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2014 UK Aviation Events : REVIEW

RAF Northolt Nightshoot XVI

Always offering a good aviation fix in the off-season, the RAF Northolt “Night-shoots” often bring together some very rare aircraft under the unique photographic conditions of the floodlights attached to 32 Squadron’s main hangar complex. “Nightshoot XVI” was not without its own story though.

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

It is always an effort to get military aircraft to attend any event, but Phillip Dawe’s efforts in aid of the Northolt Night-shoots are remarkable. They pull in aircraft that in many cases have never appeared at much more public mainstream events. Certainly recent events have treated photographers to the likes of the Swedish Sabreliner and the French Securite Civile Grumman TS-1 Tracker.

Night-shoot XVI promised to see a return of a Tracker and a host of other exciting types. However just before the original date in mid-March came the disappointing news that for understandable operations reasons almost the entire line-up had cancelled. Not to be defeated, in a matter of days Phil had re-arranged a new date a fortnight later to capture some of the cancelled aircraft and hopefully a few extra surprises. Sadly not even this managed to get the Tracker into Northolt due to the icing conditions en-route from its base and some other aircraft were forced to drop out.

However what did turn up was no less interesting that usual. It has to be said, driving in to RAF Northolt caused slight concern with just one lonely aircraft sitting on the ramp. Fortunately, most of the participants turned up quite late and it was not long until there was a decent selection on the apron.

The only visiting Royal Air Force aircraft was a Beechcraft King Air B200 from No 45[R] Squadron based at RAFC Cranwell in Lincolnshire. King Airs are not currently displayed at airshows, so appearances by the RAF’s multi-engined training types are increasingly rare these days.

The only other RAF aircraft to appear during the evening was one of 32 Squadron’s BAe 125 CC2 aircraft. While these have often appeared at Night-shoots, the appearance of the type at this event could well be one of the last as the fleet will be retired over the next year leaving the Squadron to carry on with its expanded fleet of BAe 146 aircraft.

RAF Northolt is also home to one of the London Air Ambulance’s MD902 Explorers and this aircraft also briefly paused for photographs before heading to its hangar ready for operations the next day. As usual, the event also saw a visit from the Metropolitan Police Air Support Units Eurocopter EC145 providing some rotary action.

Though the Tracker was unable to make it, France was well represented by a pair of Dassault Alpha Jet Es from the L’armee de l’air. These jets always look fantastic under the lights and like many types are becoming increasingly rare at airshows so it is always good to see them.

Star of the line-up for many though was the CASA CN235-100MP Persuader from the Irish Air Corps which dropped into Northolt for a flying visit departing mid-way through the event. The attractive blue colour scheme looked wonderful against the glowing evening sky and prior to departure the crew ran the engines in front of the photographer. One of only two CN235s in service with the corps, the main role of the aircraft is fisheries protection as well as support from Search and Rescue missions. The aircraft can also be re-roled for transport and para-dropping missions.

Northolt “Night-shoots” are always great occasions for photographers and enthusiasts alike, particularly as the money raised goes to support the restoration of the important Battle of Britain operations buildings at Northolt . Well done and thanks must go to Phil, his team and RAF Northolt for supporting these events.

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