Somewhat surprisingly given the weather forecast, the Royal Air Force today performed its last ever landing of a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar when K1 variant ZD951 became the fourth example of the type to touch down on Bruntingthorpe’s runway at 1849 local, as the last dregs of what little light there had been on a largely damp and overcast day ebbed away. Karl Drage reports.
As Gordon Jones reported earlier, yesterday, 24 March, saw the last operational flight of a TriStar with the RAF, bringing to an end an association spanning a little over 30 years.
With just two crews qualified to fly the aircraft to Bruntingthorpe and four aircraft left to be delivered to GJD Services, it always looked an ambitious plan to get all of them moved to the Leicestershire airfield in a single day, but that’s precisely what 216 Squadron did.
First to depart what had been its RAF Brize Norton home for the past three decades was TriStar C2 ZE704, which arrived at Bruntingthorpe, after performing an approach at Coventry in order to let down through the weather, around four and a half hours after its scheduled arrival time of 0930. Joining it in the first wave was TriStar KC1 ZD950.
After the crew ferry aircraft failed to materialise, it once again seemed that the TriStar would live to fight another day, but a very determined Boss, who arranged for the crews to be driven back to Brize, kept the preferred outcome a live possibility.
The final two aircraft, KC1 ZD948 and K1 ZD951 respectively, certainly could not have left it much later to get away, though the latter – operating as Ascot 881 – managed to abort its initial departure attempt!
With no landing or navigation aids at Bruntingthorpe, or even approach or runway lighting, the fact that 216 Squadron achieved what it did today with such little fuss was rather impressive.
And so yet another RAF type bows out of service….
With thanks to GJD Services and Bruntingthorpe’s owners for making access possible.