As thousands of enthusiasts headed for the Cotswolds and RIAT 2013, Glenn Beasley set off for the peace and quiet of the Welsh valleys, or at least that was the plan. The highs and lows of two days in the hills either side of the RIAT show weekend are recalled in this blog.
Sometimes you take a punt and get lucky. Other days you don’t. But if everything always went according to plan, this hobby wouldn’t have the excitement and edge that it does. Two days in Wales proved to be the case for me back in July.
For one reason or another I took a break from the annual RIAT pilgrimage and decided to head up into LFA7 on the Friday before the Fairford show weekend. The main potential I thought I had for anything going low level en-route to Fairford were the specially marked 617 Sqn Tornados, heading down from Scotland. I really didn’t consider anything else would pay me a visit.
After a pretty awful climb up one of the steeper inclines in LFA7, I had the scanner on and sure enough the first thing I heard was ‘Gibson’ calling low level and not too soon after, one of the specially marked 617 jets majestically hurtled around the corner. His wingman stayed a bit higher, but I was already fairly happy I’d accomplished something I’d hoped for from the day.
My mind did drift occasionally to what was going on at Fairford, but my ears flapped somewhat when I heard the words ‘Royal Netherlands Air Force’ and ‘LFA7’ in the same conversation on the scanner. I also heard 1000ft transit in there too, so didn’t really put two and two together, aside from maybe seeing a couple of F-16 go over the top en route to the Cotswolds.
Looking back I think the confusion stemmed from the fact that there was also something heading into Fairford from the German Air Force at the time, so I believe this was the traffic at 1,000ft. Anyhow, the adrenalin was soon running as shortly after, the fantastic sight of two RNLAF Vipers tore around the corner, the lead jet being the specially marked 65th anniversary 323 Sqn special, with ‘Diana’ depicted on the tail.
Now in the kind of state of a proverbial kid in a sweet shop, the pair returned for a second pass, vortices streaming from the sleek lines of the venerable fighter. It got better, with a third and final pass before the pair headed off for their static date at RIAT 2013. It was certainly nice to get a a bit of luck low level for a change! Tucanos on detachment at RAF Valley and Hawks filled up the rest of the day.
I headed back on the Monday but to a different location, which was to prove my downfall as rumours began to circulate that the French Air Force Mirage F1s at Fairford were going to go low level after departing from the show. I knew the location I’d chosen was going to be touch and go as to whether I’d see them, and I did see them, albeit at about 1,000ft over my head! I heard lots of noise as they hurtled through the valleys behind me, and as noises go it did sound pretty awesome!
But alas after Friday’s high, this was back down to earth with a bump. I tried to console myself with the fact that the weather wasn’t brilliant, but I couldn’t deny how disappointed I was not to have got them. F-16s and Mirage F1s in the space of four days would have been a real coup; I might have even retired from low level altogether had it worked out!
Alas, if we always knew what was coming through the valleys, low level wouldn’t be the thrill it sometimes can be.