Over a four-week period towards the end of 2012, I had cause to spend no fewer than four days at RAF Coningsby! The first three of those were all spent outside the wire, while the last was a visit to meet the 2013 Royal Air Force Typhoon Display Pilot, Flt Lt Jamie Norris. This blog will cover all of those days in one single entry.
RAF Coningsby – 06/11/2012
Despite having visited Coningsby a few times in recent years, the 6 November trip represented my first time shooting from off base since way back in November 2009! Some things had changed but it was mainly business as usual. Gone were the Harriers of 41(R) Squadron, while ‘new’ representation came by way of a couple of brand new 1(F) Squadron marked Typhoons (one in full colours and one wearing the code only) – ordinarily based at RAF Leuchars – as well as an unmarked one or two. According to the locals, these were the newest Typhoons on the RAF’s books and were utilising the latest software update.
Probably the highlight of the day for me was catching 41(R) Squadron’s Tornado GR4 special, ZA614/EB-Z, painted to commemorate Gp Capt Don Finlay who was a dual Olympic medallist before taking over command of the squadron.
While the photo sequence isn’t quite chronological, you can see that it was grey all day! In fact, that’s only part of the story. It was particularly unpleasant during the afternoon and rained almost incessantly!
Visiting aircraft comprised a pair of Armee de l’Air Alphajets from Tours which lunch-stopped and a V(AC) Squadron Sentinel that performed a couple of overshoots. Sqn Ldr Scott Loughran, the 2012 Royal Air Force Typhoon Display Pilot, stopped by for fuel in a 6 Squadron machine after displaying at the Air Combat Power Visit event at RAF Waddington.
RAF Coningsby – 27/11/2012
My second visit of the period was a two-dayer, with my arrival delayed thanks to suffering a burglary overnight, which resulted in all of my camera gear being stolen.
Consequently, the afternoon of 27 November was spent getting to know my dad’s Canon EOS-7D and his 100-400mm lens. The push-pull action of that particular piece of glass was not something that came particularly intuitively to me, and I was left with little doubt that the screw action of my Sigma 120-300mm lens was far more accustomed to panning on aircraft where you want to change your focal length during a pass.
Once again, the weather was pretty unpleasant and there wasn’t a huge amount of flying taking place.
RAF Coningsby – 28/11/2012
28 November started just as grimly before actually worsening in the run up to lunch!
For a long time it looked like that would be the way it remained for the day, but the last couple of hours of light were actually really lovely, and, while there wasn’t a sunset in the truest sense, there was sufficient cloud to provide some beautiful backgrounds while the sun was still quite high in the sky.
41(R) Squadron’s Tornado GR4s were active during the day, as were Typhoons carrying the markings of 3(F), XI(F), 17(R) and 29(R) Squadrons.
It had been a long time coming, but the pictures from the end of the day almost made what had gone before it seem worthwhile!
RAF Coningsby – 05/12/2012
The final visit over the period came on a beautiful day – 5 December – when Gareth and I visited 29(R) Squadron for the aforementioned visit. Hopefully you’ll have already seen most of the pictures from that day in the article we ran on Flt Lt Jamie Norris – 2013 RAF Typhoon Display Pilot – over on old GAR.
The light when we were out on the ASP was really harsh, with the sun directly behind the aircraft, so not many images from that part of the day made the final cut – never happy, are we?! I’ve given a few the black and white treatment – along with a couple of extra hangar shots – and you can find those here.
After the visit, I headed outside until after dark as I knew a good friend of GAR’s, Flt Lt Owen Thompson, would be going night-flying, as indeed would Jamie – albeit his slot wasn’t until it would really be dark! The ‘keepers’ from that part of the day also feature in the main article!
Again, there was no real sunset, and most of the afternoon wave had recovered by then anyway, but you have to be in it to win it!
So, four visits in a month! The weather, in the main, hadn’t been especially kind, but I was still quite pleased with some of the images I’d come away with – even those in the rain! When it’s like that you’re forced to try different things, be that silly shutter speeds or in the post-processing. It’s all good!