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2011 UK Airshows : REVIEW

F.A.S.T Museum Nightshoot, Farnborough

We may be five or so months away from the 2011 UK Airshow Season, but there is still plenty on offer for the aviation photographer thanks to growth in specialised night-time photo-shoots. First of these for 2011 was held at the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Museum located just outside the main aerodrome.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of the author.

Farnborough is perhaps most famous for its biennial airshow which along with the Paris Airshow is the most important aviation trade exhibition. Modern visitors to Farnborough, confronted with the sight of the modern business airport terminal and hangers maybe unaware that Farnborough has played a key role to the development of aviation, both military and civilian. Aviation started at Farnborough with the legendary Samuel Franklin Cody who had developed observation kites for the British Army before conducted Britain's first powered flight from Farnborough in 1908. The military continued to use Farnborough and for many years, the Ministry of Defence used Farnborough as one of its main research sites most famously under the name of the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

Several important advances in aviation technology were made at Farnborough which are currently enjoyed by modern day aviation. However, the Ministry of Defence moved out of Farnborough in the 1990's before the aerodrome was finally purchased by TAG Aviation in 2003. Farnborough retains a strong Aerospace role, not only as home to the airshow, but also home to many high profile companies such as BAE Systems, QinetiQ and others within the Cody Industrial Park.

The Farnborough Air Sciences Trust was set up 1993 to preserve Farnborough's main factory site. At the time it was threatened with demolition and an important aviation heritage site could have been lost. Since then, FAST has become important part of the development of Farnborough promoting the use of the historic buildings to link the past, present and future of Britain's aviation industry. FAST also preserves as many important buildings, documents and artefacts related to aviation development as possible and making them as accessible as possible.

Part of FAST works is a small, but impressive museum situated under the approach to the aerodrome, next to the famous Swan Inn. The museum houses an number of important exhibits, not least the Cody Pavilion housing a replica of the Cody Flyer. Elsewhere around the museum site are impressive collections of former test aircraft or other associated with Farnborough, many of them wearing the distinctive "Raspberry Ripple" scheme.

The Night-shoot at the FAST Museum was a unique chance to photograph it's collection after dark with floodlighting. As well as access to many of the rare aircraft on show, some of the cockpits and cockpit sections were accessible for photographs along with the use of steps and buildings for raised vantage points. The collection of aircraft that were available for photography included a wonderful BAC Lightning T5, the final prototype Jaguar T2, Aerospatiale SA330 Puma, Hunter Hunter T7, Folland Gnat T1, BAe Harrier T4, Jindivik drone and Canberra and BAC 1-11 cockpit sections. There was also access to the Puma cockpit as well as the rest of the museum for the duration of the event.

Despite the somewhat crowded backdrops, the opportunities were superb and the museum staff was both friendly and helpful to the wishes of the photographers. The event raises £220 for Trust funds and was an excellent start to the year.

The Modern Farnborough Aerodrome

Thanks to Tom Mercer and the staff at FAST

To find out more about Farnborough Air Sciences Trust, please visit the website.

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