With the night’s drawing in and the 2013 airshow season coming to a close, attention starts to be paid to the ever increasing number of night shoot events around the country. With the Swedish Air Force Historic flight attending nearby Waddington Airshow earlier in the year, a unique situation presented itself to the staff at Newark Air Museum. Adam Duffield reports for AeroResource.
Many will be familiar with Newark air museum as one of the largest collection of aircraft within the UK however throughout the year numerous different events are held including their well-regarded cockpit days and aerojumbles. This year also sees the 40th anniversary of the museum (covered by AeroResource earlier this year) with a number of additional activities taking place over the months.
The collection is home to a number of rare and unique aircraft with one particular subject being the only Saab Viggen on display in the UK. Interest in the type has always been high however the participation of the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight at Waddington Airshow 2013 brought about a renewed fascination for many people. In an attempt to take advantage of the circumstances, the museum decided to move the aircraft outside and tried to arrange some form of event with the SwAFHF however for various reasons this did not happen. With the aircraft in the open air for the first time since it arrived in 2006, the team set about identifying other potential opportunities. It wasn’t long before the subject of a night shoot came up but with the summer months far from ideal when planning such an event and with no timescales on its return indoors, it looked unlikely to happen until a decision was made in August that the Viggen would remain outside until mid-October.
With the planning effort in motion, the team at Newark announced a night shoot event to be held on 5th October including not only the Viggen but three other aircraft in the form of Gloster Meteor NF(T) WS739, SEPECAT Jaguar T2A XX829 and English Electric Lightning T.5 XS417. Entrance to the event was limited to 30 people and for a £20 cost it also included admission to the museum for the whole day which many took advantage of.
Those arriving early in the day were treated to the surprise arrival of a new addition to the collection in the form of a Victor procedural trainer cockpit section. Little is known at this time about its history although it was moved to the museum from a location near Lincoln. Throughout the day re-enactors were also seen around the museum taking time to pose with a number of the airframes for some staged shots including the simulated crewing of the Polish Air Force schemed Mig-23. It was clear from looking around that a high proportion of the night shoot attendees took advantage of the all-day admission making the most of their visit and the good weather conditions.
As is normal, the museum closed at 5pm leaving only those attending the event and the museum staff. The team in the café laid on warming stew before the evening briefing was held by event organiser Mick Coombes. The four airframes were located in pairs in different areas of the museum grounds and, given the amount of lighting available, only one of each pair could be lit at any given point in time. Therefore the night would start with the Viggen (with the hopes of a sunset) before moving onto the Lightning. During this time the lights were moved for the Meteor finally followed by the Jaguar. Organisation was such that each aircraft was lit for approximately 45 minutes with the first 20 dedicated to a ‘clear’ airframe before bringing in period dressed re-enactors for 20 minutes of staged scenario pictures. With only 30 people at the event this meant that there was more than enough time to get shots and, thanks to loud and clear instruction from Mick, there was plenty of warning for the repositioning of the re-enactors.
In addition to the 4 airframes that formed the bulk of the shoot, two other items provided something a little different. Lit throughout most of the night and giving people a chance to capture when they wanted, the museums Vulcan B.2 XM594 was joined by a Harley Davidson in XM607 paint scheme for a very different pairing. In addition, the team who had been working on the nose section of Canberra PR7 WH779 all day stayed into the evening with interior lighting provided to add further variation to the shoot. A number of people attending also took the opportunity to try night shots with other aircraft that are stored outside either using natural lighting or light painting with their own torches.
Saab Viggen AJSH 37 37918
Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab has been responsible for many great aircraft designs over the years with the Viggen being possibly one of the most well known. Designed in the sixties and with a first flight in 1967, this delta winged multi-role aircraft saw extensive service within the Swedish Air Force although none were ever exported to other forces. Powered by a single Volvo RM8B engine it was capable of Mach 2.1 and a total production run saw 329 built over twenty years before finally being retired from service in 2005 replaced by another Saab model – the JAS 39 Gripen.
Numerous variants were delivered over the years covering ground attack fighters (AJ 37), photo-reconnaissance (SF 37), maritime reconnaissance and strike (SH 37) and all-weather interceptor (JA 37) along with a two seat trainer (SK 37). Operational history saw the Viggen in use by a total of 9 units within the air force with the final operational unit being F 21 Norrbotten Air Force Wing based at Luleå in Northern Sweden.
It is the F 21 wing that the museums airframe comes from and it still carries the original markings that were present during its delivery to the UK in 2006. The aircraft was flown into RAF Cranwell, just down the road from the museum, before it was dismantled and transported by road for the remaining short distance. The aircraft was originally built as a SH 37 reconnaissance model however, following delays to the Gripen programme, an upgrade to a limited number of airframes to AJSH 37 designation took place with the majority of the work relating to computer processor, weapons interface and radar systems. Following its delivery to Cranwell, the final crew of the aircraft signed a section of the nose and those signatures are still present today.
English Electric Lightning T.5 XS417
Over the years, the Lightning has become one of the most loved jet fighter aircraft of all time. Developed during the late 40’s/early 50’s, the supersonic jet is still, to this day, the only all-British aircraft capable of Mach 2 flight and is well known for its high speed and climb rate.
The first flight of the aircraft took place in 1954 and it was introduced into RAF service in 1959 with whom it served until 1988. A number of changes were made to the aircraft over the years to improve its endurance – a major issue that faced the early models in their interceptor role. The Lightning also served with the Royal Saudi Air Force in the form of the F.52 and F.53 single seat variants (based on the RAF F.2 and F.6 models) along with the T.55 two seat trainer (based on the RAF T.5).
XS417 was built in 1964 and was the first production T.5 to fly finally taking its last flight on 18th May 1987. During its career it flew over 2600 hours serving with 226 OCU, 56 Squadron, 11 Squadron and the Lightning Training Flight (LFT). It is the scheme it carried during its time with the LTF that is currently worn having very recently completed a major exterior restoration project. The museum have also been trying to trace the operational history of the airframe and welcome any information from crew previously associated with it.
Gloster Meteor NF(T)14 WS739
The Gloster Meteor is of significant importance to British aviation history as the country’s first jet fighter. In March 1943 the first aircraft, developed by a partnership of Gloster Aircraft Company and Sir Frank Whittle’s Power Jets Ltd, took to the air and, 70 years later, a number still grace the skies of Britain both as display aircraft and functional test beds for ejection seat manufacturer Martin Baker.
Initially entering service with the RAF in 1944, the type saw combat action during World War II against the German V1 bombers whilst also helping to train bomber crews and protection aircraft in how to deal with faster, more modern, jet aircraft. The Meteor also served with a number of other air forces around the world including Argentina, Belgium, Egypt, Syria, France, Israel and Australia. In total, nearly 4000 were built with 11 main variants going into production covering fighter, photo reconnaissance and night fighter roles. A number of aircraft were also converted to target towing and target drone roles later in their life.
The museums Meteor NF(T)14 WS739 was built by Armstrong-Whitworth during 1953 and delivered to the RAF in 1954 serving under 25 Squadron based at RAF Tangmere, Sussex and RAF Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire. The NF14 variant was a development of the original NF11 night fighter and incorporated an Airborne Intercept radar. Carrying a crew of 2, it was the last major development of the type and featured a new canopy and longer nose. The NF(T)14 designation was applied to the aircraft during its conversion for use with the Air Navigation School as a navigational trainer for which purpose the radar was removed and replaced with a UHF radio. Serving with both No.1 Air Navigation School at Thorney Island and No.2 Air Navigation School at Stradishall, WS739 was eventually retired from flight and served as the gate guard at RAF Church Fenton from the late 1960’s to mid 1970’s before finally joining the museum at Newark in 1984.
SEPECAT Jaguar T2A XX829
The Jaguar was a result of an anglo-french joint project to design a jet trainer with a light ground attack capability to replace aircraft such as the Folland Gnat, Hawker Hunter and Fouga Magister. As part of this, SEPECAT (Société Européenne de Production de l’Avion d’École de Combat et d’Appui Tactique) was formed as a joint venture between the British Aviation Corporation and French aircraft manufacturer Breguet with the resulting first flight of the prototype completing in 1968.
Whilst the single seat variant because an all-weather ground attack fighter the two seat trainer also had secondary role of strike and ground attack. Predominantly in service with both the RAF and French Air Forces, the Jaguar has seen action in a number of conflicts including the Gulf War. Retiring from the RAF in 2007, the type is still in service with the Royal Air Force of Oman and the Indian Air Force with the latter currently undertaking an upgrade program to their fleet.
Newarks example, T2A variant XX829, was acquired by the museum in March 2012 from Everett Aero in Suffolk and was the first aircraft acquisition since the Saab Viggen arrived at the museum in 2006. The airframe is almost entirely complete with the exception of seats which, for the time being, have been fabricated from a garden chair and plywood mix.
During its military career, XX829 served with a number of Squadrons. Starting with 54 Squadron in December 1974 a month after its first flight, it also saw service with 6 Squadron, 226 Squadron (OCU) and 16(R) Squadron before being finally retired to RAF Shawbury in March 2001 and the aircraft currently wears the scheme of 54 Squadron.
With the draw of the Viggen and the restricted number of attendees, the shoot was a brilliant chance to get some very unique shots. If there was one small downside it would be the proximity of the lighting to the airframes which required careful composition if they were to be kept out of shot and was unavoidable with the lighting units available to the organisers. The addition of the re-enactors provided variation and photographic opportunities not seen at many other events of the type and the volunteers tried their hardest to remain as still as possible for the long exposures. Getting 45 minutes to shoot each aircraft was excellent and gave everyone more than enough time to slow down and think about the shots they wanted without being rush. Communication from the team was also excellent keeping everyone informed of evening’s proceedings and changes in poses, something that worked excellently with the small group that was present. Newark rarely hold these events (with the last being 2 years ago) but if the next is organised as well as this, it’s a day that has the potential for shots unlike any other.
AeroResource would like to thank Mick Coombes, Howard Heeley and the rest of the museum volunteers and re-enactors for their efforts at the event.