Home

Back

Contact Us

 


Rotary Aviation
Click to Enlarge

Stars and Stripes
Click to Enlarge

Fixed Wing Air
Click to Enlarge

2007 saw the return of the highly popular RAF Northolt Charity Photocall. The event is held the day after the stations families day and allows photographers to get up close to some RAF and foreign military aircraft without the distractions or the hassle of a public airshow static park. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of author.

The organisers of the RAF Northolt photocall must have some control over the weather as once again it was a very hot and hazy sunny day on the western outskirts of London! One of the over riding memories of last year's inaugural photocall was the quality of the aircraft that took part. It was always going to be a hard act to follow up on but this years managed to be even better with even more participation from Europe.

Northolt itself is home to a number of aircraft that aren't normally seen at public airshows around the country. The most well known about are the various fixed wing and rotary craft of No 32 (The Royal) Squadron. Largest of their aircraft positioned for the photographer was the BAE Systems 125 CC3A exectutive jet. These aircraft are no stranger to making fleetting appearances at the larger military airshows as they bring in senior RAF officials and member of the Royal Family. However, the public is rarely afforded the chance to get up and personal to these aircraft. The same can be said the other 32 sqn aircraft, the Agusta A109 which entered service last year. Though not part of the photocall, one of the RAF Northolt Station flight's Islander CC2 aircraft made a brief appearance departing during the afternoon.

A particularly pleasing aspect of this year's photocall was the number of special marked RAF aircraft in the line up. Though many of them were familiar from appearance at airshows over the last few years, opportunities such as those afforded at Northolt are rare. The appearance ot the 13 and 14 sqn Tornado GR4 aircraft with their anniversary fins being particularly welcome. Also on the ground were two Hawk T1s from 100 sqn with one of the aircraft being the specially marked aircraft for the squadron's 90th anniversary. This jet was supposed to be the RAF's second solo Hawk display for 2007 before that commitment was regrettably scrubbed. Two other Hawks were present from Nos 19 and 208 sqns. Further RAF training assets included in the line up were the King Air 200 of 45(R) Squadron and a Tucano from No1 FTS. Departing early was a 56(R) Squadron Tornado F3 it their stunning anniversary scheme. The RAF's rotary force was representative by two slawarts of operations, the Chinook HC2 and Puma HC1. The Puma too had to depart early and put on a spirit flypast as it departed with the load master waving from the open side doors.

The Royal Navy representation was by a very anonamous looking Harrier GR7 which was completely devoid of an identiying features apart from it's serial number and there was nothing from the Army Air Corps.

Perhaps the two most exciting UK based aircraft in the line up came from the testing rolesm. Martin Baker made a welcome return with their stuning black painted Meteor T7 1/2 which currently sports some markings for it's role in testing the new ejection seat systems for the F-35 Lighting II joint strike fighter. QinetiQ also returned, but this year brought the rarely seen Lynx AH7 in full raspberry ripple markings.

There were also one or two civilian participants within the largely military line up. There were a couple of  historic aircraft on show including the De Havilland DH82b Queen Bee. Though based on a Tiger Moth, the Queen Bee was in fact a radio controlled drone aircraft for artillary training. This example has been restored and is now manually flown! TYhe other historic was slightly newer being one of the Jet Provost T3 aircraft regualr seen gracing airshow flying and static displays. Also on display was a Yakovlev Yak-52 and one of the Metropolitan Police's new Eurocopter EC145 support helicopters.

Foreign participation was much larger in 2007. The Polish gave exception support by sending not only their Navy's PZL M28-MR Bryza, but also a much more rarely seen Air Force An-28 light transport from the Combat Search and Rescue Squadron.  Though similar in appearance, the appearance of both aircraft together on the flightline was most welcome.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force sent one of their AH-64D Longbow Apache attack helicopters with a full weapons fit making for a menacing sight. The German Army too made another welcome return for the photocall with four of their MBB Bo-105P anti tank helicopters. Though these are regular visitors to some of the larger UK shows, to have the numbers that were present is a rare thing these days.

Regular UK visitors to UK events are the Belgian Armed Forces. They participated at Northolt with their Agusta A109 anti tank helicopter and a Sea King Mk48 search and rescue helicopter. The latter helicopter was one of a number of aircraft which has to depart early for operational reasons.

The Irish Air Corps too made a notable appearance. One of their Pilatus PC-9M aircraft made it's Northolt debut along with one of the Corps latest additions, the EC135 utility helicopter. The Irish Air Corps are an all too rare side this side of the Irish Sea The latter was seen departing on Monday in formation with the QinetiQ Lynx for a formation over London.

However, the real stars of the line up were a pair of United States Air Force A-10A Thunderbolt II strike aircraft from the 52nd Fighter Wing normally based at Spangdalhem Air Force base in Germany. Many enthusiasts hope to see a fair bit of the A-10s over the summer as they have temporarily based themselves at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.

Phil Dawe and his team of volunteers once again put on a superb event bringing in some rare and exciting types. The relaxed nature of the day is in great contrast to other events and there were some great photographic opportunities to have of the aircraft. A particularly nice touch were the two classic routemaster double decker buses that collected visitors from the car park and took them to the ramp.

copyright Flightline UK