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AFAC taking flight in the 1980s

As a keen engineer with a love of all things aeronautical, it was never going to be long before Lee Mullins combined his two passions to take to the sky. So, as if building up a fledgling business wasn’t enough to contend with, he found a new hobby to potter with in the shed. But his shed was a little larger than most people’s—it was a warehouse owned by his business. And his hobby? Rebuilding two written-off Auster aircraft!

Lee started his career in aviation—he was an apprentice at Westland Helicopters—but his abiding interested in planes and flying dates back even further. As well as being a Royal Marines Commando during WW2, Lee’s father, Cyril was a member of the design team at Fairey Aviation after the War. This shared interest between father and son meant that Lee spent much of his youthful spare time spotting aircraft. Living near Heathrow might be some people’s idea of hell, but for a young aviation enthusiast it was heaven—and this was in the golden years of civil aviation before the jet age.

Lee’s love of aircraft went from strength to strength and he got himself involved in aviation projects whenever he could. One such undertaking involved volunteering to help rebuild and restore the Sea Hurricane now kept by the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden and their Cierva autogiro, now in the hands of collector, Kermit Weeks in the USA.

Lee wanted more—so far his aviation hobby had been confined to the ground. Finally, by the time he was in his mid 30’s, he was able to fund flying lessons in a pre-computerisation 1946 aircraft called an Auster. The bug bit—he took to flying like a duck to water and he joined various groups that shared ownership of planes, until the momentous day when he was finally able to buy his own.

But there was one small snag. The plane he bought wasn’t airworthy. It was a written-off Auster and his intention was to rebuild it as quickly as he could and get it airborne. However, these sorts of projects have a habit of taking on a life of their own. He bought a second written-off Auster to harvest for parts but that, too, became a rebuild project.

Throughout the 80s, the restorations continued and his restored wreck finally left the runway in 1986. And as for Lee? He may no longer be rebuilding or flying aircraft, but his interest in aviation continues to this day!