Gareth Stringer's 2010 blogGAR Entries

OCT 27 2010
Looking back and looking forwards, but remaining largely stationary!

I woke up on Monday morning to crystal clear blue skies, a heavy frost and a good forecast for the day ahead, just the kind of weather where youíd love to get out and about with the camera in other words. No such luck! Itís been nearly seven weeks since I had my ankle operation and, despite being out of plaster, am still on strict orders to continue using my crutches and am not allowed to drive. Itís certainly a long haul but as the docs keep telling me it needs time to heal as that will ensure a more successful long term outcome so Iíd best do as Iím told.

One outcome of all that is that it has literally made me an armchair onlooker over the past few weeks which have included not just the final events of the 2010 UK airshow season but also the hugely significant Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) announcements.

This was something we covered on GAR last week with the assistance of Dr Peter Gray from the University of Birmingham and talking to Dr Gray gave me a whole new perspective on what would have been going on behind the scenes over the past few months. As a former fast jet navigator (Phantoms) and VC.10 pilot who then occupied some pretty lofty RAF and MoD positions in Whitehall, Peterís views were extremely informative and completely independent and I hope that they helped bring something a little different to the discussion, especially when speculation, both informed and ill-informed, was so rife in the run up to the announcement.

It was only during the weekend prior to PM David Cameronís speech that some of that speculation began to look a lot more like actual leaked information and the newspaper headlines announcing that we would be going ahead with the two aircraft carriers but disposing of the Harrier turned out to be quite true of course.

Regardless of the financial or strategic thinking behind the decision to end the Harrier's career it will be an extremely sad day for the world of aviation in the UK when its flying days come to an end. Please donít think for one moment that I am ignoring the plight of the many serving men and women who may find themselves facing redundancy, or indeed those communities who rely on bases which may face closure. These are the human impacts of the SDSR and should not be forgotten, but rest assured you will be hearing more about the Harrier in the next few months here on GAR and weíll be aiming to give the aircraft the send off it, and all those who have worked with it deserve.

One thing the past few weeks have clearly demonstrated is the incredibly broad range of views being put forward by enthusiasts from all walks of life. Some seem convinced that we are ripe for invasion, some that we are no longer ĎGreatí Britain and that the heart has been ripped out from our armed forces. Others are more pragmatic and I suppose the truth is in reality somewhere in the middle ground but itís been an interesting debate to follow although sometimes frustrating with myth and rumour seemingly becoming gospel and the human impacts I mentioned above all too often ignored. I for one couldn't really understand people complaining about their hobby being damaged when so many jobs were on the line but there you go.

As we now enter in to the winter months and await confirmation of how the remaining outstanding issues pan out I am immediately drawn to think back to this time last year and the way in which GAR delivered content without the reliance on our busy airshow calendar. Itís was our first winter of course and we genuinely didnít know how much weíd be able to do I recall, shorn of the opportunities to review events and use our attendance at so many shows to meet people, conduct interviews or plan features for the future.

But the GAR team has grown significantly since then however both in terms of quantity and quality and I for one am confident that we will continue delivering brand new updates every Tuesday as we have done each week since we launched. Itís a record of which we are understandably very proud.

Various team members are busy lining up numerous opportunities over the coming weeks and while Iím chomping at the bit to get out and about and follow up some leads myself itís great to see things moving along regardless with the newest additions to the team making a strong contribution - check out Paul Fiddian's Gannet piece for example. I might fall victim to cuts myself at this rate!

It's not been all daytime TV thought and one thing I have been able to do while laid up is take a look at some of my old photo collection. Whenever a popular aircraft is retired you can find yourself slipping into a period of reflection and it was that which prompted me to dig up (not literally!) my archive of images although I admit to being completely remiss when it comes to digitising my prints and my slides and a large portion of the latter have sadly gone missing somewhere along the way unfortunately.

So after a busy day or two with my scanner, which really needs replacing with something much better if I'm honest, I make no apologies for going all nostalgic on you and illustrating this blogGAR with a few images of types and events from days gone by.

I've never really been one to complain about the way in which the passage of time has impacted on the UK airshow or aviation scene - that's life and it's just the way it goes unfortunately and no amount of complaining is going to bring most of it back. I do however love to look back and think about what we used to enjoy back in the 'good old days' and that's what this set of images is all about really.

Some of the types are still with us of course, but many of them (and sadly some of the people) are gone and the same can be said of many of the events or bases they were photographed at or visited from. I canít pretend to recall every single location or exact date where each of these images was taken Ė so if they help to stir any of your own memories or you remember some of them yourself feel free to leave a comment. It might be fun to see if all the detail can be added in and I'll caption them all accordingly. Experience shows us that you normally like some nostalgia and thereís plenty here for starters!

They're not all the greatest quality, you don't need to me tell you that I'm sure, and my photographic ability in those days was in its infancy let's say! Some might suggest that nothing's changed but you know what they bring back some great memories and I'm pretty sure there will be a few of you looking at this and regretting what you missed out on, just as I am envious of the generation before me! It's an awful picture for example but look - a Jet Provost 9-ship at RAF Cranwell! The Tiger Cat, SR-71, UK based A-10s, USAFE F-4s, Sea Harriers and so on. Anyway, I hope you enjoy them and look forward to hearing your comments.

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