Geoff Hibbert's 2011 blogGAR Entries

APR 08 2011
Back on the road again 'in style'

Let’s just say that I don’t get out much these days. Three years ago, if you’d have said to me, “Let’s go to Mildenhall and stand outside,” I’d have told you where to get off! My, how times have changed. So, I’ve got a Friday off, the forecast is average (good enough for me, with my reputation) and there are a few interesting aircraft at RAF Mildenhall.

Not only that, my stubbly mate is at a loose end too. So, we dropped of Stubbly Junior at the local school and off we sped to Mildenhall. Well, I say “sped”, more a leisurely pace, given the price of fuel and the offensive vehicle I’m having to drive at the moment! Just for the record, it’s a Skoda(!!) Estate for Christ’s sake…..1.6! Oh yes, a real love machine I can tell you. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love cars and that I am shallow enough to care what I look like in said vehicle. I look like an idiot in it! I’m 43 not 73 and surely it’s only old people who go to the showroom and say, “I want that one”?

The only plus side of my love for some cars and loathing for others, is that my “mates” get to rip the “gypsy’s kiss” out of me! I’ve had some real monsters in recent years, some great cars too. The monsters have always been given to me as a “perk” of the job…yeah right. First there was the 05 burgundy Mondeo Estate (the mother of all foulness), followed by a lovely S-Line Audi A4 (christened a “Rover” by my mates which coincidentally, had RVR in the number plate!), then my 40+ mid-life-crisis-mobile, the VW Scirocco. Another job change loomed and, with the promise of another A4, I was chuffed. Whilst waiting for the new A4, I was given another A4. A 53 reg, christened by me as the “Grey Pig”. It arrived freshly “valeted”, and there’s me thinking Ray Charles was dead! In fact when I cleaned it, the water that came out of the seats was green!! It made me gag, twice. Welcome to your new job. My current position promises the luxury experience of a Vauxhall Insignia (shampoo and shower gel for one all over smell) but in the meantime I was given a hire car……The Love Machine. I knew it was a mistake breaking that mirror in 2007, only another three years to go!

Anyway, I digress! It’s been a long time since I went base lurking and on the way to Mildenhall we got a text from El Ferrito (John Higgins), saying that three F-15E Eagles from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base were inbound to RAF Lakenheath, en-route back to the States from Afghanistan. Terrific, I’m now letter spotting! You see to me, F-15Es from Seymour Johnson are just the same as F-15Es from Lakenheath, apart from the letters on the tail; do you see where I’m coming from? Despite my protestations, I still photographed them! Sad, but true. It’s a slippery slope and one I’ve been sliding down very, very slowly for the last six years!

So after that excitement and the arrival of a Mildenhall based MC-130H, we trotted off to Mildenhall, the long way of course (that’s what happens when I don’t use Sat Nav). We were hoping to see the recently arrived CV-22 Ospreys of the USAF. Okay we saw them, but they didn’t fly! It’s not quite the same really.

Never mind, there are two AC-130 Spectre gunships at Mildenhall too, so we’ll see them right? Er, no. They’re at Lakenheath! And I wondered why I haven’t done this for years? Actually, we did see them fly, about five miles away as they took off from Lakenheath on the start of their journey to NAS Sigonella! Again, it’s not quite the same! The base was fairly busy with lots of MC-130 departures, overshoots and a couple of nice movements in the form of a C-5 Galaxy and a Lynden Air Cargo L382 Hercules.

Despite the repeated disappointment with most aspects of this hobby, wrong place, wrong time being the main one, it’s not always just about seeing the planes. I bumped into three people I’d not seen for years: Dunk, Clemmo and Tricky Dicky. People change slowly to those around them but when you’ve not seen someone for years, the changes are quite noticeable. Dunk has become more and more of a spotter (I know you’ll like that bit Dunk), as Clemmo has shrunk in size (very much for the better Matt) his speech has doubled in speed and Tricky, well he looks like what Captain Birdseye would look like if hadn’t spent all that time at sea with a ship full of fish fingers.

It’s always nice to see these friends, despite the P takes. Banter is an integral part of the hobby - I mean what else are you supposed to do when there are no planes to shoot and you’re standing on a farmer’s trailer in the middle of a field of crops?

I have an uneasy love for this hobby. I love planes, I hate the detail. People know that. I get so much stick from proper spotters, accusing me of being a spotter. Telling me the numbers of the planes, asking me if I’ve “got” that one. They know it winds me up, that’s why they do it.

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2011-04-08 - Dunk
Thanks for the kind words, nice blog too Geoff. Look forward to the next installment with your new found interest in Planeplotter...

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