August bank holiday weekend can mean only one thing – cold war jets. Shaun Schofield headed up to Bruntingthorpe for his yearly fix of classic jet noise.
For the avid enthusiast of classic jets, no season would be complete without a visit to at least one of the Cold War Jets Collection’s two annual open days. In the five years I have been attending these events, they have continued to go from strength to strength; this year’s August run being arguably the best yet, with greater numbers and variety of types on show than I can remember.
Evidence of this is the huge number of visitors the events attract these days. I’d estimate more than double the numbers were in attendance compared to when I first visited, which can only be great news for the organisers in maintaining such a high standard of event and keeping these fabulous aircraft in working order.
As ever, visitors were permitted to swoon all over the aircraft littered across the site. Nowhere else offers such unlimited to access to these types of aircraft, and whilst it may be a little frustrating for those of us of a photographic persuasion at times, it’s far more important to enable people to get up close and personal with the jets.
A first for me was seeing the single seat Hunter GA.11 on the static line. Sandwiched between the Sea Harrier and Sea Vixen in a delightful display of Fleet Air Arm heritage, the aircraft looks resplendent in its naval colour scheme. Its maiden run is pencilled in for the May run next year, something that is well worth looking forward to.
Kicking off the show was a trio of Buccaneers. It’s been a few years since all three have run together, with serviceability issues affecting at least one of the jets in that time, so to see the full set once again was a real highlight of the event, and true testament to the hard work and effort ‘The Buccaneer Aviation Group’ put into keeping these characterful jets running.
Indeed, they have been working overtime in recent weeks to get XX894 ready for the show. It’s been a while since we last saw the jet after an engine let go during a run in 2012. (Editor’s note – Steve Hancock from TBAG has contacted us to say “The incident was only a burst tyre due to a malfunction of the anti-locking brake system, not an engine failure, which would have been far more serious! The engines were replaced to allow repairs to the nozzle guide vanes.” Thanks for the clarification Steve).
Since then, she has been overhauled, including new engines and a lick of paint, with engine runs taking place right up to the event itself; it must be very rewarding for the group to see that hard work pay off as she strutted up and down the runway with her sister aircraft.
Later in the show, XX900 would take to the runway once more, with a more thorough run that demonstrates all of the Buccaneers party pieces- wing folding, bomb bay rotation etc. – presenting the jet in a variety of configurations for the photographers in the crowd. ‘900 is next in line at the paint shop, as her rubbed down and rather tatty appearance suggests, so we’ll soon be able to enjoy three pristine looking Buccs at these events.
Another first for me at these events was the VC10. Having made its debut at the May open day, the aircraft is the newest runner in the collection, and by far the largest. Having spent most of the day in the static park, enabling visitors to walk through her, she was towed through the crowd in preparation for the show-closing run; a very impressive sight indeed, although not nearly as impressive as witnessing her thunder down the runway, her Conways producing a ferocious noise that gave the Lightnings a run for the money.
Seeing such large aircraft rolling down the runway at such close proximity is truly exhilarating and visitors were treated to two more heavies earlier in the day, courtesy of the Nimrod and Victor. Unfortunately, both were suffering from minor technical snags that prevented them from being fully unleashed during their runs. However, the Nimrod especially offered an alternative take on its traditional run, performing two turns on the runway akin to the way the smaller aircraft are displayed, providing a much welcome opportunity to view the aircraft from differing angles.
It’s fair to say that for many, the main draw to these events are the Lightnings. There really is nothing quite like seeing one of these imposing monsters hurtle down the runway in full reheat, leaving torn ear drums and a symphony of car alarms in their wake, except perhaps seeing two! XR728 was given the honours for the first Lightning run of the day, with XS904 running before the VC10 closed the show; a stunning spectacle in every respect.
Training aircraft were out in force, with the pretty L-29 Delfin and a trio of Jet Provosts – two T3s and a T5 – performing figure of eights before being let loose down the runway. A fourth JP was also present, with Neil McCarthy popping into Brunty for the afternoon in his colourful T3 on his way back to Newcastle, pleasing the crowd with a topside pass both on arrival and departure.
Neil’s JP wasn’t the only aircraft to take to the air, with a surprise departure of a former Cambodian Boeing 737 to the US. The aircraft had been in storage for a couple of months and gave a very sporting flypast before embarking on its long journey. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight also dropped in for a handful of energetic passes courtesy of their Spitfire PRXIX and Hurricane MkIIc.
Further aerial action was provided by the Large Model Association, who filled the gaps between runs with three cold war jets of their own. Convincing Vulcan, VC10 and Lightning models were all expertly displayed at various times throughout the afternoon, all of which were very well received by the onlooking crowd and proved a fine complement to their 1:1 scale counterparts.
Rounding off the line up of runners was the Canberra. With the Hunter T7 unserviceable, the Canberra was the sole jet on show that requires a cartridge start, something that always goes down well with the crowd. After its smoky start up, Dennis Brooks took WT333 for a wander before opening the taps on the two Avons and launching her down the runway in what seemed an especially noisy run.
As ever, the public left Bruntingthorpe with wide smiles on their faces, having enjoyed another superb event. Huge credit must go to numbers of volunteers and groups for the countless hours they put in to ensure we can enjoy these aircraft in all their glory, and when one considers the aircraft under restoration – Tornado, Jaguar and Starfighter to name but a few – these events will continue to grow and thrill for many years to come.