2009 Articles

DEC 03 2009
RAF Northolt Nightshoot V

Looking out of the office window in rural Northamptonshire the rain hadn't stopped falling all day, and, with the cancellation of The Red Arrows' Hawk's planned attendance, I had actually told event organiser Phil Dawe not to expect to see me

Sitting here though, as the clock ticked round to 1430, there was something nagging away at me. I'd got nothing else planned, the 32(TR) Sqn BAe146 was a 'cert' - the first time that either of the Squadron's two examples have been available for any of the Northolt Photocalls - and, serviceability allowing, there was the potential to shoot one of the seldom seen 84 Sqn Griffin HAR.2s that are normally found plying their trade on Search and Rescue duties at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. What's more, we'd be photographing them in the dark.

Unable to resist the urge any longer I rang Phil to tell him about my change of heart. "Not a problem", I was assured - a response typical of the man. He even went on to tell me that he was stood looking out over the most beautiful sunset and that conditions overhead were largely clear; a far cry from what I was currently seeing! If any doubts about my own attendance had lingered they'd been firmly put to bed by the end of the phone call

It did take a while but on the drive south the rain eventually stopped and the clouds started to part a little, a welcome sign and consistent with what Phil had reported earlier.

On arrival at RAF Northolt's White House Gate I joined the queue of fellow late-comers, was signed in, issued with my pass and given the latest update by volunteer, Lee Barton.

"The Griffin's in, the 146 is on the ramp, the Hawk suffered hot brakes on landing and is currently sitting on the taxiway waiting for them to cool off and the King Air's still due at 1830. Oh and there are a few 'civvy' bits and bobs that we're hoping to get clearance for you to shoot."

Excellent. Everything I'd hoped for upon leaving the house was still 'on', and it sounded like we might get a few bonus items too.

Wandering down the line of photographers it was noticeable just how many 'regulars' were present; even those not familiar by name were almost all recognisable by face. As evidenced earlier by my own u-turn, there's something about these events that keeps drawing you back; despite the late withdrawals that have blighted some of Phil's plans this year.

Indeed, 'Nightshoot V' suffered its own disappointments beyond the Reds' cancellation. The powers that be at USAFE scuppered the plans to involve the A-10s of the 81st FS, 52nd FW from Spangdahlem, Germany, while the weather put paid to the appearance of a Securite Civile CL415 water bomber from its base at Marseille. The latter aircraft was booked in with Ops but its lack of de-icing equipment, combined with the weather forecast, understandably led them to abort. Phil's been assured, however, that they will try again later next year when icing shouldn't be such a concern.

Not only was the '146 present, a set of air-stairs had been made available to offer some slightly elevated views of it, and, in spite of the wind it still provided a steady enough platform upon which to place your tripod. During my stint at the top the aircraft's auxiliary power unit (APU) was fired in to life, with the ensuing interior and exterior lighting adding further interest to the shots.

The last scheduled participant arrived bang on time when the King Air - one of the two 'GT' models delivered to 45Sqn at RAF Cranwell - arrived and was marshalled to its parking spot, providing those present with the perfect opportunity to capture nicely lit 'full disc' props.

Earlier optimism concerning approval to shoot some of the other inhabitants of the ramp came to fruition too with the news that the recently arrived Falcon 900, the PH-registered Do328 and a VQ-registered Gulfstream V were all 'fair game'.

I'm really glad I made the effort to attend. Knowing what I know now I have no doubt that I'd have been kicking myself if I'd not have done so, and, let's not forget why this series of events is run. Aside from it providing us enthusiasts with great opportunities it also raises funds for the restoration of Building 27, the Battle of Britain Ops Room, with, in this instance, another 1500 being added to the coffers.

It's also worth noting that since Nightshoot IV, RAF Northolt has acquired a new Station Commander. The ever supportive Gp Cpt Guy van den Berg has left for pastures new, so it's hugely comforting to see the new incumbent, Gp Cpt Tom Barrett, giving these photocall events his full backing too.

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2009-12-17 - Gp Capt Barrett
I am always delighted to receive members of the aviation world at RAF
Northolt be they air crew, ground-crew or aviation enthusiasts. I see it
very much as part of my role to ensure that the Station is welcoming to the
wider community and thereby help people to develop an understanding of
Northolt and the broader RAF and Defence role.

One of my passions is to protect our aviation heritage and I am therefore
thrilled that the old Battle of Britain prototype Sector Operations Room has
been retained. We have renamed it the "Sir Keith Park Building" in honour of
his pioneering work developing British air defence strategy and your
donations from the night photo shoots are currently the main funding stream
to support the restoration project. When the work is complete this will be a
national treasure for the RAF (and broader), alongside the 11 Group Bunker
at Uxbridge.

I do hope that you will come back in March 2010 for the next event and while
you are enjoying photographing the aircraft you can be assured that your
donations are being put to good use.

Tom Barrett
Station Commander
RAF Northolt

2009-12-08 - Phil Dawe
Graham etc, I am really sorry that your did not hear about this last Night Photoshoot and earlier ones that we have run. We always advertise it on the UKAR website and I always ask Malcolm Lander to publicise them on his Northolt website.

Since the first Night Photoshoot in January 2009 we have built up a list of supporters who like these events and we add names to the list as we get them and as people contact us.

If anyone would be interested in being added to the list Karl's said that he's more than happy to forward any request on from the 'Contact Us' form at the top of this page.

2009-12-08 - Gary Lees
Yes,I totally agree Graham.....I have been at the last 3/4 summer one`s and exchanged quite a few emails with Phil who is a cracking guy but I knew nothing of this...shame
Gary Lees

2009-12-08 - Graham Tanner
Hmmm, publicity for this/these events is obviously not working too well. Here I am, sat about 2 miles from Northolt, would love to be able to attend ... and this is the first I've heard of it!

It would appear that these photo-shoots are only for those 'in the know'. I knew about the first two evening-shoots purely because somebody hapened to mention something, and I then did my own research. Since then, I have not heard about them until after the event.

Not happy ... 8-(

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