The RAF Northolt Photoshoots have become more and more popular in recent months, and the latest in a line of successful events was held to coincide with the Royal Navy Flypast over London to mark their 100th anniversary. Mark Kwiatkowski was there to report for AeroResource.
So, in this centennial year, a series of events had been arranged to mark this most significant milestone in the Fleet Air Arm’s history so far – one of the first of these being a flypast over HMS Illustrious that was anchored in the Thames in London.
When RAF Northolt was told that they would be hosting the helicopter element of the flypast, Phillip Dawe, who has had the honour of organising a succession of successful photocalls, immediately set about looking into the possibility of running another one to coincide with the flypast.
These photocall events benefit both the aviation community and RAF Northolt. The aviation community gets access to an active RAF Station with special access to the airframes, no ropes or cones to get in the way when photographing and the Station benefits by getting some great positive PR and also raising money to restore building 27 to its 1940s glory, when it served as an ‘Ops room’ during World War II. The target is to raise £25,000 for the project, and events like this go a long way to helping reach that total.
Gladly, all parties were happy to support the photocall. 7th of May 2009, over one hundred photographers were invited to RAF Northolt. As was expected with past Photocalls organised by Phil, everything ran like clockwork, credit must once again go to Phil, and the team that support him, for a super job. The format obviously works very well, and everyone always seems to come away very happy with their results from past Photocalls.
On arriving at the ramp photographers were greeted with a mix of Merlin, Sea King and Lynx helicopters, totaling 20 airframes. It was nice to see that both specially painted Sea Kings, as well as a red and grey Search and Rescue example had turned up.
Firstly there were six Merlin HM.1’s. The four aircraft taking part in the flypast were taken from 824 NAS. An additional example from 814 NAS was used for the TV coverage Both 814 and 824 NAS are based at RNAS Culdrose.
Next up were the eight Sea Kings which consisted of a variety of marks. One that could be immediately seen was a red and grey example, a HU.5 SAR from 771 NAS, along with the retro blue-schemed airframe (XV648), this was specially painted to mark 40 years of the Westland manufactured helicopter specifically made for the Royal Navy. 771 NAS are also based at RNAS Culdrose
The other special scheme to mark the Sea King’s anniversary is ZF115, a HC.4 from 846 NAS. The ‘special’ was accompanied by three other HC.4s bearing standard colours. All of the Junglies were from RNAS Yeovilton.
Completing the Sea King airframes was a pair of ASaC.7 variants, they are instantly recognisable from the starboard side because of the radar bowl that hangs from the side of the airframe, the radar is used for providing interception/attack control, over-the-horizon targeting for surface launched missiles and detection of low flying aircraft The pair were from 849 NAS, RNAS Culdrose.
Finally there were two different operators of Lynx helicopter that were involved with the flypast. Four Navy units took part in the Flypast itself, three HAS.3S models and a HMA.8DAS, they were from 702 NAS and 815 NAS. The final Lynx was an AH.7 from 847 Sqn of the Royal Marines. All were from RNAS Yeovilton.
As 1100 came round, the helicopters were readied for the flypast and the engines began spooling up.
The Merlins were first out followed by the four ASaC.7’s and HU.5SAR Sea Kings, then the four Navy Lynx, the four Junglies and finally the Royal Marines Lynx AH.7. Once the flypast was complete all the helicopters except two of the Sea Kings recovered back to RAF Northolt for fuel. Watching seventeen helicopters all fly in and then head straight down the taxiway at the photographers was a brilliant sight and one to remember!
After refueling, four of the Sea Kings and four of the Merlins returned to HMS Illustrious, with the remaining helicopters heading home and that concluded the RAF Northolt event.
The Organiser of the Northolt Photocalls Phil Dawe has recently suffered a heart attack, and is currently undergoing medical care. Phil seems to be in good spirits, and im sure that all FC members and guests will join the FC team in wishing Phil a speedy and full recovery.