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Tony 'Taff' Smith, exiled Welshman and honorary Yorkshireman, founder of the Real Aeroplane Company and creator of Breighton Aerodrome as we know it today, successful self-made businessman, happily married to Ann and father of three grown-up children.

Despite being a former RAF Officer it was later, in civillian life, that Taff decided to learn to fly. He bought his first restoration project, a Bucker Jungmann biplane, from the Spanish Air Force, restored it over a period of 18 months, then flew it solo from Australia to England, landing after 140 solo flying hours over 23 days. He still owns the aircraft (G-TAFF) which is based at Breighton.

Iin 1995, Taff became the first 'western' civillian owner/operator of a Czech built L-39 Albatros jet trainer. Taff undertook systems training and type conversion with the Slovakian AIr Force at Kosice Air Force base as well as sequence construction and aerobatic training by Aero Vodochody Ltd in the Czech Republic. He flew the Albatros for a couple of years on the airshow circuit, culminating in it being hired to Mark and Ray Hanna's Old Flying Machine Company (OFMC) for use in the James Bond movie 'Tomorrow Never Dies'.

It was during the 'Albatros' years that Taff met Rob Fleming, another successful local businessman with a fascination for aviation. Rob bought a share in the Albatros which subsequently led to them trading it for the only airworthy Spitfire PR Mk XI which was at that time being looked after for its owner by the OFMC. Breighton then became something of a warbird mecca, housing a fleet that also included a Hawker Hurricane, Spanish ME109, Harvard and P-51 Mustang.

Taff is one of very few pilots entrusted to fly 'Henshaw's' Percival Mew Gull (G-AEXF) which is currently part of Rob Fleming's collection of aircraft based at Breighton.

Since taking early retirement a couple of years ago he's also gained his helicopter 'wings' and instrument rating and shows no sign of slowing down just yet!

Picture: Zan Blundell/