Karl Drage's 2011 blogGAR Entries

NOV 16 2011
blogGAR: Cotswold Airport Battle of Britain Airshow & RAF Northolt SAR Symposium Catch-up

Now that Issue 2 of Global Aviation Magazine has been online for a couple of weeks, it seems appropriate to put together a blogGAR covering the story of the two days that provided the foundations for my contributions within: RAF Northolt's SAR Symposium and Lancaster From the Cockpit.

The interview with Flt Lt Roger Nichols for Lancaster happened what seems like an eternity ago now at Kemble's Battle of Britain Airshow, and I must admit, being granted the opportunity to go inside the aircraft probably excited me more than it should have done!

It was a funny day, all told. Unlike the traditional 'main' show at Kemble, the BoB one takes place on the northside of the airfield, making it an altogether more intimate affair.

After meeting Roger at the Pilots' Briefing I wandered with him and his RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight colleagues down to the Dakota that's being prepared at Kemble for the Indian Air Force Historic Flight. I think it would be fair to say that, at least back then, there was still a lot of work to be done before any kind of ferry flight (or more correctly, series of ferry flights!) could be considered.

Roger then took Gareth, Sammy and I down to the Lancaster to conduct the interview, which was absolutely brilliant. As I said in the article, being in and around PA474 conjured up so many conflicting emotions; it was all too easy to become detached from what it actually must have been like for those heroes heading off to war…. Hugely evocative.

With the aircraft needing to be prepped and the flying display about to start, we headed back to the commentary box briefly before taking a walk with Colin Boyd and Neil McCarthy over to Hawker Hunter WV318, which Colin has bought. As you may have read in Issue 1, Colin plans to give you the chance to fly this aircraft through the newly created 'Hunter Flight Academy'.

The plan had been to capture some 'promo' shots of both men with the aircraft, but Mother Nature had other ideas, and it absolutely tipped down and for quite a while too, forcing us to take cover under the jet. The Hunter makes a pretty good - albeit rather expensive - umbrella, it has to be said!

Incredibly, the Tiger Moth Diamond Nine Team braved conditions, and I for one was glad they did. The billowing clouds off to the south west provided a quite stunning backdrop to their streamed departure.

The An-2 Club's Colt and Neil McCarthy in the Newcastle Jet Provost Group's JP T.3 both benefited from some sunshine to go along with the cloudscapes, and, despite the fact the display line was south facing, there were some very nice photographic opportunities to be had during the afternoon.

All told it was another very pleasant day spent in the Cotswolds.

Two and a half weeks later and I found myself getting rather excited again, this time at RAF Northolt where Lee Barton and I waited out on the airfield for the arrival of the Securite Civile Tracker - the first time I would have seen an example of the type in the air! We'd probably been there less than ten minutes when Air Traffic gave Lee a call to advise that it was eight miles out, but in that time I reckon the wind must have picked up by a good ten knots; the windsock was horizontal by the time they crossed the threshold! All was well though and Phil Dawe had finally realised a long held ambition to bring the type to one of his events. Well done that man!!

Over on the ramp, I managed to blag my way inside the aircraft. Entry and exit is via the hatch in the top of the fuselage and space is pretty restricted.

As we waited for further arrivals (plus the bonus of the IAC EC135 repositioning on the ramp) conditions just got better and better - way better than forecast - and I found myself going back to the Tracker over and over again as more cloud dispersed. It would have been rude not to!

The arrival of the Sea King from RAF Valley signalled a close to movements for a while, and after lunch a very interesting SAR Symposium took place.

Of course, from Phil's perspective, this was only the start. Naturally, the day would close with one of his trademark 'night shoots', this time with almost 170 people in attendance and money raised going towards the restoration of Building 27, The Battle of Britain Sector Z Ops Room. With everything bar the Alphajet running, it's hard to recall a better one!

Issue 3 is well underway and, as usual, that will go live on the first Wednesday of the month, which this time means December 7.

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