Gareth Stringer's 2010 blogGAR Entries

MAY 18 2010
C'est l'anniversaire heureux pour GAR et maintenant ŕ La Ferté Alais!

Well, I've just finished updating the GAR Twitter and Facebook accounts with all the details of today's update - not the quickest job of all time when you've got six new features, two new team members and a 1st birthday to tell everyone about! We really wanted to do something special today however and I think in many ways the update reflects what we've been striving to achieve for the past twelve months in that there is something for everyone. No matter whether your particular interest is military aviation, airshows, classic aircraft or visiting aviation attractions - there's a piece there for you on GAR today and indeed plenty to look at in our searchable archive which now contains more than 150 pieces of work.

We wrapped it all up in a piece commemorating our 1st birthday and sometimes it's important to sit back and take a moment to reflect on what you've achieved and where you've come from. We are all very proud of what GAR has done and extremely grateful to those people who kindly supplied birthday messages for that feature. It's great to hear it from those people whose world we inhabit but our intention is not to put our feet up and bask in the praise we've received, but to kick on and keep bringing you great content.

On which note, Karl and I depart for France in the early hours of tomorrow morning for a mini adventure which will hopefully see a number of firsts ticked off for both of us. With Drage junior for company we are heading for the Armee de l'Air bases at Cambrai and Reims-Champagne and then for our first ever visit to the highly acclaimed airshow at La Ferte Alais. A visit to Reims should offer a chance to photograph the wonderful Mirage F1, one squadron of which will be consigned to history, possibly as soon as next month, while Cambrai is home to one of my all time favourites, the stunning Mirage 2000. Let's hope we actually see some activity while we're there!

As many of you will know, La Ferte Alais comes highly recommended and seems to have something of the French Shuttleworth Collection about it - especially as the event centres around a grass strip in the middle of the countryside and hosts a display which will include everything from World War I aircraft right through to present day heavy metal.

This will be our first show of the season which specifically commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and, while it certainly won't be the last, we are particularly looking forward to seeing a whole flock of representative aircraft including Spitfire Mk Vb, Hurricane MkI, Hurricane Mk XIIa, Messerschmitt Bf-109 Buchon, Junkers Ju-52/3M and Focke Wulf Fw-190.

The show also marks the centenary of naval aviation in France and that means appearances from a host aircraft ranging from the venerable Nord 1100 and TBM Avenger through to Super Etendard, E-2 Hawkeye and Rafale. The show concludes each day with the Armee de l'Air solo Rafale display and, after the weather disappointments I endured at Yeovilton and on the Sunday at RIAT last year, I'm really hoping we might get to see it in the sunshine - fingers crossed!

Having visited Peter Vacher at his Oxfordshire home a few weeks ago it will be a real treat to see him and also of course his stunning Hurricane MkI at La Ferte, and I am sure there will be many Brits making the journey to what has become something of an iconic event in the airshow calendar so maybe we'll see some of you there?

For more information on the show, please see the website of Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis at www.ajbs.fr

In other news, last week's visit to the Classic Flight at Coventry Airport was an excellent one. It was great to work with Geoff for the first time in a while and the organisation of the media was brilliantly handled, with a properly arranged press conference and then live-side access for the Nimrod's arrival. A couple of days later I was back at the Cotswold Airport for a couple of meetings and a chance encounter with airshow organiser Glen Moreman. With just five weeks to the main event, and with Cosford before that, excitement is growing ahead of what promises to be an excellent airshow season - ash cloud allowing! Before that I'm even managing to squeeze in a break back down in South Wales - not literally this time I hope! An aviation free week is just what I need before the airshow season onslaught, although if any Hawks or Harriers fancy passing by at low-level on their way to Pembrey they would naturally be more than welcome.

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