Glenn Beasley's 2012 blogGAR Entries

MAR 09 2012
blogGAR: Wales, Heathrow and RAF Marham – February Review

February was certainly an interesting month in terms of weather and two of my days out and about with the camera coincided with the coldest and warmest days of the year thus far. I don’t claim to be an expert on climate change but the extremes of -11°C at Heathrow and 16°C at RAF Marham in one month was quite unusual to say the least!

Although temperatures plummeted at Heathrow during the coldest night of the year, nowhere was colder than Low Fly Area 7 (LFA7) on the 8th February. With an outside temperature of -4°C when I arrived, I knew the breeze at the bottom of the hill would be much worse higher up. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

It was a day when no amount of layers was good enough, the wind was just too icy cold and unrelenting. There were reports of people’s sandwiches actually freezing solid, it was so cold! To stand these conditions for seven hours plus would certainly require some good low level traffic. Luckily enough for the brave souls on the hill, the traffic started early with a very rare appearance of a 6 Sqn Typhoon FGR.4. Typhoons in general have been pretty scarce for me low level thus far, so this was a really good start to the day.

There had been an early F-15E but he was too high for a landlocked shot. Thankfully the 48th Fighter Wing returned with one of its trademark passes. My run of Tornado GR.4s also continued with II(AC) Sqn paying us a visit in the lovely winter sunshine. It was just good to forget about the cold for a moment!

It was nice to get some Hawk T.2s as they head towards the commencement of the first pilot training course in April this year. On the flip side it’s time to start capturing those last few T.1s before their end, and it was good to see one still sporting the 19(R) Sqn marks. A 45(R) Sqn King Air also came through and there was plenty of other traffic that was close by including an MC-130 and a 617 Sqn Tornado GR.4, which would have been really good to see.

The following weekend I went down to Heathrow on the Saturday and with easterly winds still in charge, I went down to the 09L approach first for some landing shots, hoping for a little bit of vapour on the heavies. This didn’t come to fruition, maybe it was just too cold! Highlights of the morning were the Air New Zealand All Blacks 777-300 and Airbus' own A380 F-WWDD from Toulouse, apparently in town for some evaluation work with future customer British Airways.

At around lunchtime I headed for Feltham Park for the departures. It was quite a hazy kind of day and that did have an impact on the images on offer. I was able to catch the United 747 before it is replaced on the route by the 777 but I didn’t find the afternoon as enjoyable as the morning, I’d definitely got better images from there in the past. A runway switch at around 3:30pm meant I headed back to the Esso garage and got there just in time for the All Blacks 777 departing and that was that.

I’d only visited RAF Marham once and not done any photography there so I headed into Norfolk on the 23rd February. The weather forecasts were all over the place depending where you looked, but I took the gamble and arrived at just before 09:00. Three GR.4s went out and the cloud rolled in, as did Karl to join me. The three returned and the cloud began to break and after that it really did develop into a rather pleasant day.

Activity levels were steady, if not really busy and we shot seven different GR.4s during the day most of which flew a couple of times. The circuit was kept busy by a Cobham King Air which I’d not seen before and the challenge was on between Karl and I to get a full ‘disc’ of prop blur with varying amounts of success!

One of our main aims had been to catch the Tornados with their ‘Operation Ellamy’ marks and we were told by one of the locals, that the ‘daddy’ of these was Tornado GR.4 ZD715, which carries the marks of 617 Sqn on the front and 12 Sqn on the tail. So we were delighted to see this particular jet taxi, though he stayed out longer than the others and didn’t recover until the light was less favourable. The jet carries an impressive tally of markings representing weaponry delivered including 63 Paveway IVs, five Brimstones and two Storm Shadow weapons. Obviously a very serviceable and busy jet during the Ellamy campaign!

An RAF King Air and an Apache visited and there were numerous F-15s heading in and out of RAF Lakenheath above. Our hopes were pinned on a decent sunset, but with no jets launching after around 2:30pm, it didn’t look like it was going to happen. Marham 17 did his best with a number of approaches and then Tarnish 20 called for start from the BAE Systems side of the airfield.

This particular GR.4 was probably on an air test and wasn’t airborne for much more than 15 minutes when it called for recovery. Not the best sunset I’ve ever seen but at least we got something. Typically driving away half an hour later, the sky had turned an amazing pink/purple colour which might have been interesting to say the least had there still been jets in the circuit.

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