Northolt Highlights

RAF Northolt Night-shoot VIII

The Northolt Night-shoots have become highly popular event with aviation photographers. Philip Dawe puts a great deal of effort into attracting a wide range of rare and exciting aircraft for the events held under the floodlights of 32 Squadron's new hanger complex on the south-side of the airfield. The events raise money for the restoration and preservation of the RAF Northolt Battle of Britain Sector Ops Building.

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

RAF Northolt to the North West of London is the RAF's military airport for London. The most prolific based unit is 32 Squadron. The squadron has recently broadened its role from being the Royal Squadron to one that provides essential communications and logistics to operations in Afghanistan and other military operations around the world. The other RAF based aircraft at Northolt are the secretive Britten Norman Islanders of the RAF Northolt Station Flight. These aircraft are operated in photographic mapping and light communications roles.

As well as flying activities, Northolt is also home to personnel from all three armed services in various different roles. Recently identified as a key defence site, Northolt is currently the base for the Queen's Colour Squadron, British Forces Post Office, Military Aviation Authority and the Central Band of the Royal Force amongst the array of lodger units.

Northolt is one of the most famous stations in the RAF having taken a prominent role in the Battle of Britain. Some of the building used during the Battle are still in existence and a group is working to preserve and restore them including the former operation room. Funds from the photo-calls go to those projects.

"Night-shoot VIII" was one hit by a number of late cancellations, but as is very much the case with most aviation events it is quality not quantity than makes these events so special. Star of the evening was Martin Baker's gorgeous gloss black Gloster Meteor T7 1/2. One of two operated by the ejection seat manufacturer, they are seen in public very rarely these days so the chance to capture one with ropes around it and under the glow of the west London skyline really was a unique opportunity.

The only official Night-shoot participant from overseas was a French Air Force Embraer EMB-121 Xingu. These small utility twin engined turboprop aircraft are used in the training role based at Avord. Technically not part of the event, but attracting a fair degree of attention were a Danish Air Force Canadair Challenger and a Swedish Air Force Gulfstream. The sole Royal Air Force participants were the Agusta A109 and BAe 125 CC2 from 32 Squadron. As well as the aircraft, some ground based units also joined in the fun including an appliance from the Fire section as well as a Panther and Jackal from 63 Squadron, RAF Regiment.

As ever, it was a pleasure to attend another Northolt event. These small events always provide photographers with some very special and unique oppotunities in a friendly atmosphere. We look forward to the next one!

The 32 Squadron Apron

Thanks to Philip Dawe and all at RAF Northolt

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Northolt Highlights