Gareth Stringer's 2010 blogGAR Entries

MAR 18 2010
More from Linton plus thoughts on RAF training and support helicoper airshow appearances

Itís been a rewarding couple of weeks for the GAR team with some notable promotion of our work, especially the Royal Air Force linking to our piece on the Typhoon OCU which was still on the RAF website when I last looked. It was also nice to see that the article was on the wall in 29(R)ís building when we dropped in last week, and the feedback has been very gratifying on that one, so thanks to everyone who commented so positively.

As you may have seen over the past week or so, our visit to 1FTS at RAF Linton-on-Ouse was an extremely productive one. The Ďbig revealí of the much rumoured scheme to be worn by Flt Lt Tom Bouldís display aircraft proved to be, and is still proving to be, extremely popular with visits from across the UK and beyond.

Hopefully it wonít be too long before we get to see the aircraft in the flesh, and the same goes for Flt Lt Tom Saundersí display Hawk, the first one of which will hopefully be finished and cleared to attend Northoltís Nightshoot on the 25th. This will be my first time at one of these events and as well as some GAR related activity in the afternoon Iím looking forward to catching up with Tom if we get the chance. Iíve also been prodding Karl for tips on how best to photograph the aircraft attending the event so that should be an interesting exercise as well and I can always blame him if it doesnít work out!

Anyway, back to Linton and I wanted to add a few extra thoughts to those you might have read in the display feature and also that on 1FTS. Firstly I must extend further thanks to both Tom and also Flt Lt Martin Wintermeyer who were consummate hosts. This was one of the most comprehensive visits weíve been on, I think, and everyone we met was happy to give their time to talk us through their particular area of expertise Ė including the Station Commander. Thank you all.

I kid you not when I say that I could have spent most of the day looking at the superb collection of memorabilia in the 72(R) crewroom. This is a unit which has had an incredibly varied and fascinating history, well worth reading up on if you get the chance. The guys did drag me away and, as I said, we saw everything we could have conceivably wanted to during the day. This extended of course to meeting both student pilots and Weapon Systems Operators, which gave us a great chance to get the view from the other side of the fence as it were.

Iím not sure any of us was too sure how the students would react but when we reached their respective crewrooms Tom and Martin left us to it (so as not to add any pressure!) and they all really opened up, answering all our questions very fully. It was inspiring really, just like at Valley, to see this generation of young men and women who still dream of flying in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Itís easy to forget sometimes when you read of possible defence cuts, projects being delayed and other similar tales of woe, that military flying is still the ultimate dream for so many.

No doubt Karl and I will feel the same way after we visit RAF Cranwell next Monday for a day of learning more about elementary flying training. Weíve actually covered the training syllabus back to front since launching last May, starting with XV(R) Squadron, the Tornado GR.4 OCU, and working our way back to the beginning. Still, it will be interesting to see how it all starts, and Iím also looking forward to learning more about how pilots are trained to instruct too Ė something that has fascinated me since XV(R)ís OCU told me they were running a course at RAF Lossiemouth which instructed instructors on instructing instructors! How does that work?! We touched upon it at Valley and Linton but next week gives us the chance to explore this area in more detail. Weíll also be covering this yearís Tutor display in some depth as Flt Lt Bill Ramsey will be hosting us at Cranwell, so all in all it should be an excellent day.

Speaking of displays you may have seen that Team Merlin has confirmed that they will not be able to provide a flying display for the 2010 airshow programme, which is naturally a great shame but equally is perfectly understandable bearing in mind the operational commitments that our support helicopter force finds itself meeting at the moment. It remains to be seen whether the Chinook is able to fulfil appearances at the four shows that have confirmed a possible flying display but Iím quite sure everyone will understand if it doesnít. In the meantime we look forward to seeing Team Merlin on static around the bazaars this year; they always participate whole-heartedly and I am sure their presence will make a strong impact when it comes to recruitment, engagement and explaining more about the vital role Merlin and our support helicopters are playing in Afghanistan.

What else is coming up on GAR? Well, all things being equal we should be presenting a feature on RIAT 2010 next Tuesday, this after I travelled to Douglas Bader House to meet Rob Windsor last week. I think enthusiasts and airshow fans will definitely find that one of interest! We also have a forthcoming feature on aviation museums in Australia and hopefully Dunny will have returned from New Zealand with some content too! Northolt will be covered, of course, and weíve got more airshow previews and military visits in the pipeline, as well as tasty behind the scenes visit to one of the UKís major airports. Plenty going on and plenty to look forward to. Finally, having at last enjoyed a day of sunshine I managed to give the camera a good airing in between interviews at Linton - what resulted are the images you see here. Maybe Karl's tutorship isn't too bad after all.....

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