2009 Articles

DEC 13 2009
Air Atlantique Classic Flight Evening Photoshoot

Coventry Airport has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in the last couple of weeks, which has been of some concern for some of the companies and organisations based there. Although portrayed as a fairly quiet airport, there are in fact a considerable number of businesses with premises there, so the news that the airport was to close due to the financial state of the operating company was greeted with some dismay in the area.

One of the well known organisations which has long called Coventry home is the Air Atlantique Classic Flight and their collection of historic aircraft. The Classic Flight collection has grown to include a variety of classic propliners and also some vintage military jets, and examples of both these groups of aircraft were available for photographers at the night photoshoot. The concept is that aircraft from the collection are powered up under the lights to allow photographers to produce some unique images.

Doors opened for the event at around 1430, well before the sun went down, and hangar tours were offered. This gave a great opportunity to see some of the aircraft currently undergoing engineering work and also meant that photographers could make the most of the last rays of winter sunshine outside. With the weather alternating between sunshine and showers throughout the day, the final hour of daylight was fortunately rain free and produced a spectacular sunset. Once the sun had gone down the serious business of the night shoot began in earnest.

On the way into the event we were given a planned schedule for the evening. Having attended the previous year’s night shoot, I was pleased to see that this year we could expect some different aircraft; however the most notable absence from this year’s event was the mighty Douglas DC-6. The DC-6 has been grounded all summer due to engine problems, so it was not possible for the aircraft to take part with engines running. Despite this, there was a good variety of types on display, and the event ran very smoothly and close to the original schedule.

The first item to be displayed was not in fact an aircraft, but an aero engine mounted on a trailer! The Alvis Leonides radial engine was fitted to a large number of types in the 1950s, including the Percival Provost and Pembroke. The engine was enthusiastically displayed, producing plenty of noise and flames from the exhaust and was a pleasant start to the event.

Next up was the first classic jet to be displayed, the de Havilland Venom. This early jet fighter was fitted with a de Havilland Ghost centrifugal flow jet engine, requiring a cartridge start. The start up sequence of the Ghost engine is impressive by both day and night, with the starter cartridge initially producing a loud bang and plume of smoke. As the engine begins to turn and fuel is introduced, ignition produces a jet of flame from the tail pipe which persists for some time, until the engine reaches a stabilised state – a particularly impressive sight at night.

The first classic propliner of the evening was the Douglas DC-3, in this case G-ANAF, fitted with a unique radome under the forward fuselage. This radome has housed test equipment for radar trials with RACAL, amongst other companies, before joining the Classic Flight. After the engines had been started, the DC-3 was taxied around the apron, allowing photography from some different angles. The addition of taxying to the ground runs was a new feature of the event this year and seemed to be well received, especially amongst those enthusiasts using video cameras.

One of the highlights of the evening for me was the Gloster Meteor NF.11. This airworthy jet is a popular performer on the airshow circuit and looked simply superb under the lights at Coventry. Once again, the aircraft was started up and taxied around the ramp, but the sight of the aircraft on the ramp was very evocative to me. There is a certain timeless feeling about seeing aircraft such as the Meteor at night – the darkness hides many of external distractions meaning that it is really quite easy to forget that the year is 2009, and it is easier to imagine how a squadron of such aircraft would have looked in their heyday.

After a change of pace with the Auster Autocrat, there was time for a welcome intermission. Welcome as the rain which had been falling off and on throughout the day became heavier and more persistent, meaning that most people sought the shelter of the hangar before venturing out again for the “second half”.

The next part of the event featured mostly classic propeller driven airliners, with the delightful de Havilland Heron being first up. The aircraft proved reluctant to start using the small “trolley accumulator” power supply initially supplied, but once a more powerful generator had been found, one by one the four engines burst into life. The Heron is a beautiful aircraft and one I hope to see in the air again soon.

Continuing the propeller theme, the next aircraft to be powered up were the Avro Anson and the de Havilland Dragon Rapide, both of which were welcome participants, in particular the Anson. The only minor criticism I would have was the use of the Anson’s landing light for much of the run up made it difficult to photograph from the front. Whilst I appreciate the pilots were offering photographers different lighting configurations to shoot, the prolonged use of the landing light did make life slightly tricky.

There followed a pair of contrasting former RAF trainers, the Jet Provost T.5 and the de Havilland Chipmunk, before the final act of the evening, a repeat of the Venom start-up – this time the flame from the jet pipe was rather short-lived, but the cartridge firing still made me jump!

As with last year, this was an event which I enjoyed very much. The mix of aircraft operated by the Classic Flight means that there is always plenty of variety at their events. It was somewhat disappointing to see that the numbers of visitors in attendance this year seemed slightly down on last year though. This may have been due in part to the uncertainty over the future of the airport, given the announcement of its immediate closure just a few days prior to the event.

Speaking to GAR earlier this week, Classic Flight's Commercial Manager, Steve Bridgewater, said, "Nothing has really changed at this end. The runway is now open, but unlicensed, so we can do check flights and currency flight (if we wanted to - but we have nothing planned). We're just waiting for somebody to take over the lease and the airport to re-open. In the meantime we're progressing our plans to turn Hangar 7 into our new Visitor Centre / working museum with a view to opening in April. So, as you can see, we have faith that the airport 'issues' are a mere blip and we hope things will return to normal in the new year."

Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in /var/sites/g/globalaviationresource.com/public_html/comments/displaycomments.php on line 8

2009-12-24 - Dave Harmsworth
Thanks for the great report. I will pass on your comments reference the Anson, but also I feel I should apologise for forgetting to remove the towbar from said aircraft before her run. I only noticed after the start up had begun as I was so busy moving everything else around etc. If you see anything that you would like removed/moved, changed please tell someone at the event and we are usually more than welcome to oblige.

Thanks again,


2009-12-22 - Tim Badham
An excellent article. It's pleasing to get such positive feedback - it makes the planning and effort worthwhile. The event involved many staff and volunteers and we were all keen to put on a good show. Having helped to choreograph the event from a photographers standpoint, it is heartening to know that you were pleased with the photo opportunities.
Tim Badham

2009-12-22 - Alan Longstaff
Thanks for coming along and supporting the event Paul. We were very lucky with the sunset - we couldn't have ordered better!

Glad you enjoyed yourself.

By the way the Alvis Leonides was originally fitted to a Bristol Sycamore helicopter. It is owned by one of our volunteers, John Hoole, and is available for hire at other events!

Global Aviation Resource's photographic and written work is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without express written permission.

If you would like to discuss using any of our imagery or feature content please contact us.