The latest in the long running series of night photoshoots at RAF Northolt took place on the 16th March 2023. Chris Wood was there for GAR.
The event was organised as usual by Phil Dawe MBE and his team, with the approval and co-operation of RAF Northolt. All the funds raised from this event go towards the restoration of The Sir Keith Park Operations Building at RAF Northolt, a job that Phil has been working on for over 12 years. For his efforts he was awarded an MBE in the 2022 New Year’s Honours list for voluntary services to military aviation heritage, and he finally received the award from King Charles III at the end of January 2023.
The night photoshoots started back in 2009, and this event was the twenty-eighth. Over the years an eclectic mix of aircraft have attended, from a large number of air arms.
What sets Northolt apart from most of the other night photoshoots is that it is on an active military airfield and features mostly active military aircraft. One of the advantages of this is that you never know what will turn up, the disadvantage being that, unlike say a museum based photoshoot, it relies on aircraft turning up! In previous years it was possible to include aircraft from the resident 32 squadron, but their complement has been whittled away and is now down to three aircraft – a pair of Dassault Falcon 900LXs, known as Envoy IVs, and a single AgustaWestland AW109SP. It had been hoped that one of the Envoys would be present for it’s nightshoot debut, but this wasn’t to be. In total there were four cancellations within the 48 hours prior to the event, including the French Army Pilatus PC-6 Turboporter, that had been expected the last time!
However there was still an interesting mix and a few newcomers. Biggest aircraft on the ramp was a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130J Super Hercules from 436 Squadron at Canadian Forces Base Trenton. This was making a return visit, there having been one at the October 2022 event. It was one of three deployed to Prestwick Airport in Scotland as part of Operation REASSURANCE.
The French Air Force (Armee de l’Air) made a welcome return with a pair of first time visitors in the shape of two Pilatus PC-21s from EPAA 315 (Ecole de Pilotage de l’Armee de l’Air 315, Air Force Flight School 315) at BA 709 (Base Aérienne 709) Cognac-Châteaubernard.
Also making a first visit was a privately owned former Army Air Corps Westland Scout AH1, registered to Dragonfly Aviation.
Making up the numbers were the two Northolt based MD900 Explorers used by London’s Air Ambulance Ltd, whilst 32 Squadron’s AW109SP could be found lurking in a hangar.
To add some interest to the photography, the Scout was run twice, and the CC-130J started up, paused and then taxied to the runway for departure back to Prestwick. The weather was fairly benign with light winds, but a light drizzle started as the CC-130J was starting up. This in some ways enhanced the photos.
Speaking after the event, the RAF Northolt Station Commander Group Captain Toria McPhadden said:
“It is our great pleasure to host our night photoshoots at RAF Northolt and to welcome our loyal photographer community who, in many ways feel like an extended part of the RAF Northolt family after all these years. The photoshoots provide a great opportunity for us to welcome visitors onto the Station to see a fascinating selection of military aircraft and, importantly to raise funds for our ongoing restoration work to our key historic buildings which represent such an important part of the RAF’s story and that of the Battle of Britain.”
So another successful evening with several thousand pounds raised from nearly 200 photographers, including a few from various European countries plus one from Canada! The next event should be in October 2023.
For more information about the Northolt night photoshoots, including details of future events, have a look here.