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2012 Aviation Events : REVIEW

RAF Northolt Nightshoot XI

The ‘Night-shoots’ at RAF Northolt have become very popular events with a large following of aviation enthusiasts looking for some unique photo opportunities. The first such event of 2012 was held in April and included participation from the Royal Air Force, French Air Force, Irish Air Corps, Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit and a surprise addition of the Dutch Royal Flight.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from a cool Northolt. All photography by the author.

Philip Dawe and his team have been responsible for many very successful events at RAF Northolt. The traditional Northolt Photo-call that used to follow the station families days in June was a hugely popular event amongst enthusiasts as it offered some great access to some very interesting participating aircraft. Various different reasons saw those events curtailed but they have been succeeded by the ‘Night-shoot.’

The Night shoot format is much smaller than those original photo-calls, but is in many ways much more interesting as a result. The collection of aircraft gathered is very select, but they are gathered outside the new south-side hangar complex which sports some very powerful floodlighting which creates the perfect conditions of night photography lighting up the subjects beautifully. An added bonus for photographers this time was some typical April weather of sunny spells and heavy showers which creating some great cloud-scape backdrops during the sunset and early part of the evening which was also blessed with very light winds making long exposures that much easier!

The photographic opportunities are superb, but the Northolt Night-shoots continue to attract some very exciting participants which for past events have included a French Securite Civile Grumman S-2T Turbo Tracker, Army Air Corps Bell 212, Irish Air Corps helicopters as well as various different RAF types.

For the first event of 2012, the line-up of aircraft was just as good. UK based military participation was limited to aircraft from 32 Squadron which is based at Northolt which included a BAE Systems 146 CC2 and an Agusta A109E Power. The 146 actually returned from a flight during the event allowing photographers to get some photos of the ground handlers controlling the aircraft while it was positioned from the event.

Another local participant was the Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit’s very purposeful looking Eurocopter EC145. Sporting a number of bulges for Forward Looking Infra-red sensors and spot-lights the aircraft is a regular sight over London and it no doubt preparing for a bust summer supporting the Queen’s Jubilee and the London Olympics.

The Irish Air Corps have been good supporters of Northolt Events and it was good to see one of the latest helicopters at the event in the form of the AgustaWestland AW139. The Air Corps currently has six of the type in service. The aircraft perform a variety of roles including military transport, air ambulance, supporting the Irish Army and other general utility roles. Like the other three helicopters the aircraft ran its engines and rotors for some dramatic shots against the skyline.

Perhaps the best supporters of the Northolt Night-shoots in recent times have been the French based participants. French Air Force Alpha Jet Es have become regular participants and this photocall boasted two aircraft from ET 01.008 'Saintonge' based at Cazaux. It was a shame that the planned Belgian Air Component Alpha Jet cancelled, but the presence of the French aircraft was particularly welcome considering the Alpha Jet solo display has been withdrawn this year.

As well as the Alpha Jet was a return by the Eurocopter AS555 Fennec which like the AW139 ran it’s engines and created a small burst of flame as it started up as an added bonus for some lucky photographers who were there at the right time.

A surprise attendee was the Dutch Royal Flight’s Fokker 70. The aircraft is operated by the Netherland Government as is register PH-KBX in honour of Queen Beatrix (‘Koningin BeatriX’) and is used as a private transport for the Dutch Royal Family and high ranking members of the government. While it is a regular visitor to UK airports, it is a rare opportunity for many to photograph the aircraft which is beautifully presented in the striking national colours of the Netherlands.

As ever, thanks to Philip Dawe and all the personnel from RAF Northolt which makes these events happen and we look forward to the next one!

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