The 1980s Chapter 2, 1985 – 1989
As usual the yer got off to a slow start as far as spotting was concerned, but that cannot be said for the flying! It hasn’t helped that my ‘spotting log book’ for early 1985 has gone AWOL
On the 17th of January I was summoned to RAF Northolt where met Andy and others from the Squadron. I was about to experience a bit of night flying courtesy of the Squadron. Our aircraft for this flight was ZE396 a BAe 125-700 callsign Ascot 731 (RRR731) and our destination that afternoon was RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.
Departure from Northolt was 16:55 Hrs local time and the transit time to RAF Benson was about 20 minutes. A few practise approaches were made at Benson before returning to RAF Northolt landing back at 18:15 local.
I’m pretty sure that between this date and my next flight I would have at least been out ‘spotting’ at least once or twice, if not it would have been very unusual (lol)
My next flight on 25th March was once again with the RAF from Northolt, this time it was what they termed ‘MCT’ or Monthly Continuation Training. The aircraft this time was ZD703 a BAe 125.CC3 departing at 13:15 local time. We departed to the West then turned right and flew east towards the Clacton VOR and from there out over the North Sea recovering and landing back at Northolt at 15:50 local time. Quite what they did over the North Sea is I’m afraid a distant memory J
My next flight with the RAF was shall we say a little more ‘exciting’ and unusual. On 1st May I drove from my home in Harlow, Essex to RAF Wattisham, Suffolk where I was to meet up with Andy and Flt Lt. I. What I/we didn’t know at the time of pre-booking this was that RAF Wattisham was holding a TAC EVAL (or Tactical Evaluation) that particular day! My ‘greeting’ was unusually cautious as they suspected that I was an ‘Orange force’ trying to infiltrate onto the base and sabotage the evaluation! I was ushered into the Guard House at rifle point and invited to ‘assume the position’ while being interrogated by the ‘Blue forces’. They did not believe my explanation and thought it highly suspect that a civilian like me would be flying off on a BAe 125 from there and returning later in the day.
My saviour of the day was Andy who had landed and began to wonder where I was and why I wasn’t waiting on Wattisham’s VASS. He had contacted the Tower who in turn contacted the Guard Room to see if I was on base. Only when Andy arrived at the Guard House did they actually believe me!
Finally I boarded ZE396 a BAe 125-700 callsign Ascot 1446 (RRR 1446) and off I went a little bit shaken but not stirred by my experience at the Guard House. We took off and headed toward RAF Saint Athan in South Wales which at that time was an RAF Maintenance Unit for the McDonnell-Douglas (F-4) Phantoms for the RAF fleet where we arrived just 40 minutes after leaving RAF Wattisham.
Having landed at St. Athan we collected our passengers a Squadron Leader (Phantom pilot) and Flight Lieutenant (WSO) who had flown in an FGR.2 Phantom from RAF Leuchars, Scotland so it will come as no surprise to know that we were headed to RAF Leuchars to take them back. I was in my element, talking to both these Officers while being flown in an RAF executive jet to a Phantom base in Scotland. The flight lasted just 1 Hr 15 minutes; at Leuchars the Squadron Leader showed me/us around the hangars, flight line and most impressively the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) HAS’s (HAS = Hardened Aircraft Shelter) but I wasn’t allowed to get too close to the aircraft lest they had to launch!
Alas it was soon time to go back to Wattisham, strapped in the back and off we went, where just 55 minutes later we landed. I have to say the greeting was a nicer experience that that on my arrival earlier in the day J that is one memorable flight I had with the RAF that I doubt I’ll ever forget
Just eight days later I was back at RAF Northolt and another night flight; take off as Ascot 730 (RRR 730) aboard BAe 125-400 XW790 was at 21:05 BST to RAF Brize Norton where we landed just twenty five minutes later at 21:30. Fifteen minutes later (21:45) we departed back to Northolt landing at 22:15 on runway 24 (240 degrees).
On June 29th & 30th there was an Air Show at North Weal Bassett in Essex just a few miles from my home, I recall being there on both days and seeing a varied number of different aircraft from the U.K and a lone F-16A fiscal serial number 80-0563 of the 355th TTW wearing a HR (Hahn) tail code. Years later I was to see this with the 162nd FW AZ ANG at Tucson International airport, Tucson AZ, USA
July 1985, was my second go at volunteering at the IAT (International Air Tattoo) which was now being held at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire. It was another busy and interesting time talking to, driving and socialising with pilots and aircrew from all around the globe. I was in a very privileged position and the envy of many other ‘spotters’.
On my birthday, I was sent to collect the pilot who was going to be doing the early morning flight to check on traffic conditions on the roads into and out of the showground (base). On the journey out to the helicopter he asked what I’d be doing while he went off flying, I replied just waiting for you. I then received the invitation to join him whilst he did the traffic check. My flight was from 09:15 to 09:30 in a Gazelle AH.1 XZ341 callsign Army Air 020 (AAC 020), what a perfect way to celebrate your birthday.
Just seven days later (22/07/1985) I was back at RAF Northolt, today’s flight was with Andy & Flt. Lt. M from Northolt to RAF Brize Norton taking thirty minutes. I do not recall why we went there or how long we were on the ground but I do know the return flight was only twenty minutes long. From my ‘spotters’ notebook it appears I spent the night at Northolt, most likely at Andy’s.
The next outing to an air show was on 3rd August, when I went in company with my then girlfriend to RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset. Looking at my logbook it looks like she got fed up writing numbers down after just six entries! It’s a long slog driving from Essex to Somerset and even longer on the return journey when you stop off at RAF Brize Norton and RAF Northolt to see if you can see anything ‘over the fence’
On the 5th of August I was on another summer camp with the Air Training Corps (ATC) in my capacity as a Civilian Instructor, this time we were at RAF Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Abingdon was a maintenance unit primarily for the RAF’s fleet of SEPECAT Jaguars and was home to Oxford University Air Squadron (OUAS) operating a number of Bulldog aircraft, along with No. 6 AEF (Air Experience Flight) Chipmunk T.10 aircraft in which the cadets were going to be flying.
On the 8th at the cessation of flying for the Cadets, the VR/T Flying Officer asked me if I’d like to have a flight in the Chipmunk, yet again the VR/T Officers I was with declined so I jumped at the opportunity. The aircraft was WP805 coded D call sign Papa 42. I was duly strapped in and shown how to operate the parachute lest it be needed; take off was at 16:40 doing a local flight over that part of Oxfordshire landing back thirty minutes later at 17:10, that was another first for me
Two days later together with my Mum, Dad and girlfriend we set off from Harlow to go to an air show at RAF Bentwaters, Suffolk. RAF Bentwaters and Woodbridge were the homes to the 81st TFW using the A-10A Thunderbolt II ‘Warthog’. There was quite an eclectic mic of aircraft from the RAF, USAF(E), Belgian AF, French AF and Royal Canadian AF.
After the show I drove across Suffolk to RAF Mildenhall where looking at the logbook my girlfriend wrote ALL the tail numbers down! From there we departed back to Harlow; another great day out albeit I think Mum & Dad were a little bit tired at the end of the day.
The next day I went to RAF Alconbury, Huntingdonshire to see an F-101F Voodoo (56-0312) and that’s all I saw. My latest information is that the airframe is in a museum in Coventry U.K.
In-between these outings I actually found time to go to work and have a social life!
My next outing was to RAF Lakenheath on 24th August; a couple of nice aircraft for me to see included two RS (Ramstein) code F-4E Phantoms of the 86th TFW [68-0376 & 506] 506 went to Greece in 1991
On the same day I also went to RAF Mildenhall where there was a very nice selection of KC, RC and EC-135s as well as a couple of Hercules (C-130E) a lone C-141B and a C-23A Sherpa
I ended up the day at RAF Alconbury where I saw a lone C-141 / 67-0020 which at the time was with the 438th MAW wearing the ‘lizard’ camouflage. My reference books show that this airframe was scrapped in 2005 at K-Tech in Tucson AZ.
3rd September was my next day out with the girlfriend, this time it was to RAF Wattisham. I think the attraction that day was a pair of Italian AF Lockheed F-104 Starfighters, the serials of which still elude me all these years on. Hey ho I was able to see a number of the recently purchased McDonnell-Douglas F-4J (UK) Phantom in service with 74 Squadron, a very satisfying trip out
On 5th September I made my way to Northolt and spent the evening with Andy, the following day (6th) we crossed the road into RAF Northolt, yes I was privileged to go flying with the RAF again.
This time it was aboard ZD621 a BAe 125-400/CC.3 callsign Ascot 730 (RRR730) and our destination was RAF Lyneham which at that time home to the RAF’s Hercules fleet. Take off was at 10:10 landing just 20 minutes later at 10:30. I have no idea why we went to RAF Lyneham but I do know that fifteen minutes after we landed we had taken off again (10:45) but we were slower going back taking thirty five minutes to complete the journey and back at 11:20
At 12:50 once again on ZD621 I boarded the aircraft and had the pleasure on that trip of having the Station Commanders wife as company, we were off to RAF Leuchars! We arrived at Leuchars at 14:15 local just 1 Hr 25 minutes after leaving Northolt. We were going to be a static exhibit at RAF Leuchars air show. Andy and I spent the afternoon looking at the exhibits (aircraft) that were going to be in the static area along side of us.
I spent the night in and NCO’s mess which had been pre-arranged for me by Andy, I slept really well despite my excitement of being at RAF Leuchars.
Up early the next day for the air show, breakfasted in the NCO’s Mess then out to the 125, the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) started up and tea and coffee made (by me) for Andy and the other Officer whose name escapes me.
What a day and experiences I had that day, predominantly making the tea and coffee (lol) but when it came to the Phantoms taking off and displaying I was out and about with my camera. Alas the emulsions on my slides have succumbed to the ravages of time and they are useless, which is very disappointing for me.
8th September; after breakfast it was time to await our slot to depart from RAF Leuchars back to RAF Northolt. We finally got our slot and at 13:00 we took off from there and headed back down south arriving one hour five minutes later at 14:05. On arrival back at Northolt I saw three Bulldogs XX535/10, 546/03 and 547/05 as well as a C-12A which I have listed as 76-22549 of the 7005th ABS US Army. I collected some bits from Andy’s and bade him and his family farewell for the time being.
12th September I was out on a BUFF hunt; this too me to RAF Fairford, I was rewarded with seeing seven B-52G Stratofortresses aka BUFF [Big Ugly Fat F***er] and five KC-135 Stratotankers, a lone C-9A Nightingale and witnessing a Lockheed TR-1 do an overshoot. That was an excellent start to my day.
From Fairford it was across to RAF Lyneham, one Turkish AF C-160 Transall and a couple of RAF C-130 Hercules entered the notebook.
From there it was down the A303 towards Boscombe Down where I wasn’t able to identify anything apart from an RAF Hercules and a withdrawn from use Nimrod AEW.3. moving on swiftly from there on my way towards home the next stop was at RAF Odiham, Hampshire where I managed to identify five of a number of Chinooks an Pumas seen.
The penultimate stop of the day was at London-Heathrow where an Omani AF BAC-111 serial No. 551 entered the notebook.
The final stop of the day was RAF Northolt where from the A40 dual carriageway I was able to see a French Navy Xingu serial ‘87’ on the dispersal apron.
The 25th was the next day out and it looks from the writing in the logbook that it was once again with my girlfriend of the time. Our first stop of that day was at RAF Wittering where I was only able to see six of the based Hawker / BAe Harriers of No. 1 Squadron
Moving on further up the A1 our next stop was RAF Cottesmore which at the time was the TTTE / Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment; this was made up of Britain, Germany and Italy using the GR.1 version of the BAe Tornado, it was a very good stop as I ‘made’ a large number of the airframes seen.
Moving on we headed further still up the A1 towards RAF Cranwell where we saw a lone 14 Sqn Jaguar GR.1 XX968 / AJ and no less than seventeen of the Jet Provosts assigned to the Flying Training School.
Rolling further on the next stop was RAF Coningsby Lincolnshire which was rather disappointing as we only saw three of the based Tornados.
Venturing further up we next stopped at RAF Binbrook where I was able to log or rather she was able to log for me nine of the based Lightnings. We moved across the county this time stopping at RAF Scampton where we saw a mixture of Jet Provosts, Jaguars, Hawks and Bulldogs. Last stop of the day was at RAF Waddington, which again was a little disappointing giving me only three serial numbers one of which was LX-N90446 a NATO E-3A AWACS.
From there it was route one for goal, also called home!
However we weren’t there long as the following day we were back out and about again; first port of call was RAF Alconbury where to be honest it was a waste of time as there was nothing either to see or that I needed to see. So it was over to RAF Mildenhall where there had been a few changes from the day before which included a US Navy C-9B Nightingale BuNo 160050 coded JV 050 which told me it was from VR-58.
From there we finished off by going to RAF Lakenheath where the prizes were two German Navy F-104G’s of MFG-2, serials were 26 72 & 26 83.
After a few weeks of doing some work my friend Martin (MAF) and I decided to have a day out, the date chosen was 23rd of October. First stop was RAF Mildenhall which presented us a good mix of KC, RC and EC-135s as well as four visiting Lockheed C-141B Starlifters from 62, 63 and 437 MAW’s. We also got to see an SR-71A ‘17960’ but not a hundred percent sure we saw it take off or just in its special hangar?
A relatively short journey for us later we arrived at RAF Honington, Suffolk where we saw but could only identify two of the eight Tornado GR.1s on the ground.
Moving on from there we joined a throng of others over at RAF Wattisham for Exercise Priory 85/3.
There were a number of different types of aircraft from the U.K, Jaguar, Phantoms, and Tornados, The Netherlands sent two F-16A’s, and Belgian’s sent four F-16A’s. QRA aircraft that day were ZE353 / E & ZE361 / P both of 74(F) Squadron based at Wattisham. Neither of which moved while we were observing the simulated attack on Wattisham by the various air arms involved. However we were able to witness ZE351 / I of 74(F) Sqn. make an emergency recovery to the airfield.
On our way home and before it got too dark to do any spotting we decided to call back to RAF Honington where we saw and were able to identify nine of the Tornados on the ground so that rounded off a very good day out.
I had two more days out after that one on the 29th of October to RAF Lakenheath and the other on 3rd November to RAF Alconbury both of which didn’t bear any fruit.
That was the end of spotting for me for 1985, as it was either too, wet, cold or dark to pursue the hobby.
January: the 24th was the first time I ventured out alone and Northolt was my destination, only thing of interest there was a French Navy Fregate serial number 79. There was also a US Navy VP-3 Orion BuNo 151511 which I had seen on numerous occasions prior to this sighting.
February: Next outing was with my friend Martin aka MAF on 12th February; I was driving my Ford Capri 2.0 GL according to my logbook!
First stop of the day was RAF Mildenhall, there was a fair mix once again of KC, RC and EC-135s all of which bar one I had seen on previous visits. Other aircraft types seen were C-141 Starlifter, C-130 Hercules and a lone C-23A all of which, well you guessed, seen before.
RAF Lakenheath wasn’t a lot better; we saw two A-7 Corsairs, one from the South Dakota ANG and the other from the Iowa ANG and the latter one, Yes I’d seen that before! I think MAF and I decided to call it quits and went back home rather disillusioned with the day.
March: 4th looks like a solo trip up the A1 stopping at RAF Wittering where I espied just four Hawker / BAe Harrier GR.1’s in arctic camouflage of which I only managed to identify one being XZ968 / 01 of 1 Squadron.
The 5th was a little better when I visited RAF Alconbury, albeit called RAF it was actually operated by the USAF. There was a Recognisance Wing based here using the RF-4C Phantom II of 10th TRS carrying a tail code of ‘AR’
A couple of weeks working then back to ‘spotting’; 20th March I was once gain out with MAF in my Capri. We had a really early start that day as we arrived at our first base, RAF Wyton at 05:50 to see only one aircraft an HS/BAe 125.400 XW791 which I later found out was my friend Andy piloting it.
Moving onward our next stop was RAF Alconbury, no visitors so onward to RAF Wittering where we saw and identified four Harriers of the 233rd OCU (Operational Conversion Unit)
Once again moving further up the A1 we reached RAF Cottesmore and the TTTE, in those days most of the aircraft were left out on the ‘line’ overnight so spotting was relatively easy. Thirty minutes later we were at RAF Cranwell or as it is sometimes called by ‘spotters’ Sleaford Tech! There was nothing on the line and all the hangars were closed up so we moved on to RAF Waddington [Waddo] where we saw three RAF aircraft, being two Vulcans, and one Nimrod AEW and a NATO E-3A AWACS
By 08:15 we had arrived at RAF Scampton, this netted us a number of differing types including RAF Hawker Hunters, RAF Phantoms, Jet Provosts, Bulldogs, and 10 Hawks eight of which were ‘Red Arrows’.
We arrived at RAF Coningsby at 09:50 and were delighted to see a large number of Tornado F.2 and F.3 airframes from 229 OCU. Also present were five F-16A’s from 322 Squadron the Royal Netherlands AF. There were also three FGR.2 Phantoms two from 29 Squadron and one from 228 OCU. While we were these a pair of A-10A Thunderbolt II’s overflew the base.
We reached our next stop of RAF Marham, Norfolk and saw only three Tornados of 27 Sqn, there was no other movement on the airfield in the time we are there so we pushed on to RAF Coltishall, near Norwich, Norfolk. This was a SEPECAT Jaguar base and we were rewarded handsomely seeing about 26 of numbers 6, 14, 41 and 54 Sqn aircraft. My notes tell me we departed there at 14:45 and headed to RAF Honington where we arrived at 15:50.
Here we were rewarded with a Buccaneer of 208 Sqn, five Tornados of 20, 31 and TWCU as well as a C-130 Hercules C.1 XV307 from the LTW – Lyneham Transport Wing. En-route to our next destination we were over-flown by three Tornados close to RAF Lakenheath, we believed these came from RAF Honington. Our stay at Lakenheath was short lived as there were no visitors that we could see on the VASS. Final stop for the day was at RAF Mildenhall; same as always lots of KC, RC and EC-135s, C-130 Hercules, C-141 Starlifters and even another look at SR-71A 17960.
At 17:35 we decided to call it a day and headed for home still and hour’s drive away! To say it had been a long day was an understatement.
The 1st, what a day to go flying or was I? I wasn’t a hundred percent sure that I was going flying being as it was April fool’s day! However comma, I met Andy who coincidentally has his birthday on 1st April and he assured me we were going flying.
The aircraft for this flight was ZE396 a BAe 127-700/CC3 and the callsign was Ascot 731 (RRR 731). At 13:50 local we left runway 24 at Northolt and continued our climb to 6,000 feet turned right towards the Clacton [CLN] VOR and continued our climb towards the North Sea. We went out to the middle of the North Sea then turned left and headed up towards the general direction of Norway, turned left again across Scotland and then left again coming down the West Coast of England. We passed abeam to British Aerospace Warton airfield, Lancashire where I/we could clearly see all the ex-Saudi AF Lightning aircraft parked in a semi-circle on one of the aprons to the south of the airfield on the Northern side of the River Ribble.
We finally turned left back towards Northolt coming off the Brookmans Park VOR for the final right turn onto 240 degrees to the final approach to runway 24 at Northolt. Touchdown was at 17:00 local time; I seem to recall that I was invited by the PMC (President of the Mess Committee into the Officers Mess to buy both Andy and the other Officer(s) on this flight a customary beer, which of course I gladly did.
The next outing was on the 10th, the first port of call was at RAF Cottesmore for the aircraft of the TTTE as there was still one or two that I needed to see. I do believe that it was ‘mission accomplished’
Just eight days later (18th) it looks like I’d finished an early shift and driven straight to RAF Mildenhall as the entry is timed at 15:20. If memory serves me well this would have been about the time that the Libyan conflict started and judging by the fact that there were sixteen (16) KC-10A Extenders and 19 KC-135 Stratotankers sort of backs up that theory! I didn’t think there was a square foot of available parking for anything else but there were five C-130 Hercules, two C-123 Sherpas and two C-141 Starlifters parked on the main MAC terminal area!
It was to be another ten days (28th) before I ventured out again this time in company with MAF. It was an early start as we arrived at RAF Brize Norton at 06:35! The prize ‘spot of the day’ (so far) was a Royal Australian AF Boeing 707-338C of 33 Sqn RAAF serial A20-623.
Moving swiftly on our next stop was RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire where we ‘spotted’ nine (9) KC-135 Stratotankers. From there it was across country to RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire.
Here we saw fourteen (14) un-previously seen by me RAF Hercules which was rather pleasing. Our viewing point was at a location called New Zealand, so when people may have questioned as to where I/we had been on the trip it was always good to see their reaction when we said New Zealand.
Journeying on our next port of call was RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset where we arrived around 09:00. There was the usual mix of FRADU Hawker Hunters, BAe Hawks, and Westland Lynx & Sea Kings and a couple of dHC Chipmunks.
Next on the list was RNAS Portland, Dorset, here there was a fine selection of Westland Wasps and Westland Lynx helicopters as well as a couple of Westland Wessex.
En-route to our next destination of RNAS Lee-on-the-Solent we were buzzed at Wareham by a Wessex coded 621 and made a very brief stop off at Bournemouth-Hurn to see a Sea Vixen I required.
We got to RNAS Lee-on-the-Solent around 14:20 or at least that’s what written in my log book. Here again was a pleasant mix of Westland Wessex, Scottish Aviation Bulldogs and a lonely Westland Whirlwind HAR.9 serial XN297 which I have noted as being ex-Fleetlands.
From there it was a fairly dirty dash across to Portsmouth (Pompey) arriving at 15:00 to watch HMS Invincible [R05] depart, alas there was only one helicopter on board the vessel that being XV709 coded 585 a Westland Sea King HAS.5 of 706 NAS. Escorting the ship out of harbour was XS510 coded 626/PO a Wessex HU.5 [The PO in the code signified that this was from RNAS Portland]
Wending our way home we arrived next at RAF Odiham, Hampshire at 16:45 but still in time to see eight (8) Chinooks on the flight line, six being from 240 OCU and two from 7 Sqn and a Westland Puma from 33 Sqn.
Penultimate stop on the way home was London-Heathrow where I saw nothing of interest to me!
The final stop was at RAF Northolt where again there was nothing of note; we concluded the day after being out for fourteen and half hours and driven some four hundred and ninety (490) miles in that time!
My next outing was on the 24th which was to the annual Air Fete at RAF Mildenhall, whenever work permitted I made every effort possible to visit this show, the highlight was the start of the day when I/we usually had a cold Bud (Budweiser*) and a ‘wet’ Burger which in those days was a great start. [* the Bud and the Burgers were all flown in from the USA so it was genuine Bud]
A checklist of all the aircraft on display in the static part of the show or those parked ‘over the back’ for display / operational reason was obtained. Once obtained it was then time to start ticking off on the checklist those that we had seen and or photographed. It was normal for the flying displays to start just after lunchtime (another wet Burger or Polish Sausage and a soft drink due to driving later) was consumed before settling down to watch the displays. I know that on this date we left early to go over to RAF Lakenheath where visiting aircraft were parked.
At Lakenheath there was a HR coded F-16A and EP-3E Orion and four of the Mildenhall KC-135 Stratotankers.
All in all it had been a great day out.
Three days later I drove back to Bournemouth-Hurn, as there was no IAT in 1986 I had volunteered along with a few of my IAT colleagues to participate in driving at their air show. By the look of my logbook I arrived at Hurn on the 27th and from memory my accommodation that evening was a disused office that had no curtails or blinds and my bed was a military style camp bed. First impressions weren’t favourable; I managed to scrounge some black plastic bags and some sellotape and jerry rigged blackouts for the ‘room’ that first night. The first four days at Hurn weren’t too endearing, still I/we made the most of it and got on with the job in hand driving.
The 1st was the first day of the air show proper and it was a lot lot smaller than the IAT albeit it did give me to the various hangars at the airfield. In one hangar there was an Omani AF Strikemaster serial 125 and two Short Bros. Skyvans serials 908 & 916
In the UAS / AEF hangar I was able to see four dHC Chipmunk T.10s of No. 2 AEF and six Scottish Aviation Bulldogs of Southampton UAS.
On the 2nd I was making my way home but me being me it wasn’t a direct route home instead I chose to go back to Essex via St. Leonards on Sea in East Sussex to see and photograph a Gloster Meteor serial WL345 which was plinth mounted near to the seafront.
I had another day out; first stop was RAF Wyton, Huntingdonshire, (now Cambridgeshire) where I saw the sum total of nothing. Moving on I went across to RAF Alconbury where things were a bit better offering four Lockheed TR-1s serials 01068, 01077, 01078, 01081 and 01084 all hangared bar 01084 which was out on the south side of the airfield. Also seen on this day were two Danish AF F-16A’s serials E-177 & E-178 the former of Esk. 727 and the later from Esk. 727 [Esk = Squadron] just two RF-4C’s of the resident 10th TRW, and only one of the other resident 527th AS with their F-5E’s.
I’m not sure if I stayed somewhere nearby over night as my logbook shows that I was back at both Alconbury & Wyton the following day (puzzled face). Any way there were no significant changes to what I’d seen the day before. Over at Wyton I saw and ‘made’ ZA147 coded F a VC-10 of 101 Sqn as well as two Hawker Dominies (125s) of 6 FTS based at RAF Cranwell. That as they say was it for the day, so I guess I went home!
It was nearly three weeks before I went out again with MAF (24th) and once again we found ourselves at RAF Northolt doing an over the fence look. I have to say it was well worth the drive (long before the M25 Motorway was completed) and my/our prizes were a CT-39G of the US Navy BuNo 159363, a Lockheed Jetstar of the Royal Saudi AF serial 101, a Pakistani AF C-130 Hercules serial 64310 and a Belgian AF Sea King helicopter serial RS-04.
On the way home we called in at North Weald airfield to see a former Spanish AF Douglas DC-3 serial T.3-54 which we later understood undertook a trans-Atlantic flight back to the USA.
There had been a summertime lull in spotting mainly because of annual leave commitments preventing either me or MAF getting time off to coincide with each other, however all was not lost. I think on this date (30th) I did a solo trip all the way to RNAS Culdrose which is on the Lizard Peninsular, in the County of Cornwall.
Their air show was one of the best of 1986 that I had been able to get to; at the time it was the largest helicopter orientated base in Europe. Reading through my log for the day I think that every rotary and fixed winged based asset was on show one way or the other; Way too many to list. Suffice to say the German Navy sent a Tornado from MFG 1, a Lynx Mk.88 from MFG.3, and a Dornier Do.28 from MFG 5. The French Navy sent an AMD Atlantique NG and a Breguet 1050 Alize, the Belgian Zee Macht (Navy) sent an Alouette 3, the Italians sent four (4) civilian registered SF.260s and the USAF sent two A-10A Thunderbolt II’s.
After another night stop in Helston, Cornwall I started to make my way home, calling on the way at RAF St Mawgan, Cornwall where I saw five Nimrod MR.1(P) and a preserved AVRO Shackleton.
Moving on from there my next stop was RAF Chivenor, Devon. This was home to three Squadrons of Hawk T.1 aircraft, they being 19(R), 63 & 151 Squadrons. My log showing that I saw thirty one of this type. It also showed that there was two visitors, one EF-111A serial No. 66-0033 coded UH of 66th ECW in a light grey colour scheme and close by was serial No. 68-0033 coded UH of the 20th TFW wearing a lizard scheme with a Tiger colours on its fin tip.
My last port of call that day was back at RNAS Yeovilton where I saw a few Westland Wessex that I hadn’t seen previously.
If I remember correctly I spent the night in a Travelodge very close by in Ilchester, Somerset.
The 1st; It was a quick stop back at RNAS Yeovilton before heading up the A303 towards RAF Boscombe Down. This has always been and continues to be a very difficult place to ‘spot’ from and today was no exception. However I did manage to see an RAF Lockheed TriStar, an RAE BAe Hawk and a Netherland AF F-27 Fokker Friendship. I’m presuming that from there I drove straight home as there are no further entries in my logbook for that day.
Seven days later (8th) was another story; together with my friend MAF and our overnight bags we loaded up my car and head off up to RAF Waddington (Waddo) where we arrived at 05:40! After a quick drive around the base we found a parking space in the WAVE* car park and settled down for a day’s spotting! [* Waddington Aircraft Viewing Enclosure] Today was an Exercise day when aircraft from around Europe and the USA came to the U.K to use the ‘Electronic’ Ranges located over the North Sea.
The Royal Air Force sent a mixture of Tornado GR.1, Phantom FGR.2 and a couple of Tornado F.2s.
The USAF sent, F-15C’s from the First Fighter (FF) Langley AFB, VA, F-16s from Nellis AFB (NA), NV, and a few F-16A’s from Torrejon AB (TJ) in Spain, and a couple more F-15C’s from Bitburg AB (BT) in Germany.
The Canadians sent four F/A-18s [CF-188s] of 439 Sqn from their base at Baden Solingen, Germany.
The Belgian AF contributed four of their Mirage fleet, the Danish sent four SAAB Drakens, NATO sent an E-3A AWACS and the Royal Netherlands AF sent four of F-16A’s and four F-5s and lastly the French sent a mix of SEPECAT Jaguar A & E’s, all in all it was a really good day.
MAF and I had to leave mid-afternoon; I then drove to London-Gatwick airport, our day out was far from over!
I parked up in the car park attached to the terminal building (Southern Terminal today) and went to the Check-in desks. We checked in with DAN-AIR for our upcoming flight to Frankfurt, Germany. We then made our way through security to the departure lounges and found the relevant gate for our flight DA 4890. Just before 20:00 we were called aboard the Boeing 727-100 registration G-BAEF, found our assigned seats and settled in for the flight. Take off was at 20:30 from runway 26 turning left after departure I would presume back toward the Dover (DVR) VOR to our destination arriving 1 hour 5 minutes later at 22:35 local time, a flight time of just 1 Hr. 5 minutes.
We were bundled onto an awaiting coach and off we went to the hotel for the night, quite where it was I have absolutely no idea. What I did know is that it had been a very long day!
Early next morning (9th) we were up early and MAF and I went back to the Terminal to see what we could. On display on the road into the Terminals was a Lockheed Constellation registration D-ALAP wearing Lufthansa colours and markings.
On the roof of the Terminal were three former WGAF exhibits in the guise of an Heinkel HE.111 (it was actually a Spanish built CASA HE.111 / 2-111E) serial BR-21-14, an Me-262 serial +5, a Stuka serial T6+KL and a Swiss AF dH Venom J-1635. There was also a FIAT G-91/R serial 32+43, an F-84 serial DJ134 (formerly USAF 51-0173) and finally a Sikorsky S-58 wearing a civilian registration D-HAUD I nearly forgot there was a Norwegian C-47/DC-3 Dakota wearing a civilian registration of LN-KLV of its former operator NorFly
The MAC (Military Aircraft Command) ramp at the Rheine Main section of Frankfurt airport was packed out with USAF C-5A Galaxy’s, C-130/MC-130 Hercules, C-141A Starlifters as well as a C-23A Sherpa and a T-39A Sabreliner. That to me was an excellent day out at a joint civil / Military airport.
The 10th; we boarded the coach and set off for today’s destination, Ramstein AB for the air show. It would take far too long to list all the participants but suffice to say they came from all over Europe, U.K. Austria, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, NATO, Netherlands, Spain and of course European assets of the United States Air Force [USAFE] and the US Army (USAR).
Another great day out and on the way back to the hotel we did a drive by of Manheim ARB where there were literally hundreds (or so it seemed) of brown painted UH-1 Huey, OH-58 and CH-47 helicopters and we also passed by Zweibruken AB only managing to see a lone C-130 Hercules and several F-4 Phantom II’s of the USAF/USAFE
That evening after dinner at the hotel I believe MAF and I spent several hours in the bar, because from what I remember the next day we didn’t wake up too early. After breakfast it was back to the roof gardens of Frankfurt’s Terminal Building and a look to see the new arrivals on the MAC ramp.
One of the visitors was a Kuwaiti AF DC-9 serial KAF 320; unfortunately for me I had seen it several times before. Other visitors included a few C-141 Starlifters, C-130 Hercules and an unusual visitor being a Hawker-Siddeley 125 serial number 238 of the Irish Air Corps.
The flight back to London-Gatwick from Frankfurt was on the same Boeing 727-100 registration G-BAEF of DAN-AIR that we had flown out on a few days ago. We departed Frankfurt at 19:30 BST / 20:30 local time arriving 1 hour 5 minutes later at 20:35 local/BST. That was it as far as spotting in August was concerned; I suppose I had to do some work occasionally!
The 4th was a solo trip in my old Ford Capri; first stop was RAF Northolt for a quick look over the fence and was rewarded seeing a C-9B BuNo 159117/JU (tail code) of the US Navy, an Aeritalia G-222TCM (twin propeller cargo transport type), A Beechcraft C-12 serial 22262 of 207 Aviation Company USAR, a French Navy Nord 262D serial 66 coded AB of ET.65 and a UC-12B BuNo 161322 coded 8D from the Naval Facility at RAF Mildenhall
Next stop was RAF Odiham where it was possible to read off about eight Boeing-Vertol Chinooks, a couple of RAF Pumas a WGAF C-160D Transall serial 50 73 of LTG-62 and a Canadian AF Dash 7, unfortunately I couldn’t see the serial of this and it still remains a mystery to me!
Further down the A303 I stopped at RAE Boscombe Down where I was rewarded in seeing four EF-111s from Mountain Home AFB Idaho, along with five F-111s from Cannon AFB, New Mexico. I also managed to see some of the based ETPS [Empire Test Pilots School] rotary and fixed wing assets
RNAS Yeovilton; was the next stop of the day and by the time I arrived most of the assets had been hangared all bar three Hawker Sea Harrier FRS.1s; time to head home non-stop!
Back on the road again saw me on the 10th head out on a solo trip to RAF Mildenhall where there was the usual assortment of KC & EC-135s as well as a C-5A Galaxy, a couple of C-141 Starlifters and a few C-130 Hercules. The biggest ‘spot’ of the day here was an F-4C of the 171 FIS Michigan Air National Guard serial 64-0707. A little while later I saw another of the same ANG unit over at RAF Lakenheath that was 63-7610 together with a retired F-4C serial 63-7471 formerly operated by the Louisiana ANG, the latter went on to be a BDRF airframe at RAF Lakenheath for many years. Present here at the time of my visit were eight of the based General Dynamics F-111F of the 493rd (yellow fin band) and 495th (green fin band) of the 48th TFW (Tactical Fighter Wing)
Nine days later I was back at RAF Northolt to see just one aircraft, which was a DeHavilland Canada DHC-5 Caribou of Abu Dhabi wearing its delivery registration of N84893 and its UAE serial of 303. Having been and seen I made my way down the A303 to my next destination.
RAF Odiham was that next stop where I was only able to see three Boeing-Vertol Chinooks and as it turned out I had seen them all previously. Undaunted I made my further down to the south west.
RNAS Lee-on-the-Solent was the next stop where I saw at least three Fairey Gannet AEW aircraft, four Aerospatiale Gazelles and a couple of Sea Hawks but there was no sign of what I’d set out to see the USS Nimitz CVN-68; very frustrating! To finish off on that side of Portsmouth harbour I set off for Tangmere in West Sussex to the museum located there.
Two ‘prizes’ here firstly a Lockheed T-33A serial ’51-9252’ a former Royal Danish AF Hawker Hunter T.51 (E-412) painted and marked up as XF314/F of 43 Squadron the Royal Air Force. From Tangmere it was route one for goal i.e. home as I was going out early the following day.
Up and out on the road early on the 20th my first stop was at RAF Wittering adjacent to the A1 which provided me with an RAF Hercules serial XV219 of the Lyneham Transport Wing, alas I had seen it many times previously.
Next stop up the A1 was RAF Cottesmore; my log book just has the entry ‘nowt’
Final stop on the way up was at RAF Finningley, this was today’s goal as it was an air show! I have a note in my logbook that the entry fee was £10.00 and that I was definitely on my own J
It was a very impressive line-up of aircraft and participant Countries, such as Belgium who sent a Mirage serial BR-10, France a MirageF.1 serial 208 coded 5-NO, The Netherlands, an NF-5A K-3011, Norway and F-5B serial 135 & an F-16B serial 692, Sweden a SAAB-105 serial 60099 and a SAAB J-37 Viggen serial 37330 and the USAF a KC-135 serial 56-3604 of the 117 ARS Kansas ANG, and USAF(E) were represented by the Northrop A-10A from the 81st TFW based at Woodbridge in Suffolk, and a F-16C (serial 84-1384 coded HR) from Hahn, Germany
It looks like every Squadron of the Royal Air Force sent a participant as there was everything there from the humble Chipmunk to the Mighty Nimrod. Rotary wing aircraft comprised the record making Westland Lynx registration G-LYNX, the Westland Wessex; Westland licence built Sea King, Westland Gazelle, Westland Sycamore and three Boeing-Vertol Chinooks. As a bonus for me there was an AVRO Shackleton WL756 a former Argentine UH-1 Huey now wearing a civilian registration G-HUEY as well as the Mighty Vulcan of the Vulcan Display Team.
I was able to meet with Flt. Lt. Andy as he was with one of two 32 Squadron BAe-125s (ZE396) on display there the other being XX507 where I met a Corporal WAF by the name of Gwenda Parry (RIP), the other 32 Sqn aircraft there was an Hawker Siddeley Andover serial XS597.
I’ve only just noticed in my logbook that a French Concorde was also present at the show its registration was F-BVFF, as to whether it flew or was on the static is still a mystery to me!
A full list of participants at this show can be found at www.scramble.nl under their Show Reports section.
To say I had a fantastic day out is probably an understatement, but it didn’t end on leaving RAF Finningley J
On my way back down to Essex I stopped off only at RAF Waddington where I saw two NATO E-3A’s serials LX-N90452 & 90447 a Buccaneer S.2B XV161 / AF of 12 Sqn. RAF and a Hawker Hunter XL573 / F also of 12 Sqn. RAF
I had to drive RAF Wittering on my way home but didn’t feel the need to stop as I’d had more than enough excitement for one day!
The 3rd found me back at the fence of RAF Northolt; todays sightings were two airframes I had seen many times before, a US Navy CT-39A Sabreliner BuNo 159363 coded 32 of VR-24 and VP-3A BuNo 150511 also from the US Navy.
Just four days later I was back at RAF Northolt at first over the fence and then a meet up with Flt. Lt. Andy. The over the fence gave me a C-21A 40082 of 58 MAS, a Fokker F-27 serial C-5 of the Royal Netherlands AF and 50+94 a C-160D Transall of LTG-63
Then came the highlight of my year; stepping aboard ZD620 for my penultimate flight in a BAe 125-600 of 32 Sqn. Royal Air Force, unbeknown to me before the flight it was to be the Station Commander under test! I was privileged to be able to sit in the back with Flt. Lt. Andy and drink coffee J
Take off was at 10:00 local time and if my memory serves me we made a right hand turn off runway 24 towards the Clacton VOR then a left turn up towards Denmark and then left again towards Newcastle where we did a couple of missed approaches before landing for refreshments. The catering was courtesy of British Airways and was served on Concorde crockery; after lunch it was time for the Station Commander to resume his ‘test’ and return us to RAF Northolt while I sat in the cabin area no doubt drinking coffee! We landed back at RAF Northolt at 13:30 local time.
At 15:00 I was strapped into the back seat of a Westland Gazelle HCC.4 serial XW855 Flt Lt. Andy occupied the front seat and the pilot for that trip was Squadron Leader Sanjay. Being a single engined helicopter we had to fly over the River Thames in one of the dedicated Heli-Routes to reach our objective which was the Thames Barrier at Greenwich. We orbited a couple of times before returning to RAF Northolt landing on at 15:30. That was to be my last flight in an RAF helicopter for the time being albeit I didn’t know that then.
Two days later I was once again on the road again, first stop was RAF Wyton where I ‘netted’ four Electronic Counter Measures aircraft. Three were the Piaggio PD.808 ECM aircraft of 71 Stormo of the Italian Air Force and the other a German ECM HansaJet from JbG-32 of the Luftwaffe.
Cutting across to the A1 my first stop was at RAF Wittering where I saw Hawker Harriers of both 233 OCU and No. 1 Sqn. RAF; this was a 07:35!
Next stop also off the A1 was RAF Cottesmore where of the twenty fire Panavia Tornados I saw I only ‘made’ three, still that bought the numbers need down.
Further up the A1 then across to the A17 to RAF Cranwell where there were a number of (Hunting) Jet Provosts with the RAFC. Here again of those seen I only ‘needed’ three. Moving swiftly on from there I arrived at RAF Waddington, here there were four Royal Netherlands AF NF-5A’s of 314 Sqn. KLu and all of which I’d seen previously. Also seen were a BAe/Hawker Siddeley Nimrod AEW.3 and a NATO E-3A AWACS.
Next stop was RAF Scampton; here I could only see five of the based Jet Provosts of the Central Flying School / CFS
Forging ahead my next base was RAF Coningsby; here there was a very pleasant mixture of McDD Phantom FGR.2s and the fairly new Tornado F.2s and some slightly older Tornado GR.1s as well as a few of the recently upgraded BAe Hawk T.1A’s of 1 TWU
I was back at Waddington by lunchtime and I was pleasantly surprised to see eleven Dornier AlphaJets of JbG-34 Luftwaffe along with a KLu F-16A and Fokker Fk-27 Friendship. Of the eleven AlphaJets I ‘made’ all bar too; by ‘made’ it meant I hadn’t seen it/them previously, which as a ‘spotter’ is always good news.
According to my log book after lunch I went back to RAF Coningsby to ‘net’ more Tornado GR.1 and Tornado F.3’s as well as two elderly McDD Phantom FGR.2’s of 228 OCU based there.
From there I headed across country to RAF Marham in Norfolk in search of yet more Tornados and again I was lucky to see some of both 27 Sqn. and 617 [The Dambusters] Sqn.
From RAF Marham it was in relative terms only a short drive to RAF Honington, so it would have been rude not to call by on my way home. I saw only five of the resident Tornado GR.1s and it transpired that I had seen them all previously.
I finished off my day out by calling at RAF Mildenhall on my way home and as usual there was a good mix of KC and EC-135s as well as the usual C-5A Galaxy’s, C-141A Starlifters and C-130 Hercules with a bonus that day of two USAF E-3B AWACS from the 552nd AW/CD.
From Mildenhall to my home in Essex would take approximately and hour, so you can imagine that by the time I got home and into bed I was pretty tired and knowing my planning I was probably working the following day (laughs out loud).
I didn’t do any further spotting until the end of November.
On the 28th I made my way to RAF Northolt; a quick look over the fence gave me three aircraft, a Royal Navy Lynx XZ729 coded PB/471 of 815 NAS, an Italian AF G.222 serial MM62137 coded 46.95 and a Norwegian AF C-130 Hercules serial 953, none of which I’d seen previously.
Later that day I was once again welcomed onto RAF Northolt, today was going to be very special. Just before 15:00 local together with Flt. Lt Andy we walked out to the apron to an awaiting BAe.125-700 serial ZE396, again I was privileged to be flying courtesy of 32 Sqn. Royal Air Force. I strapped in to the seat in the cabin and readied myself for take-off, taxiing as we did towards runway 24 (240 degrees magnetic). The pilot on this occasion was Sqn. Ldr. G. Rippon.
The engines were wound up to maximum, the brakes released we powered down the very short runway at Northolt, lifting off at 15:10 local time, climbed to 6,000 feet a.g.l and turned towards the Clacton [CLN] VOR. We then continued the climb to about 10,000 feet a.g.l and commenced a right turn back onto 240 degrees and began the descent towards runway 24 at Northolt landing back on at 15:40 local time.
That flight bought to an end my flying with the Royal Air Force. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I was over the years to have been able to fly with 32 Sqn. in both their fixed and rotary winged assets. My grateful thanks go the Station Commander, Wing Commander Martin Gardner and of course to Flt. Lt. Andy Walton for all the opportunities that were offered to me between 1983 and 1986.
 Royal Air Force College
 Koninklijke Luchtmacht – Royal Netherlands AF
 Tactical Weapons Unit
 Operational Conversion Unit