UK Aviation Event

MAR 29 2012
Aviation Events >> Buccaneer S.2B XW544 Rollout Event at Bruntingthorpe

A lone Blackburn Buccaneer S.2B appears out of the mist, taxying down the vast runway. Checks complete it rapidly accelerates, the pair of Rolls Royce Speys shattering the silence on a beautiful spring afternoon. Less than a quarter of the way into its take off roll, the air brake is deployed, bringing the aircraft famously known as the “Brick” to a gradual but steady stop.

No, I hadn’t invented a time machine and transported myself back to RAF Laarbruch at the height of the Cold War! This was the official public unveiling of a much loved warrior, wearing a brand new scheme having been lovingly restored by the Buccaneer Aviation Group (BAG) at Bruntingthorpe.

XW544 entered service with the Royal Air Force in June 1972, seeing service with both XV and 16 Squadrons. Grounded in 1983, the aeroplane eventually ended up in storage at RAF Shawbury two years later. Once the Buccaneers were retired from service in 1993, XW544 found its way to a nearby scrap yard. She was eventually transported to Bruntingthorpe in 2004 under the ownership of Robert Goldstone. Following some in depth TLC, the aircraft was returned to taxiable status, having first been ground run in 2008. Three years later she made her first public taxi at the Cold War Jets Open Day in May 2011.

The aircraft is now resplendent in her 16 Squadron colours. It’s fair to say she looks immaculate and is a real credit to the volunteers who have worked tirelessly to ensure she met this first public commitment in her new guise.

One can only imagine the emotion they felt when she appeared from the mist, the runway transformed into an aviation catwalk for the newest model on the scene. Those present were treated to the aircraft posing for the cameras in a series of positions, demonstrating its air brake and wing folding mechanics. This was an imaginative way to display the machine to the assembled crowd.

Following her initial run, ‘544 was positioned nose to nose with fellow S.2B XX894 (wearing the colours of a Royal Navy machine from 899 Naval Air Squadron on HMS Ark Royal) to present a unique photo opportunity. Welcome too was the set of gantry steps, which my brother, GAR’s Elliott Marsh took keen advantage of. I can only assume these were reinforced once Elliott had booked our tickets...

Whilst the event itself was ostensibly about launching ‘544, the group’s remaining Buccs were very much part of the limelight too. A three-ship fast taxi run was definitely the star attraction of the day, and one that will probably remain in my top aviation moments of 2012. The sheer, unadulterated power exhibited was immense, especially being mere feet away from these beasts as they powered down Brunty’s lengthy runway.

The sight of the trio returning to their parking spots, strobe lights blazing on two of the machines, created an eerie, almost Cold War-esque atmosphere, as the accompanying photos demonstrate.

With the action over, the aircraft were re-positioned into a line for the final photographic element of the event, allowing visitors an all too rare opportunity to film four Buccaneers on one airfield. Credit must go to the BAG team, who were extremely helpful in positioning the lighting based on the photographers’ needs. As dusk set in, the strobe lights were also displayed to create a striking image in the failing light.

The subsequent night shoot was well received and organised. Being a non photographer (sacrilege I know!) I found it incredible to just stand back and reflect on the beauty and presence of these jets. I feel the Buccaneer (and most of its classic jet counterparts) possesses a certain character and warmth that is missing in more modern types. Don’t get me wrong, the likes of Typhoon and Rafale are incredibly exciting additions to airshows, and it’s important that they are preserved too for our future generations to cherish, but there is a certain aura and individuality that surrounds combat types which were designed in an era before computers and fly-by-wire.

Whilst not linked to the rollout, the Lightning Preservation Group conducted several ground runs of Lightning F.6 XR728 during the early afternoon. The earth-shattering howl of the Avon was much appreciated by the early bird visitors. Power runs complete, the aircraft was eventually towed back to join its stablemate, XS904, outside the mock up QRA sheds which would have been commonplace at the likes of RAF Wattisham, Binbrook and Leuchars.

The Cold War Aircraft Museum’s fleet was also available for inspection, including the behemoth that is the Super Guppy. The aircraft was open to visitors, allowing them to sample the cavernous interior. One could also view the latest progress on Beech Restorations Ltd’s immaculate Beech 18, currently undergoing a thorough restoration to flying condition. Hopefully it won’t be long before those distinctive radials reverberate around the Leicestershire sky. Also impressive was a rather smart Max Holste Broussard, this French liaison machine being an unusual site on UK shores. It would make the perfect GAR “hack” to La Ferte Alais...

Away from close view, but more than visible were Victor “Lusty Lindy”, the ex-Boscombe Down Comet “Canopus”, a Hercules and numerous VC10s which have been retired here. There is a further example due later this year; let’s hope it will be made taxiable so it can join its fellow Cold War warriors at the popular Open Days during the summer.

The event can only be considered a massive success. I didn’t hear any negative comments, and feedback online has been overwhelmingly positive. With entry priced at a tenner per person, this will probably be looked back upon as one of the best value for money events anywhere in the UK this year; a true bargain. It was extremely encouraging to hear that BAG is planning a follow-up event in August. It will be interesting to see how they can build on this achievement. Watch this space folks!

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2012-03-29 - Andrew Webber
Thank you for your kind words on behalf of the Buccaneer Aviation Group.
We do indeed have plans for further events which will be announced once confirmed.

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