Karl Drage's 2012 blogGAR Entries

FEB 13 2012
blogGAR: Runway 08 Ops at RAF Brize Norton

I'd not spent a day outside the wire at a military establishment since April of last year, the day before Gareth and I were due to pay Flt Lt Jules Thurston a visit at RAF Valley ahead of her season as the RAF's Hawk display pilot. I'd not even photographed a single military aircraft for almost three months! It was time to put that right.

As I'm sure most of you will know, RAF Brize Norton is now the home of the Hercules, following the closure of RAF Lyneham last year, so, despite ever-dwindling numbers of VC10s, you can pretty much bank on seeing a reasonable amount of activity whenever you visit.

Brize was somewhere I'd not been to since May 2009 and the plan for the day would see John (El Ferrito) and myself use a location I'd never been to before - the loop towards the Runway 08 (active) end of the airfield, so whatever we got would provide me with some new angles for the collection.

It was rather hazy when I joined EF around 0930 and we were far from being alone. A VC10 had already departed but we didn't have long to wait for our first action, with first a couple of Hercs arriving and then another one taxying out. My 'two-step' steps weren't quite big enough for head-on taxi shots looking right down the line, so I decided to make do with what was on offer from immediately opposite the Bravo intersection.

The Herc activity was followed soon after by a 216 Sqn TriStar that, sadly, backtracked down the runway rather than coming down the taxiway for us. The plan had been for the aircraft to stay in the circuit for three hours but it took a bird strike on only its first approach and landed after going to the hold to check systems. The crew had indicated a desire to get airborne again ASAP after landing to take advantage of the conditions but it never happened.

99 Sqn C-17 action came next with Ascot 6600 backtracking down the main to Bravo before 'doing the loop', which meant it exited right in front of us, offering some very nice photographic opportunities.

Tartan 31, the VC10 that had departed before we arrived, appeared back in the circuit and, after shooting it performing its first 'roller', I took a wander so that I was out on the approach to get some different angles. These lovely old girls don't have an awful lot of time left, sadly....

With Monarch operating a number of charters on behalf of the MoD these days, I did wonder whether we might get to see anything belonging to that airline during the course of the day, and sure enough we did, with two different aircraft types. The first, an A330 - one of only two on Monarch's books - was the first example I'd seen in the operator's lovely white, dark blue and yellow colours. I think they look great on most aircraft but they seem particularly well suited to the A330's lines.

A small flurry of early afternoon activity was once again started by a couple of J-model Hercules departures, one grey and one in the green scheme.

Unlike the morning TriStar, the example from the second half of the day did indeed use the taxiway rather than the runway when preparing to depart. Brize aside you tend not to see the type out and about too much, and with airworthiness directives slowly mounting up, you have to wonder how much time the RAF's three holers have got left.

Aside from the circuit-bashing Hercs, the rest of the afternoon was quite quiet until the second Monarch movement of the day. This time it was a 757, an airline/type combination which I have experience of, having flown Monarch to Orlando in 1991 as an 11-year old with my parents; my first ever flight in an aircraft! Not that the experience was an overly pleasant one. Orlando's a long way in a 757, and back then the in-flight entertainment wasn't up to much!!

Monarch also provided the final movement of daylight hours when the A330 took off empty, presumably for the short repositioning hop to Gatwick or similar.

Despite a rather lovely sunset, disappointingly there was not one single aircraft to be found in the circuit to coincide with it. Such a waste!

It had been a decent day. I couldn't help but wonder whether our spot would have been better had the action been taking place on Runway 26 rather than 08 - the light would have certainly been more favourable for the afternoon runway action - but at least now I have an excuse to go back and find out!

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