2020 – The year of disappointment

2020 – The year of disappointment

The year got off to its usual slow start as usual with the hobby (or as my wife calls it obsession) not a lot happens in the first month. This year was certainly no exception seeing nothing going overhead where I live and to / from either of the local regional airports. By nothing I’m referring to aircraft of the Military genre albeit there were plenty of the civilian airliners going to and from both London-Luton and London-Stansted.

February was a little different and it was on the 5th that the house was effectively buzzed by an RAF Chinook HC.6 as it flew low level down towards London, that was ZH894 with a callsign of SHF390.

The following day seen on one of the airways was a German Air Force (GAF) ACJ-319 serial 1502 callsign GAF880 travelling due west. 

Eleven days later on Sunday 16th I was at London-Stansted ready for my flight to Sevilla, España where once again I would be visiting Airbus Defence and Space (AD&S) at their San Pablo Sur facility. This was going to be a very short visit, out on the lunchtime Ryanair flight direct to Sevilla (SVQ) and overnight in the usual hotel. Monday morning to AD&S for the now familiar ninety minute tour of the Final Assembly Lines (FAL) then after that a few minutes at the end of the runway (27) and back to the airport and await the flight back to Stansted. Mission accomplished; just a few days later I realised just how fortunate I had been to get the visit.

On the 25th I went out for what I didn’t realise would be the last trip for sometime if at all this year. It was an early start from home (05:20) first by train to Stevenage where I changed trains and went up to Newark North Gate on one of the LNER Azuma trains, the entire journey taking just over 80 minutes. 

At Newark I met up with my good friend Graham, he then drove us up to RAF Leeming our destination for the day. It took us about 90 minutes to do the drive and we went straight to the specialy designated enclosure / car park for Aviation Enthusiasts. We had just missed the early departures of at least three EuroFighter Typhoons and a couple of the based 100 Squadron BAe Hawks. After a couple of hours the Typhoons and the Hawks recovered, as it was now close to lunch-time we decided to head to the Services.

After lunch it was time of course for the afternoon launch, the Hawks departing first closely followed by the Typhoons. As time was an important factor on this day we made tracks back to Newark North Gate and I finally made my way home. 

As I said earlier in this narrative little did I/we know this would be the last trip out for the foreseeable future; the Corona Virus / CoVid-19 was declared a pandemic and slowly but surely the whole world entered a lock-down situation to try and stem the spread of this virus. 

So it was from the middle of March until nearly the end of July that I and many other “spotters / entusiasts” had to be content with watching what few Military and Civil aircraft there were flying across our skies.

Wednesday July 22nd together with my good friend Graham I once again set off by train, this time to Grantham to meet up with him for a few hours of plane spotting. Our first stop was RAF Cranwell, from there off to RAF Waddington, from there we made our way to Wickenby where Graham was in search of the Hawker Hunter FGA.9 XE624. I had seen this many years before and it was really looked in a very bad state of repair. Access to the Vintage Skunk Works was denied to us so we set off for RAF Coningsby. All the time we were in Graham’s car we both wore PPE masks.

We spent a few hours at RAF Coningsby, both seeing some BAeS Typhoons that we hadn’t previously noted. From there it was back to RAF Cranwell before Graham returned me to Grantham railway station where I had enough time for a coffee and a sandwich before boarding the LNER Azuma train for the return journey to home via Stevenage.

On August 1st I made my way into Kent and took the opportunity to visit the Manston Aviation Museum on what was part of the former RAF Manston, unfortunately the Museum itself was closed but there were a few exhibits ondisplay outside the main hangars.

Seventeen days later (18/08) Graham collected me from my home and we went off RAF Mildenhall to see the new KC-46A tanker aircraft of the 22nd ARW that had landed there on the Sunday. We did venture out to RAF Marham, but it looked very closed! During the hour we were there we saw only a Typhoon and Phenom doing a missed approach! From there we made our way back towards RAF Lakenheath where only four F-15C Eagles and a lone F-15E Strike Eagle took to the air. It was back to RAF Mildenhall to finish off the day and then back home for us both.

A week later Graham collected me once again and we made a bee line for RAF Marham to try and see the USMC F-35Bs of VMFA-211 that were going to be operating together with the Royal Air Force and the eventually partaking in sea trails and an exercise with the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier Queen Eizabeth II which was somewhere on the North Sea.

Another week passed and we went off out to RAF Lakenheath for the day in search of Aviano F-16 Fighting Falcons (Vipers), we saw all but two of he aircraft that were detached so came away quite happy.

Yet another week later, it was a very early doors departure for Graham and we set off for RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, our aim to see the two U-2 Dragon Lady’s and the six B-52H Stratofortresses (BUFF’s) of the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot AFB, North Dakota (ND).

We achieved our goal so we set off for RAF Brize Norton where again we achieved our goal of seeing the aircraft we wanted and in addition I saw and photographed my last Shadow R.1 ZZ504.

Three weeks later I was back on the train and heading for Newark Northgate station, the goal this time was the South Yorkshire Aviaition Museum in Doncaster South Yorkshire. It had been many a long year since my last visit to SYAM and it was a very interesting visit. We were fortunate that the Curator of the Museum and his Daughter assisted us seeing the entire collection including those that were behind locked doors. All in all it was an excellent day out for us both, that was my last day out with Graham for this year but we didn’t know it at the time!

On October 20th thanks to some information received my friend Andrew (Andy) picked me up from home and took me to Little Gransden airfield just a few miles away from my home. Our “mission” was to see two former Israeli Air Force Beech A.36 Khofit (Bonanza) aircraft that were stored there. It was mission accomplished and we saw several other Wrecks & Relics that we hadn’t anticipated seeing so all in all it was a good couple of hours out.

The rest as the saying goes is history and we have to content ourselves with seeing Military aircraft using the airways to transit through U.K. airspace to thier final destinations. That is of course when the weather conditions allow, today as I type this it is certainly not one of those good VMC days, in fact it is a very nasty IMC day…………

For me it is obviously disappointing as it is for many aviation enthusiasts around the globe, however it now gives me an opportunity to catch up with my blogs and my autobiography here on this site.

Stay safe everyone and I’ll see you soon (hopefully)