Storms: £350,000 damage at airfield

Pilots said yesterday that up to £350,000 of damage had been done when this week's gales ripped the roof off a hangar and destroyed some of the aircraft inside.

Pilots said yesterday that up to £350,000 of damage had been done when this week's gales ripped the roof off a hangar and destroyed some of the aircraft inside.

Three planes have been written off and another six badly damaged after gusts of about 80-90mph ripped into the hangar at Old Buckenham airfield, near Attleborough, on Thursday.

Only three planes escaped unscathed after the metallic doors of the hangar were sucked by the wind into the hangar itself, causing huge damage to the planes in their way.

Yesterday the three mangled planes had been left in the debris-littered hangar, propellers twisted off and wings bent out of all recognition.

The managing director of the airfield, Paul Layzell, described the scenes of devastation he encountered on returning to the airbase when the storm died down as similar to the pictures he had seen of hurricanes battering Florida.

He said: “At about 11.30am on Thursday there was the most massive gust of wind that I have ever experienced, it must have been about 80 or 90mph and just like a hurricane.

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“It all happened in seconds. My son William and I were driving around the airfield in our car, inspecting the hangars and we were literally by the side of it as the roof came off, no more than 10 or 12 feet away.

“We saw the roof lift off and the doors flying around the hangar like they were as light as paper clips. There would have been serious trouble if anyone had been in there but fortunately no one was injured.

“But if you look at some of the planes now, they're like convertibles.”

Four fire crews spent the afternoon helping to make the hangar safe and yesterday airfield staff wheeled the undamaged and slightly-damaged planes from away from the precarious remains of the roof.

The three planes destroyed include a Rockwell Commander 114 owned by a prominent businessman living in Little Cressingham, near Thetford, and a Mooney M20K registered to an owner in Lancing, near Brighton.

A 1973 Piper owned by the Old Buckenham Flying School was also destroyed and Mr Layzell said the school will remain closed for the moment. The airfield will reopen after the weekend.

Despite many insurance companies refusing to pay out for storm damage, claiming it was an act of God, Mr Layzell said an insurance assessor had visited the airfield yesterday and had said that in this case they were still covered.