It’s Not All Work…

I came to Moscow to do some research for my Masters, but let’s face it, going to Aria’s 30th Anniversary concert was never purely research.  Also, the chance to do bits of Moscow I always wanted to see, and in winter too.  Coming on my own meant I was free to do what I wanted so I visited the Cosmonauts Museum (at least partly to contrast it with the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum London) and the Central Museum of the VVS (the Russian equivalent of IWM Duxford).  I didn’t take any pictures in the Cosmonauts Museum: it would have cost me 230rub to do so, and when I knew I was going to buy the 400rub guidebook it didn’t seem worth it!  I probably couldn’t do most of it justice.  I’ll do a post about it later though, along with the other bits of Moscow I did and didn’t see.

This post is about the Air Museum, located about an hour-and-a-half’s train ride outside the city at a little place called Monino.  Monino used to be a base until the late 50s when the museum opened: I think it was replaced by the base now at Chkalovskiy, which is a base for some very large and loud aircraft (I can see/hear why they’re banned from most European airports, like the VC10 was!).  It’s not easy to get to, it’s a long walk up what yesterday were icy roads, but it is signposted in strategic places, and as long as you can read Russian (even if you don’t know what the words mean) it’s pretty straightforward.

I’m still not entirely sure what the opening times are: the two websites (one for the equivalent of the IWM ‘general’ site, one for the VVS part) had different times, so did the signs up around the museum.  It’s safe to say if you aim to arrive about 10am, you should be OK.  The lady on the desk was curt (normal for Russia) but the other ladies (it’s usually always ladies) were very accommodating: the lady in the first room responded to my question in English and the lady in the shop was very chatty (in Russian, but she was patient and friendly, like you’d expect in England, an not common but certainly not unheard of in Russia).  She was lamenting the lack of public transport to the museum and the lack of street lighting on the roads.  She also told me that on festival days there are cockpits open, so something to bear in mind when I come back.  The museum itself is laid out in a room, two hangers and the field.  There was a lot of walking outside in the snow!


As this MiG-29 shows, there’d been quite some snow…!

Inside the first room was the history of flying in Russia, which was very interesting and I think fairly understandable even for those without Russian.  It was the only room with very little English.  It contained engines, models and uniforms, as well as a Polikarpov and something called a Letalin: the first (working) human-powered flying machine in Russia.


Models and motors




Letalin ornithopter


Some weird Edwardian-ish thing…

The first hanger contained the WW2 (Great Patriotic War) aircraft of Russia: they range from sleek inline and radial ‘tactical fighters’ through armoured inline ‘strike’ (ground attack) aircraft (Il-2 Sturmovik) to radial beasts designed for reconnaissance and light night-time bombing.  The night-bombers represented in the museum were from a female squadron, which was very interesting.  Two of the aircraft in the room were classified monuments: others had been produced in their factories years after original production stopped (the joys of the Soviet system), others restored from parts of a crashed aircraft.


Il-2 Sturmovik


Po-2 night-bomber with female pilots exhibition


“Death to the German Occupiers!” MiG-3


National monument La-7



The final hanger, an ancient construction of steel with wooden slatted walls (through which birds entered) contained some of the ‘unique’ exhibits: Il’ya Muromets, a massive four-engined bomber from WW1; the ANT-25 long-range record-breaker; a number of small, experimental aircraft and ‘firsts’.




One of many Buran test models


Russian ‘flying bedstead’


No idea beyond the obvious




Il’ia Muromets


Volga capsule for a balloon (note bird poo!)

And, finally, there was the massive expanse of outside.  And, man, was some of it massive!


Apparently the largest helicopter in the world, Mi-12


“Concordski”, aka Tu-144


Tu-22M (not merely a development of the Tu-22, below)


Il-76, maybe, having just taken off from Chkalovskiy


Tu-22M backside


MiG-25 backside: the size is almost Viggen-like!


Miasishchev M-17 high-altitude experiment






A Bear’s backside (Tu-95)


Back of the T-4/Su-100


Front of the T-4/Su-100


The very shiny T-4/Su-100


Miasishchev 3M, the first intercontinental Soviet nuclear bomber, according to the info-board. Like the V-force, saw some modification and long service

And not just massive: some of it was purely mental:


Beriev Be-12 boatplane (next to a MiG-31?): crazy-looking


Remains of an Airacobra; for restoration!


Be-12 again


M-141 UAV


EPOS spaceplane


MiG testbed “Ye-166” (actually Ye-152M)


Yak-36 technology demonstrator (Russian P.1107)


Yes, that is a helicopter-crane…! Mi-10


After some research, I believe this is a PZL M-15 Belphegor. It’s hidden round the side of one of the hangars but is pretty mental: biplane, twin-boom tail, jet engine…!


Unknown and semi-hidden, but someone does have a sense of humour!


M-50: what makes someone think that putting the engines at the end of the wings is a good idea?!


And also pretty massive…

But that leaves so much else: all the ‘apparently normal’ stuff.  But nothing’s REALLY normal when it comes to Russian aircraft…


Tu-16 (with my Vulcan to the Sky bug)


Su-10 (Su-27 prototype)


Su-27 probably








A DC-3! Actually a licence-built version, the Lisunov Li-2.  There was also a B-25 but I appear to have forgotten to include that photo here…


Bear!  An older Tu-95 (see the tail shot above)


Su-25: that’s a lot of rocket pods…








Tu-114: note the ludicrously high nose


MiG-31 under Be-12’s wing


A newer Tu-95




A cute little helicopter with water-booms (unlabelled, possible Mi-2)


One of two Mi-6s: this one is the battlefield HQ one (the other is a troop transport etc.)


Cute little Mi-2


Mi-4(?) firefighter




L-29 Dolphin or similar (unlabelled)




MiG-15 side view








Yak-38 V/STOL (Russian Jump Jet, but less capable than the Harrier)


Yak-38 again


Yak-25: I found this aircraft very striking


Yak-27: somewhat arty shot of the sun through the nose


Section of an Il-76


Yak-17: supercute little jet fighter




Fantastic icicles on this Mi-8’s rotors


A dinky little Yak (-130?) next to the massive T-4


Tu-128 prototype




Tu-22M, looks much smaller here





Watch this space for further Moscow-related news.  But next time, not actually from Moscow…


A Personal Farewell Tour, Part Five: Farewell, My Friend.

I watched the PlanesTV recording of the live-broadcast from Avro Vulcan B2 XH558’s final flight: the final flight of any Vulcan, anywhere.  Of any V-bomber, anywhere.  Of any four-jet-engined aircraft of all-British design, anywhere.

Firstly, thanks to PlanesTV for allowing a 24hr window of free viewing: this is very much appreciated by those of us in seminars yesterday afternoon at 14:30!

Sean Maffett commentated.  I love listening to the emotion in Sean Maffett’s voice: it was even more evident yesterday.  He is the perfect commentator: he knows when to be quiet (throughout that particular flight), and when he talks it’s all relevant, informative and delivered in a clear but not emotionless voice.  And 99 Vulcan commentaries later, he was still clear, if slightly broken in places.  Thankyou Sean: you made Vulcan an emotive subject for much more than anyone else ever did.

Watching the video, I was struck by Taff Stone’s face as he removes the cables for starting her for the last (flying) time.  The guy behind Sean Maffett was wiping his eyes: Sean did too, later on, as did someone else just before a TV crew interviewed him.

Sadly, Robert Pleming (Trust Chief Executive) had to be admitted for surgery: he’s had his fair share of ups and down with both his health and Vulcan, and it was a cruel twist of fate that meant he could not see her fly for one last time.  I’m sure we all remember him appearing in front of TV cameras with his neck brace for what seems now like years!  Such a committed individual.

With the flight itself, connection problems meant the landing could not be broadcast live (classic!), but some speedy re-editing meant people didn’t have to wait long.  Vulcan was cleared by airport control to take off, climb to 5,000ft and descend for landing: a fitting height to be far enough to touch the heavens, but not too far to lose her adoring fans.

Flight crew were Martin Withers (how could it not be?!), Bill Ramsey, Phil Davies and Johnathan Lazzari.  As she powered up for takeoff, the sun came out and shone off the QRA hanger at former RAF Finningley, now Robin Hood Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, a fitting weather change for this autumnal flight.

The take-off was rather sedate, followed by a powerful climb into the classic wingover.  She disappeared into the clouds a few times and made her own, as Sean said, vortices and diffuse water droplets streaming from the wings at various points.  As ever, she was Queen of the Skies, defying the weather by taking control.

The tower cleared her for a run in and break, a fitting farewell to her flying home for the past few years, and a fitting thankyou for the ongoing support.

And then it was over.  She had only a few flying hours left on this year’s certificates and she used them wisely.  The parachute deployed like a lost ‘kerchief in the wind.  She whined her way around the airfield and back home, through a water cannon salute which Sean said was probably symbolic of the many tears shed.

Without the classic commentary ending “Bye-bye” from Sean, I don’t think I would have welled-up.  Though the water salute, and Sean’s words about it, started it.

But I didn’t cry: it’s not really over.  £23m over 346hrs during 228 flights has got her this far, and that’s better than all but two other Vulcans in the world.  Her 18 wheels may leave the ground again (for checks!), her parachute will probably stream forth again, because she will not sleep.  She might be the grand old lady now late of the skies (paraphrasing Sean), but she will likely be lost in the clouds again, when she fast-taxies on a wet day!

And with it not being over, I would to mention the hard work of other Vulcan preservers: my ‘home’ Vulcan, XL426 at Southend, has been under restoration to keep her in fast-taxi condition for as long as possible, but she has not yet returned to fast-taxi condition.  I saw her last fast-taxi, and have visited her once since, and she will forever hold that special place in my heart as the ‘first’ Vulcan I knew and loved, the one who got me into Cold War Jets, the one who inspired me to follow XH558 back to flight.  When I saw her howl down the runway the first time, I knew she was special.

XM655 at Wellesbourne is under threat from housing development: she would be incredibly hard to move anywhere, not just the transport costs themselves but the costs involved in painstakingly taking her to pieces for road transport.  She is unique, powered by more-powerful engines than the other two powered Vulcans.  I hope that, should the airfield close, the public would come together in much the same way they always have for XH558 to help her find a new home.

A number of other Vulcans preserved around the country and in North America are ‘live’ in their own way: I would like to mention here XM594 at Newark, electrically-live and so sleeping, but dreaming.  She is a beautiful Vulcan inside too: never have I seen such a complete cockpit so lovingly maintained.

So, when you are thinking of where your pennies can go (now XH558’s running costs are somewhat reduced), you can support your local Vulcan.  Or any number of other worthy aero-engineering causes, including Coventry’s Shackleton and the People’s Mosquito.  There are many deserving causes we can turn to now Our Lady doesn’t need us quite as much.

I would like to end by saying I was there for XH558’s first public flight at Waddington in 2008, and her last, latterly at Newark, in 2015; even my other half managed the first and the second-last (true love, eh?!). It was a shame we couldn’t all have seen the very last flight, but hopefully we are all aware of the (very important) reasons why, and I for one was glad of the TV coverage (even if I didn’t see it) last night.

I will miss the Smoky Moth, like I miss the RAF Harrier: now the only flyer I’ll see at airshows from my four favourite aircraft will be the Hurricane, at least until that Mosquito gets going…!

Farewell, My Friend: I hope to visit you one day soon.

A Personal Farewell Tour, Part Four: Three Counties

This may well be the last of the Farewell Tour instalments: it is the last so-far advertised flight and I tend to not be able to suddenly up and go: most of the routes tend to be an hour’s drive or more from Nottingham which also curtails events.  That Farewell Tour weekend, though, those of us in Nottingham were lucky enough to be able to see XH558 on both days, with a little planning.

Saturday I decided I would go to Derby: I reckoned it would be easy enough to get to Rolls-Royce and, with the exceptional Red Arrow bus service from Trent Barton, I wouldn’t need to drive.  Matt even came with me.  We went into Nottingham to do some bits, got some fancy burgers from the food market then got the bus to Derby.

The weather wasn’t amazing: cloudy, cool, a stiff breeze occasionally, but the cloud was high and it was dry.  We eventually found our way to the business park Rolls-Royce occupies (despite Derby’s best attempts to confuse us with signs), passing the usual people sat on vans, standing with cameras, parked on roadsides.  We walked all the way to Rolls-Royce but it wasn’t a good viewpoint so we walked back to outside the Volkswagen garage and waited.  I said to Matt “I don’t need to tell you to look for a big smoky trail by now, do I.”

“You mean like that one?”

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

Overhead Derby Pride Park

We have the best comedy timing…!

It was short, but low, slow and fairly noisy.  We discovered later she’d missed East Midlands Airport but she’d still come in at the right time and the right direction.

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

Overhead Derby Pride Park (Rolls Royce)

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

Leaving Derby, smoke trails spirally dissipating in the wind…

Sunday I decided to try Waddington (The Sentry Post Cafe/WAVE) and Newark Air Museum.  Newark had put out loads of publicity out to expect loads of traffic, as there was an Autojumble at the adjacent Showground, and that they’d had no official contact from the Vulcan people so weren’t able to open the Southfield site for parking.

I left later than intended: I was waiting for route time updates to text my Mum the time for North Weald in case they wanted to go.  I got into the wrong lane in Lincoln so tried to go through the Hykehams but got horribly lost.  I missed XH558 at Waddington, but I also knew from Twitter contact that it was ‘stupidly busy’ (thanks, Avro Vulcan XM575!).  I saw her on her way south, thankfully there was no traffic around me and a good pull-up place immediately obvious, so I pulled up and captured this awful shot:

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

She’s in the centre, just above the hedge…

Thankfully, the memory of her flying in the beautiful Lincolnshire sunshine as seen through the windscreen of my car is much clearer!

I got to the mostly-empty WAVE in time to queue for the loo (which is one reason why I didn’t head back to Newark straight away) and get some food (the second reason: support your local aircraft viewing area, especially when there aren’t any aircraft to view because the runway’s being resurfaced!).  I chatted to some people.  The sun was in an awful position for pictures of XM607, so I didn’t bother trying.  I then took a stunning drive across country to Newark Air Museum, after posting on Twitter saying I was going there or Collingham: on the way (oh, the joys of a smartwatch!) I got a reply saying Newark Air Museum recommended itself!  That to me meant they had space to park.

When I arrived at the Air Museum, from the east on Drove Lane, they were directing us on to part of the Showground.  I spoke to a gentleman I thought I recognised (turns out it was Nigel Bean, NAM groundsman and Tweeter) who said many more volunteers had been able to turn up than expected and the Showground had kindly opened this little part of their site for them to use.

Red wheelbarrows in front of Vulcan XM593

Lovely Reds display, plus ‘photoship’ (black)

I walked the long walk (it wasn’t that far: you could walk further at Duxford!) and paid my entry fee, unlike many others who just sat in their cars!  I also gave my change to the pot as Gift Aid was off (to avoid even worse queues).  I had just over an hour to wander about before the Vulcan was due, and as I’ve been twice I know what I’m looking at these days.

Fairey Gannet AEW

Nice to see the Gannet outside

V-Force Memorial Wall, Newark Air Museum

The sun shining through the hangar meant I could get a decent shot of the V-Bomber Force Memorial Wall

Gloster Javelin

The sun also made photographing the Javelin possible

Handley-Page Victor cockpit

Nice to see the Victor cockpit looking resplendent in the sunshine.

Handley-Page Hastings

The Hastings was used as a Vulcan trainer

It was warm: I was wearing leggings under my grey shorts (some of you may now realise who I was) and was proudly showing off my ‘Farewell My Friend’ tshirt (though mine is a kids’ one so cheaper!).  It was a beautiful day.  I grabbed a hot chocolate and a slice of cake from the cafe (dropping £1 of my change into the Project Panini box) and then the tannoy announced Vulcan was running 15mins ahead of schedule.  Cue mass movement across the site!  I set myself up ‘leewards’ of XM594 and waited.  A paraglider and some buzzards made useful targeting opportunities until She arrived.

Crowds around Avro Vulcan XM594 at Newark Air Museum

The ‘Vulcan Effect’ in full force at Newark! And they’ve already got one!

Sun-dog next to Avro Vulcan XM594

There was a pretty sun-dog while I was waiting, though it hasn’t come out too well.

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558


XH558 with XM593

My proximity to XM594 made for some great dual-Vulcan shots

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

The weather was glorious.

XH558 with Blackburn Buccaneer

I was very pleasantly surprised by the circuits

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

Wherever she was flying over, I bet they got a good view!

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

Even out of the sun, she shone.

XH558 with Avro Shackleton and Handley-Page Hastings at Newark Air Museum

Turning over the other big exhibits, including her Shackleton sister.

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

Ever impressive.

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

Straight over the top!

XH558 with XM594

I hope I got some unique pictures, other than what those the other side of XM594 got.

And did she: the massed crowds pointing heralded her arrival as the Smoky Moth glided across the Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire countryside and overhead of sunny Winthorpe.  A sudden accelerating roar as she passed ‘594 sped her into a circuit, and she circled the airfield three times before meeting with a photoship for some evening sunshine shots over north-ish Nottinghamshire.

XH558 joining with photoship

You can see her centre-right (follow the smoke trail) and the photoship just right of XM594’s tail in the darker strip of cloud.

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

Heading off for her date

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

I spent a few minutes in Hangar One, and she was still mooching around the countryside when I came back out

I didn’t cry: I did have a lump in my throat as she came into view, but until Friday 30th October it’s all still yet to come…

Sun halo at Newark Air Museum

A sun halo greeted our exodus 🙂

A Personal Farewell Tour, Part Three: Old Friends (incorporating Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets Open Day)

It had been years since I went to Clacton Air Show.  I must have still been in school, so we’re looking at 15+ years.  It was the last of my planned Vulcan Farewell tour, but I expect it will not be the last of this Farewell Tour post series.

Thames Barge

The Thames Barges ply a roaring trade in planespotters during the show.

My parents live in Essex so it was easy to get to, within reason, although my Dad decided to drive which meant we were stuck in traffic for a while.  I imagine the trains back would have been very packed too though.  Mum and I were dropped at the Martello Tower and Dad went to leave the car at his friends’.  I managed to drag Mum away from the candyfloss and down to the PA Tower where we found a patch for her wheelchair (which she was walking with at the time, not in) and our chairs.

Bulldog and Tutor

The Bulldog and Tutor put on a couple of tight flypasts before splitting into their solo displays.

The day was cloudy, but it didn’t actually rain while the show was on and the sun arrived just in time for the Vulcan’s appearance.  It was seriously windy though, and how I didn’t get windburn I’ll never know!  It was a joy to see some aircraft I’ve not seen in a long time, as well as some new and exciting displays.

Tigers Parachute Display Team

Tigers Parachute Display Team with some fancy action: did really well in the wind!

Top of the new and exciting are two items I can’t choose between: La Patrouille Reva and the Autogyro.  I didn’t know that the lifting rotor on an autogyro is not driven by the engine, but by the forward motion of the craft.  Knowing that made the display all the more spectacular.

Calidus Autogyro

An autogyro is always great to see: this one was spectacular!

Calidus Autogyro

Some of the moves were breathtaking!

La Patrouille Reva fly spaceships.  They’re actually two AcroEzes and a Long-EZ but could pass for spaceships in a fairly decent sci-fi film.  They put on a stunning display of climbs, fast passes and tight aerobatics.

La Patrouille Reva


Sean Maffett, ‘The Voice of the Vulcan’, was there too: he regaled us with the story of one of his relatives, uncle I think, who was among those being commemorated just down the coast on the day at Walton-on-the-Naze.  I’ve noticed he always refers to XH558 as ‘Vulcan’, not ‘the Vulcan’.  He’s also supremely good at silencing when the Vulcan makes a great noise.  Both the Spitfire and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight did a flypast at Walton, and XH558 did a pass there before she held at Frinton.

Spitfire and Hurricane

PA announcer said ‘prize for knowing which is which’: still haven’t got mine though I reckon I was the first!

Given the devastating Shoreham crash less than a week before, no-one knew what to expect with regard to restrictions.  Clacton were on the ball and cleared their event with the CAA as soon as they could on the Monday, and being an over-sea airshow was not subject to as strict restrictions.  I was impressed and pleased that the BBMF pair and Red Arrows were still allowed to enter from crowd rear.  The Vulcan, as we were reliably informed by the Vulcan team, is not considered an aerobatic classic jet so has not been affected much by the new regulations.

RAF Chinook

The Chinook display was unchanged since Yeovilton, but everything is different over water.

One of the groups heavily affected, I imagine, is the Norwegian Historic Display Team, who are holidaying at North Weald for the summer.  I missed the MiG-15 at Yeovilton because it had a fault but was pleased to see it in Clacton’s programme.  It put on a fair display of fast passes and tight turns, but with age to contend with (before we even get to the possibility of any restrictions), it wasn’t as high-powered as its stablemate Vampires at Yeovilton.  It was beautiful though.

Norwegian MiG-15

It was a graceful, somewhat muted display, but lovely.

Another beauty is Sally-B.  I don’t see enough of her because I don’t think she travels far.  She put on her usual sterling display in decent sunshine.  The Red Arrows also displayed in decent weather, managing to put on a full display despite the cloud (which didn’t look to have such a high base but evidently did).

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress 'Sally-B'

Sally-B streaming her memorial smoke

RAF Red Arrows

One joy of the seaside is capturing the long, lingering smoke trails of some of the more intricate Red Arrows manoeuvres

But what we all came to see was the Vulcan: she powered over from Frinton with her 1960s smoke trail receding into the wind.  I’d always planned to see her at the sea front once at least: it just so happened that this year, the National Trust are running the ‘Sounds of our Shores’ public engagement event, where people record seaside sounds and upload them.  So I recorded the Vulcan: she reminds me of airshows and airshows remind me of the seaside.  So now, she is preserved forever in the annals of the National Trust and British Library here.

Avro Vulcan B2 XH558


Avro Vulcan B2 XH558

I taught my other half to recognise 1960s jets by the smoke trails

After the airshow, we didn’t want to sit in traffic for three hours so we walked back to Jaywick to Dad’s friends, who I hadn’t seen since I was 5 or so.  We had some tea and cake and talked about, well, all sorts!  Then we made our way out of town and it was still pretty rammed.  We stopped off in Colchester for something to eat at a little local pub down an industrial estate road alongside the Colne.  The food was standard cook-from-frozen things but it was very tasty and certainly worth it: the peas were a nice texture too!

Team Raven

Team Raven were a man down.

Eurofighter Typhoon

The Typhoon was a lovely noisy end post-Vulcan.

I spent the next couple of days in Essex and travelled back to Nottingham in time for the Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets Open Day.  The weather was supposed to clear up through the afternoon but by midday the forecast had changed and it was set for the afternoon instead!  It was so wet I even missed the second Buccaneer display, on purpose.  I did get to see some of the new things though: the Tornado GR1, a Folland Gnat, a number of the ex-RAF fleet of Lockheed TriStars (in the dismantling area)…

Tornado GR1

I had a ‘what the hell is that?!’ moment with this: I should know it’s a Tornado but the missing rudder caught me off guard! Obviously it makes the fin look much smaller!

Comet airliner

The Comet was still off for works.

Avro Shackleton MR3

The weirdest Shackleton you’ll ever see.

First down was the VC-10.  I’d visited the inside of the VC-10 on my last visit in 2013 while it was still technically in RAF service (they put it back on the roster for a day so we could all get inside), but never been so close to one moving before, only seen them fly (very occasionally).  Turns out, I’ll be wearing ear defenders for that one next time!  They ain’t kidding when they say the noise restrictions hurt them.  It then whined (and wound) its way around the airfield for parking and visits, and greeting it off the taxiway was an interesting sight too.

Vickers VC-10

Oh my God the pain!

Vickers VC-10

Everyone cleared off at the right time, I assure you!

Vickers VC-10

::whines:: A lovely shot though.

VC-10 model

Didn’t expect to see a VC-10 flying!

After a couple of aircraft had done their thing, the heavens opened and it never really stopped.  Various of the #twitterVforce team described it as a washout but I, like some other hardy (tight) folk, stayed until the end, when the sky brightened and a BBMF Spitfire did a few lovely passes.  The aircraft are a great sight in the rain though: the Victor causing great sprays, the Lightning whipping up a storm behind it, the Hunter’s cartridge start smoke oozing into the puddles.  The rain also made the minute’s silence for the two airshow crashes this year all the more poignant, as did a lone skylark.

RAE Canberra

The Canberra wasn’t running on my last sortie: was an interesting sight (though I’ve seen many flying and running Canberras)

Vulcan model

Soon to be the largest flying Vulcan

Victor model

Never seen a Victor fly (apart from on TV during Gulf War reports) so this was a lovely experience.

Victor model

It’s got that spaceship look about it from every angle.

L-39 Delphin

The Delphin is resplendent in its Romanian colours.

Hawker Hunter

As you can see, it’s rather wet now. The smoke from the Hunter’s cartridge start never really went anywhere…

Hawker-Siddley Nimrod

The Nimrod was the last of the dry runners really

Hunting Jet Provost

Made for some nice reflective photography.

Handley-Page Victor

There was a brief moment of brightness for the Victor’s run.

Handley-Page Victor

Then it got very atmospheric again.

Handley-Page Victor


English Electric Lightning

Even more zooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom!

I spent the last part of the day in the relative warm of the late afternoon brightness (it wasn’t really sunshine) perusing the Lightning merchandise cabin before heading home.  But I did get some lovely pictures and not ruin my camera in the rain!

Supermarine Spitfire

Sun for the Spitfire.

English Electric Lightning

A sunny Lightning

A Personal Farewell Tour, Part Two: New Airshow, Old Favourites (incorporating Yeovilton Air Day review)

I had always wanted to go to Yeovilton: the thought of seeing a Sea Harrier out in the open again, some lovely helicopter displays and guaranteed Swordfish meant it was worth arranging when I found out Waddington would not be on this year.  I also knew the Vulcan would appear there if it could, so it was worth the trip!

And what a trip!  Five hours because of traffic, and my poor friend I went with had already has a three-hour journey to pick me up.  We did not want to hang in the traffic on the M5 so diverted ourselves through Bristol.  It was a much nicer drive, with some very pretty buildings, especially Temple Meads station!  Stunning!

As we drove into the car park of our hotel, the cars lined up out the front were proudly displaying Vulcan silhouette stickers and the like: we were certainly in  the right place!  it transpired that the Vulcan Support Team stayed there last year and liked it so much they decided to do so again.  That meant breakfast was scheduled early: super bonus!  We were shown to our ‘twin’ room: actually two separate rooms in a family suite (even more of a bonus!) and then had steak for dinner in the pub bit.

We were up early for our cooked breakfast (yum yum!) and left well on time after suncreaming up.  The drive was smooth until we were in sight of the field carpark: never have I been to an airshow so quiet that early!  We duly parked and sat in the pedestrian queue with our programme, perusing the displays and adverts and reviews.  The map didn’t mean much at this stage as I had no idea where we were.  After a short while, we were let into the staging point before finally being allowed in to the airfield itself.  We came in right at the exhibition hangers and allowed ourselves some time to look around, as it’s rare I manage these normally.  I bought a Lockheed Martin ‘Remove Before Flight’ tshirt.

I had a date with the #twitterVforce team, 10:30am outside the Vulcan Village, so we squeezed in a 10min look around the two A-10 Thunderbolt IIs where I also bought three patches (expensive American stuff!).

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II 'Warthog'

D’aww, I love a Warthog

Post-Twitter meetup, we ambled off to the crowd line for a good view, setting up shop just to the left of the grandstand.  First down was an orange and black SAR Sea King towing a White Ensign to open the show, followed swiftly by a Seafire.

This was followed by a show-star: a Pitts Special.  This particular example is a highly-modified one.  It put on a cracking display, completely over the top and beautifully mental.

Pitts Special stunt biplane

The Pitts Special was particularly spectacular this year

Other show standards included the Chinook, whose display was even more high-octane than before: it was the same 270° turns, high-speed passes and fancy moves, just with extra power and speed.  The Black Cats were also back but this time with the new Wildcat, showing it is as capable an airshow performer as the Lynx.

Chinook and waving person

Some dude always waves out the back of the Chinook with The Massive Red Hand

Another ‘stalwart’ of airshows for me is the Sea Vixen: I remember seeing it year in, year out at Southend in the early 2000s, in its stunning but divisive Red Bull colours.  Now back with the Fleet Air Arm (as part of Fly Navy Heritage trust, like the Swordfish), it is in authentic colours and cannot always put on the most spectacular display due to its age.  It was still a fantastic effort though.

DeHavilland Sea Vixen

Rather more sedate these days, in more ways than one!

New, for me, was the Swordfish.  For someone who’s been to many airshows (admittedly most of them Southend year on year, seafront and airport), I don’t recall ever seeing a Swordfish, and I certainly haven’t seen one in recent years (since 2000).  It was a joy to watch.

Fairey Swordfish

A lovely salute, doubly so!

New to the UK circuit in general was the AW609, a civilian tiltrotor.  It put on an energetic display and was rather ominous in its all-black scheme.  We certainly enjoyed it!

AW609 TiltRotor

An ominous sight!

Being a Naval show, there was a lot of rotary action: aside from their individual displays, 14 helicopters took part in a role demo at the end of the day.  There were lots of explosions, gunfire, people running around and general (organised) mayhem!  I tried to get pictures of the explosions (or at least their smoky aftermath) with some of the participants.

Westland Sea King

Codename: Jungly

I also learnt a new term: some helicopters are called ‘Junglies’.  I think this relates to the Sea Kings operated as troop carriers etc. in camo green, but it might also relate to Merlins operating in the same capacity.

The Apache Longbows were out in force too: two of them storming up the airfield, cannon sweeping from side to side…

Beoing AH-64D Longbow Apache

Codename: Ugly

The Lynxes and Wildcats weren’t to be outdone either: here’s a Lynx from earlier in the display popping flares during their own demo with the Wildcats, although both performed excellent demos in the final showdown.

Westland Lynx (HAS)

Pretty fireworks!

Junglies were also deploying flares in response to a SAM (actually a rocket, I think): the grey Somerset skies make a good backdrop (and, if you read my previous post about Southend, I’ve got good at cloudy shots!).

Sea King deploying flares

They always seemed to do it when I was actually watching, not camera-ready!

While I had to vote in Yeovilton’s poll that the Commando Role Demo was the best thing I saw (because it was, it really was), I was there for the Vulcan, and my second favourite display was the four-ship V-Jet Formation.  This involved the Sea Vixen (a longtime love of mine), two Vampires (always a hit) and the Vulcan (no words needed).

Avro Vulcan B2, 2x DeHavilland Vampires, DeHavilland Sea Vixen

A fantastic four-ship flypast.

The sun didn’t come out for it which was a shame, and I do have a few blue-sky shots, but this one is my favourite: I really like a further-on shot too but you’ve seen enough of other people’s heads!  The noise was awesome: not loud as such, but commanding.  Some time after this formation the Vulcan returned from Wales to conduct its own solo display.  Again, the sun wasn’t kind enough to put in an appearance and I never saw a topside pass this time around, but everything is forgiven for the unmistakeable howl that emanated from those Olympus engines in such an inimical way.

Avro Vulcan B2


We had many, many seconds of howling: the weather conditions must have been just right, and almost every time power was applied, she roared and howled like an angry beast but performed beautifully, gracefully and to the edge of her CAA-approved envelope*.  Just perfect.

*Of course, her CAA-approved envelope is nothing like her performance capability, but like we saw with the Sea Vixen, it’s all about airframe life and public etc. safety.

Traffic to get out at the end of the show wasn’t too bad: we hung around sweeping the static display for the things we’d missed and so most of it had left, although according to a fellow #twitterVforce participant, we must have been in the right car park!

We went to nearby Ilchester for food (mmm, more steak) which was lovely and drove back the following day, making a stop-off for lunch at the Gloucester (Gloster) Jet Age Museum at Staverton/Gloucester Airport.  It was my second visit and my friend’s first, and if you’re in the area or driving on the M5 and need a stop-off, I highly recommend it!  Had a great chat with the guy in the cafe, another lovely milkshake, an icecream and a second lovely tour of the Vulcan.  It was a shame the Trident wasn’t open but it was at least no longer under scaffolding!

Further on the M5/M42 junction was iffy, so we diverted through Droitwich Spa and Bromsgrove and caught a classic hill climb in action.  And passed a place called Smite.  At least each of our diversions were interesting!

So, with the third of my viewings of XH558’s final season over with, what’s next?  Probably Clacton now it’s been confirmed, but she’s also due at Leicestershire’s Victory Show on her last scheduled flying day so I might try and get somewhere en-route if not the site itself.

A Personal Farewell Tour, Part One: Three Vulcans in Eight Days

It was announced earlier in 2015 that this year would be the last time anyone would see a flying Vulcan again. Let’s face it, that’s still eight more years than many expected, although we all hoped otherwise. I decided I would, without putting myself out TOO much, try and see XH558 as much as possible. With my local airshow being off this year (Waddington having the runway rebuilt), I made plans to go to one I always wanted to go to: Yeovilton. I also kept an eye out for other local participation: local to wherever I happened to be at the time! This has led me to seeing three different Vulcans in eight days.

Day One: Sunday 21st June, Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield, Warwickshire.

Wellesbourne is an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Nottingham, so I thought it would be daft not to go and see another Vulcan doing a fast-taxi followed by a flypast. Especially for the measly sum of £5. The weather was due good so I got up reasonably early and set off for Wellesbourne Wings and Wheels.

Vulcan XM655

XM655 among the throng

For a small event at a small airfield, there were plenty of vehicles and aircraft around. I was surprised by the business of the airport: it being under threat from housing construction, I was expecting a quiet airfield with a few coming-and-going flights for the day, but much of the traffic seemed to be normal, everyday movements! There was also a huge line-up of TVRs: I’ve never seen so many! The event also attracted two DeLoreans, a beautiful motorbike and sidecar, some fire engines and a floatplane!

The main reason for going was to see XM655 have a bit of exercise: she’s the one (fully) powered Vulcan I’ve never seen move. She’s also the most powerful Vulcan, with bigger engines, and it does make a difference to the sound! I’m no expert on Vulcan engines, but I’ve seen XL426 fast-taxi many times at Southend and XH558 both fast-taxi at Waddington and take-off from a few places, and the initial whine is completely different: a shriller sound with more whistle, I thought. She paraded up and down for photographs both times before full power-on and then a nosewheel lift to slow down (wing drag). It was beautiful. There were two full-power runs and then ‘558 put on a mini-display in wonderful sunshine at the end of the day.

Vulcan XH558

Up where she belongs!

That led to the other ‘Vulcan Effect’, where everyone leaves once they’ve seen the Vulcan. This was compounded by the fact that it was over anyway so there wasn’t anything else to do.  I aired the car out and sat with Russian power metal on full blast, singing my lungs out, until things started moving and then it was a smooth if sometimes slow trip home.  All in daylight, mostly on known roads.  A great day!

Day Two: Sunday 28th June, London Southend Airport, Essex

Essex is my home county and London Southend Airport is home to my original ‘local’ Vulcan, XL426.  The occasion this time was twofold: I was back in Essex for a best mate’s birthday, and the Salute to the V Force Tour was happening across the country, where XH558 visited all the complete airframes of Vulcans, Victors and Valiants.  If I had not been in Essex, I don’t know whether I would have seen XH558 at East Midlands Airport (Vulcan XM575) or Newark Air Museum (Vulcan XM594) on the Saturday and no idea what I would have done for the Sunday: maybe even travelled to Essex for the day!

I was actually staying at my mate’s house in Braintree rather than my parents’ in Shenfield.  Logistically, it was a complicated affair: my parents were invited to the afternoon do at my mate’s house, so they went by train the Southend Airport (so much easier than when I used to go!) where I met them and then took them back with me afterwards.  It was wet at Southend: I arrived at the ‘426 end of the airport with about 5mins remaining, having not really struggled through traffic until it was very busy at the retail park!  I managed to get a space in the retail park, having smiled at all the cars parked round the airfield boundary, but I wanted to get close to ‘426 as she really started me off on my Cold War Jets interest.  Also, I knew there would be people with radios and so be well-prepared.

And there she was, coming up from the South through the classic gloom: I attended many a Southend Airshow (seafront and airport) that was wet and grey and drizzly, and this was a real dose of nostalgia.  She came round, heading over the railway to fly down the runway.  A whistle, a howl and she was past, before turning a looping circle to return back up the runway and then out and away to the West, on her way to Norwich.  It was all too brief, but all the best things are ethereal.

Vulcan XH558 overflies Vulcan XL426

A typical Essex Vulcan view!