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2011 UK Airshows : REVIEW

Flight Night, North Weald

Night time photo-shoots are now establishing themselves as popular aviation events during the autumn and winter months. Earlier in the year we reported from the Gnat Display Team’s own event at their base at North Weald. Right at the end of October, Weald Aviation hosted its first such event inviting warbirds as well as jet aircraft for their Halloween ‘Flight Night’ event.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography by Paul Johnson/Flightline UK and James George/Flightline UK.

Saturday 29th October was the final day of ‘British Summer Time’ and for most was the main evening for celebrating Halloween. At the popular general aviation base at North Weald Aerodrome, Weald Aviation was hosting its own Halloween event; ‘Flight Night.’ Based on the large concrete apron in front of Hanger 6 and the operating base for Kennet Aviation and a host of classic jets, the event offered some unique floodlit photographic opportunities.

‘Night-shoots’ have become hugely popular, but they are effort intensive events. Getting the aircraft together is just one problem, but getting the lighting right is another. A comparison with Northolt’s excellent events for any of these other events is perhaps a little unfair as Northolt enjoys some superb purpose built floodlighting. Many other events have to rely on temporary hired floodlighting equipment which requires a maze of wiring connecting them to portable generators. If there was a weak link in this latest North Weald event it was perhaps in the lighting equipment which didn’t seem to ever work as planned resulting in only small areas of the pan being lit at any one time which did lead to some minor chaos as the crowd followed round the working lights! However it must be said the atmosphere remained very friendly.

Where the event scored very highly was the quality of aircraft it brought together. It was good to see a healthy selection of North Weald’s resident classic jet population gathered for the event. The very exotic Mikoyan MiG-17 was also on public show in its hangar. Hopefully more will be seen of this aircraft at future North Weald events if plans come together.

North Weald is home to large number of Percival Jet Provosts and Strikemasters, and there were a number of colourful examples made available for the night-shoot. Amongst the collection were Tom Moloney’s Kuwaiti Air Force Strikemaster and the very rare Jet Provost T52.

Also from the home team was the Vampire Preservation Group’s beautiful Vampire T11 which has been absent from the last part of the flying display season following an engine change. Early arrivals would have caught the Vampire undertaking a flight in the late afternoon before sunset. For the Night-shoot the Mark Hooton undertook an engine run providing photographers a unique opportunity to catch the fiery start-up of the Goblin jet engine.

The Vampire was joined by one of Air Atlantique’s De Havilland Venom FB50 which also provided a flaming engine start as well as a demonstration of the cartridge starting system. Completing the ‘Cold War’ line up was one of Kennet Aviation’s Westland Wasp which was unable to run its rotors but did power up its lights for the photographers.

The real stars of the evening though were the superb collection of warbirds. North Weald based Kennet Aviation and the Hangar 11 Collection both provided aircraft. The latter brought over the wonderful Supermarine Spitfire PRXI while Kennet supplied their North American T-6 Texan (Harvard) and the Douglas AD-4NA Skyraider. The Skyraider put on a superb ground run spouting flames from the exhausts around the cowling. Completing the ‘home team’ line up was a silver Yakovlev Yak-52 which also provided an engine run.

Notably however, North Weald managed to attract an aircraft from Duxford in the form of the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Hurricane XII. Pilot Dave Harvey also obliged with an engine run including a typically fiery engine start for the cameras.

Weald Aviation’s ‘Flight Night’ may not have been perfect, but it was a superb start to what we hope will become a successful series of aviation events at the Essex Airfield. With the organisers asking for feedback during the night, it was good to see such enthusiasm to develop the events further. It was particularly good to see such a varied selection of home based and visiting aircraft taking part in the event. At just £20, the event provided superb value for money considering the fuel, insurance and equipment costs that such events incur. We eagerly look forward to the next event at the ‘Weald!’

Thanks to all at Weald Aviation

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