF Museum at Hendon and the Finnish Aviation Museum in Vantaa to fit the biplane with the set of wings which are missing.
The Preservation Group have totally rebuilt Hawker Hurricane Mk IIa Z3055 and Spitfire Mk IX EN199, and these are on display at the Air Battle of Malta hangar which was inaugurated by the President of Malta in September 2005.
Also on view at Ta' Qali are a Meteor T.7, a Vampire T11 jet trainer, a Fleet Air Arm Sea Hawk, a Sea Venom FAW 21 and other aircraft, including a Fiat G91 of the Italian Air Force and the latest, an Augusta Bell 47G-2 helicopter of the Armed Forces of Malta obtained through the commander, Brigadier Carmel Vassallo, who is also the honorary president of the foundation, which is at present planning to transfer the large Bellman hangar from Kirkop to Ta' Qali to convert it to the main exhibition area to house all the large aircraft and post-war jets.
The foundation is also patiently assembling the parts to reconstruct a Fairey Swordfish. The foundation produces Malta FlyPast, a publication containing articles, profusely illustrated in colour, on Malta's aviation history, ranging from naval aviation, both Royal Navy and US Navy, to civilian airliners and airlines, with various colour art by Richard J. Caruana, who designs the publication; this is edited by David Spiteri Staines. The current issue, No. 8, has 100 pages, double the previous issues.