Gareth Stringer's 2009 blogGAR Entries

DEC 26 2009
Gareth Stringer - My 2009 with GAR

If I’m completely honest, 2009 has been full of highlights for me. I found myself doing things I didn’t for one minute dream would happen so early in GAR’s existence and have on occasion left me wondering how we better it in 2010 and beyond. That’s the secret I suppose; to keep looking for new angles and new opportunities, it’s what we’ve done this year and will strive to do as we move forward.

Anyway, back to the beginning. Cosford was where it all started for me really and for that reason alone must feature in my list of favourite moments – three interviews in two days, all conducted in scorching heat and under blue skies with the first part of the weekend concluding with a guided tour of Typhoon on an otherwise deserted ramp at RAF Shawbury. It doesn’t get too much more privileged than that, and those interviews with Scott Loughran, Bill Ramsey and Neil McCarthy were important ones, not just in their own right but also in terms of the doors they would open along the way.

That weekend also saw the start of a fairly manic period of activity with Kemble following straight after. This was a three day trip away for me in the company of the best airshow commentators in the land (in my opinion) and included my interview with Lt Cdr Matt Whitfield atop the Sea Vixen – a definite highlight.

Waddington was next and more glorious weather, combined with Paul Filmer’s arrival from the USA, made that another excellent weekend away. The night in Lincoln with a group of Jet Provost pilots and crew was good fun, but I still maintain that John Rowley didn’t need to get that extra round of drinks in as it made Neil McCarthy’s Hawaiian shirt all the more unbearable.

Moving swiftly on to Yeovilton and well, the fine weather couldn’t last could it? The jacket stayed on all day and, listening back to my interview with Maj Mohammed Quol from the Royal Jordanian Falcons, you could hear the media tent preparing for lift off in the background! Unfortunately a number of display items didn’t but, despite a curtailed flying programme, it was an interesting day, much of which was spent sitting with Flt Lt Leon Creese as he ‘marked’ my interview copy from the previous weekend at Waddington like a school teacher and gave me a lesson in grammar. Thanks Leon – I owe you one!

I got soaked at Fairford too although the Merlin cockpit was a fascinating diversion and a great shelter from the rain – as was Leon and Flt Lt Chris “Kiwi” Enright’s King Air a little later in the day when the heavens opened once more; plush leather seats and all the mod-cons inside the GT model, I can tell you. It stopped eventually and I was able to meet up with Flt Lt Matt Barker for a chat about the Hawk display, an interview interrupted by ‘that take off’ as the Vulcan’s Sunday display departure has become known. It wasn’t just the spectacle – we couldn’t actually hear one another!

A brief interlude, in which I managed to fit in both a week away on holiday and a broken ankle, and before I knew it I was hobbling around at Kemble for the Battle of Britain airshow, enjoying the glorious late summer sunshine and some great company.

The best was yet to come though and the Southport Airshow weekend which followed was a memorable one with our RAF photo shoot at Liverpool Airport, a whole heap of interviews and some great downtime with the aircrew and organisers – notably The Swift Aerobatic Display Team who hosted me and Karl for the duration of the event. It was a fitting way to end a most enjoyable and productive airshow season, and our experience at Liverpool Airport was surreal to say the least. I think it hit home that maybe GAR was actually doing something a little different when a group of 29(R) ground-crew and airport staff were towing an RAF Typhoon in to position as per Karl’s instructions!

It’s not all been airshows of course and one of my proudest memories is our visit to RAF Benson, generating the two features on the RAF Merlin Force which were so well received and resulted in GAR being mentioned in The Times. Paul Dunn added a superb third article from NAF El Centro and the ‘series’ has proved to be one of our most popular.

I’ve also been to RNAS Yeovilton to revisit Matt Whitfield, Ian Sloan and Dave Lilly, RAF Shawbury for the final Fly Navy 100 event, Cranfield to fly air to airs, East Midlands for DHL, RAF Cottesmore for the XV Squadron dinner, the RAF Museum at Cosford to meet Sir Stephen Dalton and to RAF Valley to fly in the Hawk simulator and learn about training the combat pilots of the future.

That’s a busy seven months by anyone’s standards, but most importantly, and if feedback is anything to go by, we’re delivering quality, not just quantity. We’ve got big plans for 2010 but without giving anything away I can say that you can expect to see some truly exclusive material on GAR next year. This year provided some superb highlights for me and I sincerely hope that 2010 brings more of the same as that will mean more great features right here on the site.

It's also been a joy to work alongside the other GAR team members and I must say that they've all been incredibly supportive in this the year that I re-discovered aviation photography and I'm proud to say that this feature is illustrated with all my own work - largely thanks to the help I've received along the way!

Competition - Win a copy of PlanesTV.com's Sunderland Air Show '09 DVD

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2010-01-07 - Neil McCarthy
You said you liked my shirt!

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