2013 has been a great year for AeroResource with continued growth in readership and our highest number of articles published in a 12 month period. With the team not only covering UK airshows and events but historical pieces and US exercises and museums (amongst others). A number of article ideas are already being progressed for 2014 and we look forward to bringing an increased variety of content over the next 12 months and beyond.
The Fighter Control and Civilian Aviation forums continue to grow and FC is on track to exceed the 10,000 member mark in the very near future making it one of the largest online aviation communities. Many will remember the issues experienced with the server during early 2013 that affected the forums and consumed considerable amounts of the teams time to try and resolve. Thanks to those efforts the forums were migrated to a newer, more powerful server and we continue to ensure that we do not find ourselves in that situation again.
Our initial idea for an end of year round up was to look at a ‘top 10’ of events from 2013 but it was clear from the start that all of the team had very different opinions based on their own personal experiences throughout the year. Therefore, some of the team have selected their top 3 personal aviation highlights of 2013 based on what they have seen or attended throughout the year. We are interested to hear of your own highlights of 2013 and invite you all to post your own ‘top 3’ either on Fighter Control or Civilian Aviation where threads have been started in the community sections.
Finally, we would like to thank our sponsors, Squadron Prints and MPB Photographic for their continued support during 2013.
We hope that all our readers had a good Christmas and enjoys a happy and prosperous 2014.
The AeroResource Team
The year for me started in a bad way with the unfortunate passing of my Grandad in January. Having served in the RAF for 35 years it was his stories of travelling the world and working on various aircraft that most contributed to my fascination with them today. His work with the Red Arrows and Vulcan were some of his favourite stories and has re-kindled a fascination in the former and led to some of my favourite shots of them during the year.
As is usual, the summer saw me travelling around the country to various airshows small and large along with a trip across to Sweden for the Gothenburg show. Other commitments during the year meant less time on the fences of my local bases Mildenhall, Lakenheath and Marham however a family trip to America in the summer did give chance to visit a large number of museums along with a couple of days on Coronado beach watching the NAS North Island movements.
SAAB Viggen Display, Gothenburg Airshow, 9th June
Long before the Swedish Air Force Historic flight announced their UK appearances, myself and Dunk had already arranged to fly over to Sweden for the Gothenburg airshow in an attempt to catch their entire fleet in the air. Whilst the Draken and Lansen were unable to attend the Viggen was still present and, although the Saturday display was good, it was the Sunday display that was simply amazing. With the cloud parting just prior to startup and plenty of vapour in the air, the sight and sound of a Viggen above a former Swedish airforce base was a tremendous sight.
Eagle Squadron Flypast, RAF Mildenhall, 27th May
The Duxford Spring show the day before saw undoubtedly one of many peoples highlights of the year in the form of the Eagle Squadron. Comprising P-47G “Snafu”, Spitfire Mk1 AR213, Hurricane Mk1 AE977 and special visitor Mustang P-51C “Princess Elizabeth” the display at the show marked the 70 year anniversary of the 78th Fighter Groups arrival at Duxford. However, for me it was the day after that was the true highlight. Accompanied by triple ace Colonel Clarence E. “Bud” Anderson in the rear of P-51D “Miss Velma” and the mighty B-17G “Sally B”, the formation performed flypasts at old WWII USAF airfields around East Anglia. Seeing the flypast at RAF Mildenhall, the sight of the 5 fighters followed by the bomber flying low down the runway gave a real impression of how the skies must have been all those years ago, much more so than at any airshow.
Flying with the Wildcats, RAF Benson, 25th July
Based a short drive down the road from me, I often see the various aircraft of the Wildcats Aerobatic team in the skies around the county. Having worked with them on an article for AeroResource towards the end of 2012 along with some other events during 2013 I was delighted to be asked to accompany them to the RAF Benson friends and family day. Flying out from the teams strip in the morning after a weather delay I spent the day with them and taking in what it is really like behind the scenes at a show. After a great days flying by all involved we headed back to Norfolk and the much improved weather gave some amazing views over the English countryside. An unforgettable experience that I hope to repeat with them in 2014!
Well another busy year for me with plenty of trips and visits all over the country, including a week back in the homeland for Joint Warrior 13-1. As usual the summer days all merged in to one with most weekdays spent at fence lines and the weekends at airshows and events chasing those metal winged birds!
It’s been a great year in the UK for exercises and visiting airframes bringing the enthusiasts from all over allowing me to put many faces to names and spend many enjoyable evenings talking aviation over a pint!
UR-82060 visits Manchester International – 24th June 2013
Some years ago I came across a grainy shot of a colossal white aircraft with huge twin tail and 6 gigantic engines. At first I thought it was a prop for a Sci-Fi film but lo and behold she existed and my chase for the dream began. Some ten years on, two sightings of her powering through the skies (I never seemed to have my camera at hand), the aircraft in the UK twice when I haven’t been able to get to her location, many texts and rumours later I finally had a real chance to bag the one I wanted. The worlds only Antonov Design Bureau AN225 Mriya (Mriya = Dream/Inspiration) UR-82060 (c/n 19530503763) was rumoured to be pay a visit to Manchester International Airport on the 24th June. Was it worth a 10 year wait? What do you think – my Geeking Dream came true!
RAF Lakenheath Sunset – 18th November 2013
Home to the 48th Fighter Wing, also know as the ‘Statue of Liberty Wing’, RAF Lakenheath is a hive of activity with 3 F-15 Units (492nd FS, 493rd FS and 494th FS) and a HH-60G (56th RQS) unit all operating from the base. With a fairly constant stream of Eagles heading out and recovering to the base, it became clear that Suffolk was going to be bathed by a fantastic sunset. Suddenly the activity on the base went quiet as the sun sunk slowly to the horizon, would we get any Eagles in the Sunset? Suddenly 3 Strike Eagles arrived in the overhead returning to ‘Liberty’. Gracefully, the jets banked round the circuit under the moon for finals and touched down heading for the last rays of light. The Moon shot? Well that will have to wait till next time!
Up close and personal with 84-0019 – 21st March 2013
Another personal highlight for me this year was a base tour at RAF Lakenheath and a visit to the 493rd FS nicknamed the ‘Grim Reapers’. Included in the tour was a chance to get up close and personal with some of the bases Eagles in one of the bases huge hangars. Entering the hangar we were greeted by the awesome sight of 3 F-15s – two E’s models and a C. Heading straight for the ‘Grim Reapers’ C model I was greeted by 2 green Stars on the side of the nose – kill Markings. The aircraft 84-0019, flown by Lt Bob Hehemann of the 53rd TFS, shot down two Iraqi Air Force SU25K Frogfoots with two AIM-9M Sidewinders on 6 February 1991. I had managed to catch the aircraft on numerous occasions in the air but now I was stood under her immense shape and in the shadows of a true jet killer!
It’s been an eventful year. Being made redundant from a dream job at Wattisham with the Police helicopter and having to relocate to Worcestershire from Suffolk has had it’s pro’s and con’s. The pro’s being closer to the Low fly area’s of Wales, Fairford and Brize and the lows being removed from the proximity of Mildenhall/Lakenheath and those lovely Ospreys!
Exercise Joint Warrior 13-1, Scotland, 15th-19th April
April saw me return to RAF Leuchars and visit RAF Lossiemouth for the first time for Exercise Joint Warrior 13-1. It was a weird week which encompassed a sandstorm for two of the four days at Lossiemouth followed by an amazing sun drenched Friday at Leuchars. Having lived in the United Arab Emirates for two years I have witnessed a few sandstorms, but Scotland was the last place on earth I would have envisaged seeing one. It did however provide some interesting and rare photo opportunities, as did the day spent at Leuchars photographing the French Naval contingent.
Gothenburg Aeroshow, Sweden, 9th June
I had travelled to Gothenburg back in February as a birthday treat from my wife and visited the magnificent and unique underground Aeroseum which has a fantastic collection of Swedish aircraft, many of which are kept in flying condition. It was whilst I was there and speaking to one of the staff that I learned of the Aeroshow planned for June at the same location and the initial line-up included all of the SwAFHF aircraft. Sadly that was not to be the case as Adam has already alluded to. The access we had was second to none and getting up close and personal with the mighty AJS37 Viggen is something I will not forget, along with the Sk60 and an aircraft I had never seen in the Flying Barrel – J-29 Tunnan. Never did I think I would see these aircraft flying at an airshow in the UK – how wrong could I be?!
U-2 Dragon’s at RAF Fairford, 19th November
I have always had an unhealthy interest in Dragon Lady’s, and during my 4 years at RAF Brize Norton Tower I was fortunate to have snapped a fair few arriving and departing RAF Fairford. However, moving to East Anglia the 3 hour journey made it virtually impossible to catch these rare and elegant aircraft but having relocated to Worcestershire means I am just an hour away, and meant I was able to capture a pair of U-2’s arriving from Stateside. Dragon 86, U-2S 68-1069, was one of four aircraft to arrive at RAF Fairford during a frame swap on this day and this aircraft fortunately arrived during a brief 15 minutes of golden sunlight as the sun rose. I took a chance to try and shoot it from a different angle and it paid off handsomely. It’s a shot I am very proud of, and it will be adorning my office wall in the near future!
For me 2013 has been a slow and fairly uneventful aviation year, with plenty of frustrating visits caused by bad weather. Thankfully 2014 is already starting to shape up to be quite a year, so perhaps luck is on the turn?
Thornbury Ballooning Meet – 6th April
Any resident of Bristol will be familiar with the sight of balloons floating across the city and this year a new ‘meet’ was founded at the Thornbury Golf Club. Some tricky winds caused a change of launch location, however a sunset flight across northeast Bristol was certainly one of my highlights of the year.
VC-10 Retirement – RAF Brize Norton, 22nd September
After 47 years of service, 2013 saw the end of the RAF’s operation of the VC-10. Although a fan of its replacement, the A330 Voyager, I had spent many years listening to the roar of the VC-10 departing RAF Brize Norton, a noise which I’m sure will be missed by many. Thankfully 216 Sqn hosted a special event to bring together all three of the aircraft which will soon no-longer be found in the skies above Brize Norton. Both the VC-10 and C-130K Hercules have already retired this year, with the TriStar soon to follow. The event was a great opportunity to get up close with these aircraft again for one last time before their demise.
Dragon Ladys – RAF Fairford, 19th November
Anyone who knows me will know that I never give up the opportunity to shoot a U-2, and with regular movements transiting via Fairford throughout the year, opportunity wasn’t a problem. Unfortunately the ‘Deuce’ is somewhat prone to having technical issues whilst at Fairford and coupled with our ever changing weather, catching a movement in sun has become a rarity. Fortunately the last swap of the year brought a beautiful morning and a picturesque sunrise arrival – the perfect way to top off the year.
2013 for me has began a new chapter in my passion for aviation. I started photography in January and have been doing a whole lot of reading along with trial and error to create some images I have been quite proud of. 2014 is where I become a little more serious as I plan to invest in a high-end lens. I am hoping this will bring more excitement and opportunities to my newly discovered side of aviation. 2013 really has been a good year for exercises, visits and new deliveries and I’m hoping 2014 picks up where it left off and becomes another fantastic year as an aviation enthusiast
Cosford Air Show, 9th June
My first article for AeroResource was at RAF Cosford for their annual air show, I had no previous experience so it was daunting at first until I saw the weather! Had a fantastic time, got my first article on AeroResource and got to talk to many active servicemen and women. Having a coffee with the Airshow Director was one of my favourite moments of this year.
SAAB Viggen Display, Waddington Airshow, 5th July
It was a first for me to set eyes on the Viggen, a display that will stay with me forever! On a roasting day in Lincolnshire, Pilot Stellan Andersson made the enthusiasts’ year after initially having technical issues with the classic SAAB. Nobody was left disappointed and it finished off a brilliant day.
U-2 Hunting, RAF Fairford, 19th November
After playing cat and mouse with the U-2 with their arrivals always falling on a work-day for the last few years, I finally managed to witness another personal first, and wow was I in for a treat. Capturing these beautiful airframes in stunning light was my favourite aviation moment of 2013.
I was on placement from University at Marshall Aerospace in Cambridge for the year – which gave me a bit more time than I was used to, quite a portion of which was used for aviation related stuff! For me, 2013 was a brilliant year because of this – and I doubt I’ll beat it for some time.
As well as the airshow scene in the UK, I was fortunate to travel to a number of events overseas during 2013 – and so to avoid repeating highlights from the rest of the team, my top three are all from foreign shores.
The Russian Knights, Kecskemet Airbase, Hungary, 3rd August
Possibly the display team highest on the wish lists of many, the five Flankers of the Russian Knights were undoubtedly the highlight of what was a superb airshow at Kesckemet in August. The weather was blistering, the food was cheap (and incredibly good), and the flying was downright superb. The Knights were billed to appear near the end of the show, but ended being pushed back 30 minutes or so after the Czech Mi-35 coated the runway in grass – requiring a lengthy sweep. This worked in our favour, as they displayed in the golden rays of the dying sun. Even the flaunted “Vulcan Effect” paled in comparison to the crowd’s reaction to the display, which lasted for around 40 minutes and comprised of flares, low rolling passes over the crowd on afterburner and high power formation flying. An incredibly simple choice for my moment of the year.
Phantom Farewell, Wittmund Airbase, Germany, 29th June
Having only got involved in aviation in 2008, my opportunities to photograph the venerable F-4F have been limited to nonexistent, and so the chance to go out to the Farewell event at Wittmund was not to be missed. Although the weather did its utmost to dissuade a successful farewell salute, JG71 were perfect hosts, and put on a superb show that did the Air Force, the Unit and the Phantom proud. It will be some time before the sight of four F-4s hammering the circuit at insanely low level, and very high speed, will be forgotten. By virtue of incredible luck, finding a fenceline spot right in front of the position at which the aircraft finally shut down limited a few photographic opportunities, but provided an intimacy to the end of the Phantom that was unexpected, but a privilege to be a witness to.
Antonov An-70, Paris International Airshow, France, 21st June
Paris Airshow is pretty much universally known to be abysmal for the photographer (from inside the grounds), but with a drastic decrease in US participation due to sequestration – and more interestingly a corresponding increase in Russian participation, I took a daytrip out with Richard Freail to see what was about. Unfortunately the organisation was pretty lax – and amongst other things the flying programme was revised mid morning to exclude the majority of the Russian aircraft. For me however, the chance to see the Antonov An-70 was worth the trip, as it was an aircraft I’ve always had a fascination with. Other highlights were the Kamov Ka-52 Alligator flying display, and an unexpected flypast from the A350-900 prototype.
What a fantastic year, with brilliant weather and great events both in this country and abroad. Sadly I confined myself to the UK in 2013 but there was still plenty of variety and lots to enjoy. The standard of airshows and flying displays on offer is always superb and, sometimes, I just don’t think we realise how fortunate we are. While American sequestration and a Europe-wide recession could have combined to put a real dampener on things, organisers nevertheless managed to lay on some excellent displays. Choosing ten would be difficult enough, but three has been nigh on impossible………….
RAF Chinook Display, Cosford Airshow, 9th June
First up is the 2013 Chinook Display Team, led by Flt Lt Paul Farmer, which kicked off its year at the RAF Cosford Airshow on the 9 June with both a solo display and a MERT (Medical Emergency Response Team) Role Demo. With dynamic and seemingly gravity-defying manoeuvres the team demonstrated incredible skill and provided an impressive insight into their work in recent conflicts. It was no surprise to see them winning trophies throughout the summer including the Sir Douglas Bader Trophy for the Best Individual Flying Display at RIAT, the Best Overall Display at RAF Waddington and the Best Rotary Display at RNAS Yeovilton.
Solo Turk F-16 Display, Waddington Airshow, 6-7th July
Over the years there have been many outstanding F-16 displays, particularly from the Dutch Team. However this year, ripping up the clear blue sky with plenty of noise, afterburner and high-g manoeuvres the Turkish Air Force’s F-16 SoloTurk display at RAF Waddington was, in my opinion, the best fast jet display of the year. A well thought out sequence, demonstrating the awesome power of the F-16C, was brilliantly flown by Captain S. Yalin Ahbab. Simply stunning!
Jonathon Whaley and ‘Miss Demeanour’, Duxford Autumn Airshow, 13th October
My third choice was initially a struggle with so many great moments to consider but, in the end, it was easy. Airshows next year will be the poorer due to the retirement of an outstanding pilot and his aircraft which is now up for sale: Jonathon ‘Flapjack’ Whaley and his spectacular Hunter F-58A, ‘Miss Demeanour’. Flapjack flew his final UK display at Duxford’s autumn show, concluding with a high-speed ‘blue-note’ pass along the flight-line. Over the years, it has been a real pleasure to witness one of the most thrilling and consistent performers on the display circuit. They will be sadly missed.