Aviation visitor attraction Morayvia is preparing to reopen its doors after supporters pledged thousands to help it survive lockdown.
The volunteer-run centre was like countless others across the country last year when it lost its main source of income when it was forced to close.
Donors pledged £8,000 to prevent the Kinloss-based group’s dreams suffering a crash landing while grants totalling more than £70,000 were secured from Museums Galleries Scotland.
Now, after surviving the pandemic, the centre is ready to open its doors once again tomorrow with hopes the attraction’s prospects are brighter than ever before.
Pandemic robbed volunteers of second home
Morayvia has been closed since October 2019, with lockdown arriving just days before it was due to open for its 2020 season.
The initial aim for the group, like many other businesses, was just to survive until visitors could return.
Meanwhile, the compliment of about 50 volunteers were robbed of regular get-togethers with friends and fellow veterans, as well as their hobby of restoring and maintaining the UK’s aviation heritage.
Morayvia director Marc Macrae said: “I think the biggest challenge for us in the pandemic has been taking care of our members and volunteers – they’re our key asset.
“It’s been very difficult because a lot of them are in their elder years, some are retired, and they’ve had to self-isolate and not participate in community events.
“Morayvia is more like a club to them than a heritage centre, they come here to meet their friends and colleagues they used to work with.
“It’s very much a therapy session for them and they’ve missed that for more than a year now.”
Morayvia is like ‘social club’ for volunteers
Expert veterans kept busy during lockdown
Morayvia’s dedicated band of experienced engineers have been far from quiet during lockdown though.
When restrictions allowed, the crew got back to maintaining and restoring the vast collection of aircraft exhibits.
And their efforts have led to a prototype Merlin helicopter and Sycamore search and rescue helicopter both going on display.
The additions add to the impressive collection of Sea King, Wessex and Dragonfly helicopters as the group works towards a unique display of all RAF search and rescue choppers.
Director Bob Pountney, who had a 43-year career in the RAF, said: “We’ve been able to have 10 engineers in twice a week for the last five months.
“We used a sign-up system and it worked well. Everyone is looking forward to visitors again though.”
Visitors eager to return to Morayvia
When Morayvia announced last weekend that it was reopening again, volunteers were immediately inundated with messages.
Families were eager to ask what the rules were and whether group bookings were allowed.
The charity has estimated the announcement has reached about 30,000 people on social media.
Mr Macrae said: “There’s been a lot of interest. I think people are just excited to have new things to do again, particularly in the summer.”
Since the announcement, practice runs have been held with children to ensure the new Covid procedures work.
And the group hopes visitors will enjoy the benefits of tireless work from volunteers through lockdown.
Director Lynne Herbert, who taught at Morayvia when the building was a primary school. said: “The focus has been about more than just surviving, but about recovery and resilience.
“So we’ve revamped our building with new windows, new heating and new automatic doors. We’ve wanted to make things better so we can move forward.”