2010 Articles

AUG 29 2010
Cold War Jets Open Day

Having not been to Bruntingthorpe since a certain Delta Lady took the skies again back in 2007 and not having attended a Cold War jets open day since way back in August 2006, I thought it was high time that situation changed. After a check on the weather first thing in the morning, I decided that we would give it a go. Travelling down from Manchester, in the morning through the driving rain, I did wonder if that was the right decision, but for once, the Met Office was fairly accurate.

The Cold War jets open days at Bruntingthorpe are all about nostalgia. Classic British aircraft from a bygone era, strutting their stuff in close proximity to the crowdline, much closer than most airshows, filling your nostrils with the wonderful warm smell of spent kerosene. Your eardrums ring to some of the finest tunes the Rolls Royce engine shops ever manufactured, that of Conways, Avons and Speys. However, ear defenders are a must.

The usual format with the open days is that the runners are parked out on the crowdline and, with the bigger jets out on the opposite side of the runway, the smaller jets perform a figure of eight pattern in front of the crowdline before carrying out a fast taxi run for the appreciative crowds. You get closer to the action at Brunty than you do at most other venues in the UK, so much so that you can almost taste the history. It’s one of only two places in the country where you can see the legend that is the English Electric Lightning carry out full power fast taxi runs that shake every bone in your body as they thunder down Bruntingthorpe’s huge ten thousand feet strip of asphalt. But more of that later.

The last minute decision to attend and the driving rain en route meant we didn’t actually arrive at Bruntingthorpe until around 11:30, only to be greeted by the sound of a pair of Rolls Royce Speys spooling up as the Royal Navy Buccaneer S.2B was already on the runway. Not a great start as this was one of my main reasons for attending, as I had not seen either of the Buccaneer runners actually taxiing here before. So I grabbed a camera and headed over to the crowd line. Having already missed this immaculate old girl taxiing around, folding and unfolding her wings in the sunshine, I was then treated to the sight of the crew jumping out, smoke coming out of one of the engines and the fire engine rushing over. This coupled with the fact I had already missed the first item of the day, the Comet 4C doing its fast taxi run, meant my morning wasn’t going well so far. Thankfully, after a quick check over, the Buccaneer would be back in action a little later in the day.

Whilst the Bucc was being looked at, the next runner of the day was brought forward to fill the gap. WT333 “Treble Three”, the unique Canberra B(I)8/B.6 Mod that never actually served with the Royal Air Force, spending her whole career as a trials fleet aircraft. This wonderful aircraft has been overhauled, complete with new engines, and now regularly carries out fast taxi runs at Bruntinthorpe's open days throughout the year. Treble Three is a real favourite with the crowd as her Avon 109s require a triple cartridge start that not only creates three plumes of smoke for each engine start, but the noise is rather loud. No matter how many times I stand with the camera pressed to my face, waiting for the cartridges to fire, it still makes me jump.

Once Treble Three had done her thing, the Royal Navy marked Buccaneer S.2B tried again. This jet really does look the business in her 809 NAS markings that would have adorned Bucc’s embarked onboard HMS Ark Royal in the 70s. She seems a lot shinier than the last time I saw her. Sadly during her second amble in front of the crowds the clouds had rolled in and the heavens opened, although that didn’t stop me using a fair few megabytes up on her as she folded and unfolded her wings. Disappointingly, no fast run was carried out, that said, it does give me an excuse to go back to get her in the sunshine.

The next item to taxi was the Hunter T.7, again, another aircraft that has been repainted since my last visit. Looking splendid in her new 208 Squadron markings, even more so, as the sun had come out, although, only the figure of eight was carried out, again, no fast run. The RAF marked Buccaneer S.2B, XX900 was next to taxi around. Sadly just like her Navy marked stable mate, we only got to see the wings being folded and unfolded. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than happy watching Buccaneers taxiing around, but hopefully next year will see these superb looking jets carrying out fast taxi runs down the vast expanse of asphalt once more.

After a spirited run complete with wheelie by the little TS-11 Iskra, yet again, wearing new clothes, it was time for the big guns to take the stage. Teasin’ Tina was brought out onto the runway in the glorious sunshine. Again, the Victor K.2 is another Bruntingthorpe resident that has visited the spray shop since I last saw her. Although this one is a little more controversial, as she is currently sporting a historically incorrect Desert Pink colour scheme, as opposed to the more traditional Hemp colour scheme that the Victor fleet actually wore during their time on Operation Granby. Anyway, it’s a minor point, she still looks superb and you could feel the anticipation growing amongst the crowd as her four Conways spooled up. I had actually forgotten just how loud and powerful a Victor at full power is. This point was perfectly illustrated by the lumps of asphalt being ripped up from Bruntingthorpe's ageing runway as she thundered by; cue another mouthful of spent aviation fuel, superb.

Then it was the turn of the star item at any Cold War jets day, XS904, one of the Lightning Preservation Group's Lightning F.6 jets, was pulled out onto the runway for her fast run. There are not many jets that command as much adoration as these jets can and indeed do. The Lightning runs here truly are an awesome experience due to the intimacy of the crowdline. After the Avpin has fired, the jet prowls around in front of the crowd almost asking the question, “Are you sure you are ready for this?”. She settles ready for her run, her engines are spooled up to full power. As the brakes release, the nose jumps up, and then the burner kicks in. As the jet gets level with you the sound of a pair of afterburning Avons hits you like a smack in the face. It’s almost painful, even through your ear defenders; awesome doesn’t really cover it if I am honest. If you have aviation in your blood and you have not experienced a lightning fast taxi run at Brunty, the question has to be, why?

Another regular feature of the Cold War open days, is the ex Swiss Air Force Hunter Mk.58 racing along the runway against a supercar of some description. This time around, the challenger was a rather lovely, brand new Mercedes SLS AMG, which many will recognise as the 2010 F1 safety car. Needless to say the car always pulls away to start with but the Hunter always claws it back around about the time where the pilot has to shut the power off to prevent the jet getting airborne. It certainly presents a fairly unique photo opportunity.

Another first for me here, is a run by a pair of Jet Provost T.3As, both in the old red and white training livery that I was so used to seeing back when I first started this hobby. I had seen a single T.3A run here before in the shape of XN584, but not the pair. A previous runner here was an all black T.4, XS217, that has since, sadly departed to a museum in Germany, so it was quite nice to see XN584 along with its new stable mate XN582. It certainly brought back a few memories of time spent on the fence at bases such as Linton-on-Ouse and Cranwell, many moons ago.

The final act of the day was the eagerly awaited debut run by Bruntingthorpe’s newest inmate, XV226, the 40th Anniversary marked Nimrod MR.2. Unfortunately she had only been delivered a couple of weeks prior to the Cold War open day in May and, due to paperwork and ownership issues, she was unable to carry out a fast taxi run. It was well worth the wait. The trademark trails of black smoke from her four Rolls Royce Spey engines signalled brakes off as this newly retired aircraft thundered down Bruntingthorpe’s vast expanse of asphalt for her first fast taxi run among a cloud of smoke and fumes. A superb way to end the day.

Bruntingthorpe is also home to several aircraft that do not carry out fast taxi runs, along with some that, hopefully, will also strut their stuff at future events. Such as the ex-German Air Force F-104G Starfighter; an ambitious project that has apparently hit funding issues recently. But hopefully, in the future, we will get to hear that trademark J-79 whine at these Cold War open days. Another jet that is in the process of being restored to fast taxi status is the Sea Vixen FAW.2, another that has also recently acquired a new finish, now looking immaculate in her 899 NAS markings. Hopefully it will not be too long before we see that fantastic aircraft thundering down the runway.

A handful of photographers including myself hung around at the end waiting for the approaching gaps of blue as both of the Lightning Preservation Group's jets were parked up outside the now finished Quick Reaction Alert sheds. These sheds, salvaged from RAF Wattisham, have been restored to their former glory with the help of a large fund raising effort. This means that the Lightnings now sit inside, sheltered from the elements that have battered them for years out on the airfield. Hopefully, this will protect the old girls and allow them many more years of entertaining the masses at the Cold War open days of the future.

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