2012 Articles

SEP 05 2012
Airshows >> UK: Cold War Jets Open Day 2012 - Review

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Bruntingthorpe has become one of my favourite venues on the airshow calendar. Nowhere else can you see living, breathing examples of Lightnings, Buccaneers, Victor or Nimrod, to name but a few, in the same place. When coupled with unparalleled proximity to these classic aircraft, the ingredients are all there for a superb (not to mention noisy!) afternoon of action.

The collection of aircraft has grown considerably over the years, and this was evident in the additional aircraft parked in the static area since my last visit, most notably a Sea Harrier and Jaguar. The dedicated team of volunteers work tirelessly to return as many of the aircraft as is feasible to taxying condition, which is certainly the intention of the latter, along with the pair of Hunters and Gnat that are gradually being worked on.

One jet that has recently been restored to such a condition is the L-29 Delfin. Resplendent in its immaculate new colour scheme depicting its former life in the Romanian Air Force, the jet made its public dťbut, performing the traditional figure of eights ahead of a fast run. Accompanying the collection's Iskra, itself performing two fast runs, early Eastern Bloc trainers are well and truly covered.

In a similar vein, and kicking off proceedings, was a trio of Jet Provosts. Two examples of the T.3 were complemented by the more powerful T.4, in a very smart air defence colour scheme representing the type's use by the 1 TWI (Tactical Weapons Unit). A fairly gentle start to the show, then, but the noise levels soon went up a notch as the Canberra was started up. As ever this was a fairly dramatic affair, with the method of cartridge starting creating plenty of smoke and noise, which always provides a great photo opportunity.

After the Canberra had launched itself down the runway, a quiet lunch break ensued, which included a cavalcade of Honda Goldwing motorcycles that were gathered at the airfield. Normal service soon resumed however, and in some style as the Victor approached the threshold from the far end of the airfield before turning round, winding the engines up (bending the trees in the process!) and thundering down the runway. Itís always hugely impressive seeing such a large and noisy aircraft at close proximity, so to see two more running later in the day, as we did, only added to the wonder of Brunty.

Both the Nimrod and its predecessor, the Comet, performed their own fast taxy runs. Like the Victor, the Nimrod approached from the far end ahead of its run, giving a new angle, for me at least, to photograph the jet from. Running late in the day, the Comet took a little effort to get started due to a troublesome electrical generator, but perseverance paid off, and she was able to launch down the runway, much to the delight of the cadets on board, Iím sure.

For many, the star of the show is the Lightning. The interest in the aircraft is obvious, with crowds swarming all over the two examples parked in their superbly restored Q shed, either to get a close look or take the opportunity to sit in the cockpit. Itís worth noting how accommodating the members of the Lightning Preservation Group are for the public, only too happy to talk with and answer questions about all things Lightning.

With XR728 still suffering engine troubles, XS904 once again took the honours for the run. The anticipation ahead of the run was tangible as the aircraft was towed onto the flightline. This further increased as the engine was started and the aircraft began its figure of eight taxi, before being put back on the chocks for a test of the afterburners. The sheer power of the jet was clear to see, as the nose was forced down by the thrust. All that remained was to release the chocks and allow the jet to thunder down the runway, in full reheat; an experience that rattled the rib cage and split the ear drums! Simply immense.

Perhaps the most classic of British jets is the Hunter, with no open day complete without one. With the former Swiss F.58 having left Bruntingthorpe for pastures new, T.7 XL565 is the sole running example in the collection. Even with various panels in yellow primer (of which the commentator, and owner of the jet, was only too apologetic!) the jet looked absolutely stunning in the late afternoon sunshine.

In all, there are four Buccaneers in the collection, the most recent addition of which is XX889, a Gulf War veteran, which formerly resided at Kemble. It is intended to return the jet to taxying condition, but for now, she takes pride of place in the static collection. It was hoped the three other Buccs would perform their run as a trio, but unfortunately XX900 had some technical gremlins, so the honours were left to XX894 and XW544, the latter looking stunning in her relatively new 16 squadron colours. Ď894 was also suffering a little with engine issues that prevented her from performing a full fast taxi, but these were resolved and the pair returned to perform a second run as a surprise finale to the show. The show certainly ended with a bang, as Ď894ís bad luck continued, suffering a tyre blow out. The jet safely came to a stop, and hopefully the ensuing damage isnít too severe.

Those of us who hung around after the show to take advantage of the beautiful early evening sunshine for those final photographs were treated to one more surprise. A long term resident of the collection, the Sea Vixen was towed out to the flightline where it performed an engine run. Hopefully this is a sign that the jet will join the fleet of runners sooner rather than later. It is a shining example of the tireless work performed by the army of volunteers, for no financial gain, to not only maintain these aircraft but return ever more to running condition for our enjoyment.

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