Gareth Stringer's 2012 blogGAR Entries

JUL 18 2012
blogGAR: Six airshows and four jet flights in five weeks!

I’m writing this on Sunday 15th July, my first full weekend at home since the weekend of 2nd and 3rd June, for reasons which are entirely airshow related! June is normally a busy month anyway, but with the Olympic Games due to kick off at the end of next week, the first portion of the UK airshow season seemed even more compressed than usual this time round, and it certainly kept me busy.

One reason for that compression was the Dawlish Air Show moving to Jubilee week and taking place on 7th and 8th June, a change from the event’s usual August slot in the calendar. As some of you may know, I am Press Officer for the event and, apart from the fact that leaves me with very little time to take any photographs, it was manic, both at the show, and in the weeks leading up to it. As Shaun’s review said, we pretty much got away with it weather-wise, and, once we’ve had a close look at the 2013 airshow calendar, as it takes shape, will be announcing the date for next year’s show.

Next stop, the following weekend, was RAF Cosford, by way of Throckmorton, and the realisation of a boyhood dream. This particular weekend saw me take my first flights in a single-engine jet, the Jet Provost T.3A, with Neil McCarthy. The full story of that one will be related soon, but suffice to say, it was superb fun and everyone should try it!

Throckmorton was wet – there’s no two ways about it. Hideously wet, actually! It did clear, a bit, eventually, and I’m really pleased to see that organiser Angus Nairn has decided to bite the bullet and put the show on again next year. The following day’s show at RAF Cosford was positively balmy by comparison, other than one very heavy shower, and was most enjoyable, with a varied line-up of military and civilian displays.

All these events provide a great opportunity to harvest content for GAR, and our monthly digital publication, Global Aviation Magazine, so this wasn’t an event where I took reams of images either. Good job I can leave it to my far more skilled colleagues really! I spent some of the day with the AAC's Attack Helicopter Display Team, WO2 Clive Richardson, Captain Lillie Mead and Captain Stewart Pearce, talking Apache for a GAM feature, but did manage a few happy snaps, as I call them, when I journeyed out to the flight line with them for their display slot.

The following Saturday saw RNAS Yeovilton’s annual Air Day, although I went down to Somerset on the Friday afternoon, once again in the Jet Provost, as an opportunity had arisen to join Neil for the short hop from The Cotswold Airport, where he had pre-positioned.

That flight will also be part of the aforementioned feature, and arriving mid-afternoon, with nothing else on my agenda, did at least allow me to get the camera out for a bit! I did on Saturday too, especially when I was in the right place at the right time for an Apache arrival. Not sure I’ve ever shot one in better light, to be honest!

I arrived home on Saturday night, by road, and just a few days later, Thursday morning to be precise, was back at The Cotswold Airport. Neil was stepping things up a notch and taking me to RAF Waddington – in Hawker Hunter G-FFOX. This one happened entirely thanks to owner Colin Boyd and Neil, and, it’s getting boring now, I know, will be discussed in depth, in THAT article. If you want to know how it went, assuming you are one of the few people I haven’t told – it was bloody amazing!

Four days at Waddington then, and what a show it was. A great line-up, even a bit of sun, and loads of friends and colleagues; nothing could be better, in my mind. I was inside on Friday, as Neil went off to Newcastle to fetch the JP3, as you do, and while I didn’t take heaps of pictures, did catch the German F-4F Phantom, which I was delighted about!

Saturday was more productive, as I joined Flt Lt Jon Bond airside as he prepared for, and then flew, his display in the Tucano. I was over there for a couple of hours or so, all told, and it's a viewpoint that always provides an interesting perspective, though not always the easiest for photography.

Among others, I caught the GR4 Role Demo (More of which later in this blog - but VERY noisy from right underneath), Swiss Super Puma and Dutch F-16, as well as grabbing some imagery of Bondy as he got himself ready to fly.

Best of all though, was being there for the Red Arrows……..

My location really did make for some excellent angles, ably assisted by the some lovely light, with dark clouds as a backdrop in places, and a number of the more fluffy variety that drifted in to view from time to time.

The weather wasn’t anywhere near as kind on the Sunday, although it did, rather predictably, clear up beautifully almost as soon as the flying display concluded! It was great to catch up with Karl though, and to see Skippy, who was over from the USA, for the first time in ages, and we did venture airside, once again. None of the blue sky and big clouds this time, unfortunately, it was overcast and a tad drizzly throughout, but we were over there for a number of displays, including the quite brilliant Black Eagles, Team Orlik and also the AAC Lynx, which will feature alongside the Apache in the next issue of GAM. (online this Friday - 20th July)

In the afternoon I interviewed Capt Ralph ‘Deasy’ Knittel, the Swiss Hornet display pilot, for a forthcoming issue of GAM, and also managed to catch a good chunk of the flying display. Eventually, thanks to GAR’s Kev Wills, at Waddington with his Dawlish Air Show colleague, Jenny Connor, I collected my car from The Cotswold Airport and arrived back in Birmingham – thoroughly knackered, despite sleeping most of the way home!

Then came RIAT of course, and this again was a four-dayer for me. Plenty of work though, as it was my first year as a volunteer, on the Media Liaison Group, and working in the airshow press office. Our job, I was with Tony Osborne and Jane Leigh, was to generate content for the RIAT website and broader media, and we did plenty of it. Fortunately, with a team of three, we were able to schedule a few breaks, and I did grab some pictures and also the final interview I needed for the AAC feature, that with Capt Phil Goodier, Lynx display pilot. Luckily for us, Phil had brought the static AH.7 in for the weekend.

With our in-depth photo-review of RIAT 2012 included in this week's new issue of GAM, I've decided to include a small selection of shots below, all of which were grabbed on my mobile phone! The MLG was a super team to work on and there were many laughs along the way. Check the captions for more details!

Finally, a word on XV(R) Squadron, following the tragic accident a couple of weeks ago which claimed the lives of Squadron Leader Samuel Bailey, Flight Lieutenant Hywel Poole and Flight Lieutenant Adam Sanders. Both Adam and 'H' were guys I had met on visits to RAF Valley over the past couple of years, and many friends from the RAF knew them extremely well, having been through flying training with them. The loss of three such fine guys was a huge shock, and it goes without saying that my condolences go out to their families, colleagues and friends, as indeed do best wishes for Tony de Bruyn and everyone involved with the Bronco Demo Team, following Tony's accident last week. What with Trevor Roche's awful accident at Old Warden, it's been a dark few weeks.

As a member of the XV Squadron Association, by virtue of the fact that my father served on the squadron, I know very well what a proud and close-knit unit it is. The Tornado GR4 Role Demo has been one of the season's highlights to date, and that the team should have attended RIAT, so soon after the accident, speaks volumes about the class of those involved, and indeed everyone at RAF Lossiemouth. Sunday's missing man climax to the show was totally appropriate and beautifully executed. Gentlemen - I salute you. Aim Sure. If you weren't there, it's well worth a watch on this link.

Airshow-wise, it's been a great start to the 'summer' season, - and I've enjoyed almost every minute, despite the iffy weather. Some brilliant displays, excellent interviews, nice photo opportunities and, as ever, all with great friends and colleagues. It really is a lot of fun to go to almost any show these days and catch up with the same friendly faces - a real travelling circus! Seriously though, it's a great community of organisers, paticipants, media and enthusiasts, and wonderful to be part of.

I'm already looking ahead to the next part of the season, though I take a break from shows for a few weeks now. I'm commentating at the Cotswold Airport in August and, as ever, it's an honour to have been asked to do so once again at RAF Benson's Families' Day. Southport is also on the work-agenda, I'd love to do RAF Leuchars for the first, and possibly last, time, and if I can squeeze in a trip farther afield as well, that would be perfect. We'll see....

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