THE MORAYVIA PLANETARIUM proved of particular interest this week when Moray’s Science and Aviation attraction received its highest-ranking VIP visitor to date.
Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Stephen Hillier, was joined by his wife Lady Elaine Hillier when they took time out from a busy schedule to call in at the attractions Kinloss base.
As a former station commander at RAF Lossiemouth, the couple are no strangers to Moray so were keen to see for themselves the work that had been done by Morayvia’s volunteers – and did not leave disappointed, as Sir Stephen was full of praise for the initiative.
Alongside the aircraft-related exhibits that demonstrate superbly the rich military aviation history of Moray is the Planetarium, purchased through a grant from the Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation. The distinguished visitors where guided through the use of the Planetarium by volunteer Bill Leslie, who is also one of SIGMA Moray’s Astronomy Club presidents.
Bill also showed a film taken from the back seat of a RAF Hawk aircraft on a low-level sortie in the Lake District, a time-lapsed video of the Northern Lights – and followed with a tour of Moray’s night sky including a faster-than-light-speed trip to the Whirlpool Galaxy, before a return to Earth by way of Jupiter.
Of the external displays the Sea King was a clear favourite though Sir Stephen was surprised to meet Ian Campbell, a former 202 Squadron SAR pilot, whom he had flown with when Station Commander.
Tours also included the Nimrod MR2 front fuselage section conducted by Sean McCourt, a former RAF engineering officer, as well as the chance to sit in the Jet Provost cockpit, a type that Sir Stephen flew as a Qualified Flying Instructor.
Back inside the tour concluded with a sneak preview of the developing second indoor exhibit area, followed by light refreshments and a discussion period with the directors. Morayvia Chairman Mark Mair commented after the visit that Sir Stephen was delighted to witness the results of the hard work and effort or Morayvia’s volunteers.
Following the visit Sir Stephen said: “I am delighted to have been able to visit Morayvia. It’s clearly a great asset to the area, not only preserving Moray’s RAF aerospace heritage but providing an excellent facility in the Planetarium to introduce visitors to the wonders of the Universe. My congratulations to all involved.
“The planetarium’s ability to also show large screen videos, such as RAF fast-jet training aircraft operating at low-level, gave an insight into this aspect of flight that few would otherwise experience or enjoy.
“Overall the exhibits and volunteers are providing an amazing facility to educate and inspire, particularly the younger generation, towards careers in science and, maybe, the Royal Air Force.”