Glenn Beasley's 2012 blogGAR Entries

JAN 25 2012
blogGAR: Inspired by the past, facing the future

Well, it's 2012. Mad without doubt! This is my favourite time of year for being out and about shooting aircraft. The crisp, cold, clear days (when we get them!) offer wonderfully pure and clear air, free of the haze of the summertime months. Hopefully 2012 will be an enjoyable and productive year for all, without any of the sad incidents which marred the year just gone by.

2011 seemed to go by very quickly with the undoubted highlight for me being the opportunity to fly with the 351st Air Refuelling Squadron during operation Unified Protector. That report was just part of what I thought was a superb Issue 4 of Global Aviation Magazine, which really did have an excellent mix of features alongside some stunning photography.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the outlook is bleak for 2012 in terms of many different aspects of the aviation world we immerse ourselves in. Only on the radio the other morning, I heard there are to be further redundancies in our armed forces across all branches with the RAF losing 2,000 senior personnel and the Army facing a reduction in numbers from 100,000 down to 80,000.

There also remains much uncertainty in the airshow world too as the squeeze on air force budgets continues to bite. We might not like it as enthusiasts but it’s the way things are and, moreover, we need to support the existing shows as they are now. Otherwise there’s the very real possibility there will be nothing like the airshow calendar we know and love in ten years time. The sad loss of Team Viper from the airshow circuit is hopefully not the start of a trend in terms of classic jet and warbird scene.

Perhaps with the sense that the ‘good old days’ have been and gone, I’ve been doing a few new edits of some of my very first digital images from 2003. The combination of some of the excellent new software available today in terms of noise reduction and my own much improved editing techniques since back then has resulted in some of these old classics coming back to life.

It seems strange to call a Harrier, Jaguar or Tornado F.3 a classic, but that’s what it feels like now. I was really surprised to discover one or two things I didn’t know I had. I was delighted to come across several different squadrons of Tornado F.3s, including 11 Sqn and even a 5 Sqn marked example from one of my earliest ever visits to RAF Waddington. 54 Squadron Jags and a lovely camouflaged Canberra T.4 were also great to find.

Back to the present day and, with a really good forecast and an easterly wind, I wanted to head up to RAF Lakenheath and catch some topsides of the Eagles heading off from Runway 06. Fortunately a little bit of digging the day before saved me, as it was a US public holiday and they wouldn’t be flying! It was certainly a lucky escape and prompted the activation of Plan B and my first trip of the year to Low Fly Area 7 in the Welsh valleys.

I knew it was going to be cold, so I was well prepared with all I could muster to battle the elements. But what I didn’t legislate for was a biting cold wind that was blowing through the valley, and, despite all my efforts, it was still so cold that the following day my face ached from the constant battering the wind had given it! To say the climb up was ‘icy’ was also an understatement!

The RAF Marham GR.4s have been quite active so far this year so I was hoping for an appearance or two from them. It looked like ‘one of those days’ when a Typhoon dropped into the valleys, only to pull out due to some early morning low cloud. It got worse when ‘Fang’, a flight of three GR.4s were seen chasing each other over Snowdonia but didn’t drop in to see us.

Fortunately there was another GR.4 heading low level and shortly after a II (AC) Squadron jet came through in stunning conditions. It was good to see a IV(AC) Squadron Hawk fully marked coming through the valley too. A period of quiet ensued before a mad 20 minutes that saw the pass of the day from a further Marham GR.4. There were also shows by further RAF Valley Hawks and a King Air from RAF Cranwell. 17(R) Squadron Typhoons were also at play high above us, their trails clearly visible.

All in all it's been a good start to the year in some great weather. Whilst we might not be able to call upon the numbers and types of aircraft we might have had in 2003, there’s still plenty out there if you’re willing to go after it. The difficult bit is having the patience with our ever changeable weather! Let’s hope for plenty of blue sky in 2012!

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