RAF Northolt’s rescheduled Night Photoshoot XVI took place on Thursday, 27 March, and, sadly, suffered from enforced cancellations from two of the star participants. Karl Drage reports.
Originally scheduled for Thursday, 13 March, Night Photoshoot XVI – held to raise funds for the continued restoration of the Sir Keith Park Building – was cancelled at a relatively early stage after it became clear that, for one reason or another, few of the planned participants were actually going to be able to be present.
So, with the promise of the return of the Sécurité Civile – this time with its anniversary marked S-2T Turbo Tracker – a 771 NAS Sea King HU5SAR, a pair of French Air Force Alpha Jets, Irish Air Corps CASA CN235, QinetiQ A109E, 45(R) Sqn King Air, plus regulars in the shape of the Met Police Air Support Unit EC145 and London’s Air Ambulance MD-902, the rescheduled date was set for two weeks later.
Whilst it was not announced officially, there was also a fairly decent chance that the Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K scheduled to attend Exercise Joint Warrior would also put in an appearance. Unfortunately the aircraft got stuck in Dubai after diplomatic clearances could not be achieved in time for a transit of Egyptian airspace.
The new date happened to coincide with a particularly cold snap and ultimately led to the cancellation of the Tracker too – the aircraft being susceptible to icing en route.
The 771 NAS Sea King (unserviceable airframe) and QinetiQ A109E also failed to appear.
The absences mean that for most the star item was the Irish Air Corps CASA CN-235-100MPA. Operated by 101 Squadron from Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, it was the type’s debut at a Northolt night shoot, following up on appearances by the air arm’s EC-135s, a Learjet 45 and AW-139s at previous events. 101 Squadron is primarily concerned with maritime surveillance and fishery protection roles.
Hailing from Base Aérienne 705 Tours were the two promised Alpha Jet Es carrying the markings of EIV 03.013 “Auverge”, previously a Mirage 5F operator. They arrived individually shortly prior to the event starting.
That left the 45(R) Squadron King Air as the sole remaining visiting military participant.
One of 32(The Royal) Squadron’s BAE 125s was pulled out of its hangar to join the other aircraft taking part.
The Met Police Air Support Unit EC145 was only on the ground for a short period before departing, while the London Air Ambulance Explorer arrived and was towed into one of the hangars.
It would be fair to say that this wasn’t a classic Northolt night photoshoot, but that’s as much about the height at which Phil Dawe and his team have set the bar as anything else, and it’s always going to be extremely difficult when you lose two of your star items.
Regardless, thanks, as always, are extended to the whole team responsible for making these nights possible to begin with.