Over the last year or so, the Gazelle Squadron have become one of the most enthusiast friendly display teams on the circuit. Following on from their first event, Saturday 5th March saw Bourne Park Nightshoot 2 take place in their wonderfully scenic surroundings. Adam Duffield was there for AeroResource.
Tucked in amongst woodland, the airstrip at Bourne Park certainly doesn’t stand out to be the home of, most likely, the world’s largest civilian collection of Gazelles. Nevertheless, this picturesque setting is home to the moderately new Gazelle Squadron. Attempting to offer an ‘off season’ event for enthusiasts, their first nightshoot held in October 2015 (see our report here from guest writer Mark Empson) went down well so it was no surprise that another event was soon announced.
As with other events, a number of visitors were planned to attend however, weather conditions and serviceability meant that the majority of them were unable to make it to the event. Weather conditions during the afternoon led to the cancellation of Yakovlev Yak-52 G-YAKI – better known as ‘Yak-One’ – whilst the forecast high winds during the evening meant that Paul Dopson’s Ultramagic M-77 balloon (G-TBET) with its stunning Tibetan Flag envelope was also unable to participate. The final cancellation of the night was one that would have been a highlight for most – that of Westland Wasp G-KAXT which was sadly stuck at its North Weald home due to in serviceability. Despite this unfortunate last minute turn of events, the organisers did what they could to fill the gaps in the evening.
The start of the event saw everyone gather around the team’s clubhouse that also served as the refreshments bar during the evening with complimentary tea, coffee and cake alongside soup and a roll for a more than reasonable £1. It also gave many a chance to escape the biting wind blowing across the airfield during the evening. Thankfully, the heavy rain that had hampered the afternoon by this time had moved on leaving the evening both dry and clear.
After an initial briefing, the 50 or so photographers present were free to roam the airfield whilst the final light of the day faded – albeit without the spectacular sunset that many had wished for! Once darkness had finally set in, the aircraft runs commenced with each being well lit by a mobile lighting rig that was moved in to position for each. It may sound cumbersome, but the time taken to move the unit in between the runs was barely noticeable given the spacing between the ‘runners’. The amount of lighting also worked well.
The only visitor of the night, a red and white SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 (G-MACH), had arrived earlier in the day and provided one of the longest engine runs on the night. A type designed for both aerobatics and as a military trainer, this particular machine has been in private hands since being built in 1967. Placed against a backdrop of tress, the long run gave more than enough time to capture all the available angles.
Placed next to it, but somewhat worlds apart in terms of performance and design, was a Cessna 150F (G-ATRK) owned by the Gazelle Squadron. After a bit of persuasion, the high winged prop finally coughed into life for its run however, it was not to last long! A number of attempts were made to restart the machine but unfortunately it was not to be.
Another non-Gazelle aircraft owned by the Squadron was also pulled out of the hangar for people to shoot – Guimbal Cabri G2 G-SDTL. Acquired by the squadron last year, the two-seat light helicopter is to be used by the team primarily to help train future Gazelle pilots given the types handling similarities. Whilst obviously not used in RAF service, it has been painted in a scheme designed to represent that of 32 Squadron and their VIP role – similar to the scheme carried on one of the resident Gazelles. Whilst not taking part in the night’s runs, it was placed in front of the main hangar and well lit for the latter part of the evening allowing ample time for different angles to be shot.
Rounding out the fixed wing participants on the night was Scottish Aviation Bulldog XX624 (G-KDOG) which was very much a last minute participant with the owner returning to the airfield late in the evening especially to provide a much appreciated lengthy run. Having passed the required check flight and needed courses just the day before, both the pilot and aircraft will soon be taking part in the Abbeville Air Race.
Of course, the stars of the event were some of the Gazelles that form part of the Squadron. Providing the ground runs for the event once again were two ex RAF examples – HT.3 ZB627 (G-CBSK) wearing a bright red 2 FTS scheme affectionately known as Ginger (Like the author!) and a customer owned HT.3 XZ934 (G-CBSI) in 32 Squadrons VIP markings. Although the same two machines provided the ground runs during the first event, the different location of them on the airfield this time round provided a different backdrop for their 4-minute long runs by pilot Mark Fairchild. It was hoped that the event would see the return of the Royal Navy marked HT.2 – XX436 (G-ZZLE) – in its authentic 705 NAS Sharks scheme however work on its 10 year rebuild has taken slightly longer than planned. Instead, another example, G-EZEL, was rolled out on to the concrete for static shots. Unlike the others on display, this is a civilian SA341G example in an all over black scheme, which although may not have the provenance of its military siblings but was equally welcome in giving another airframe to shoot.
The Bourne Park Nightshoot 2 event really does show potential for this to transform in to a highly regarded event with the signs already there. A number of people were heard praising the layout and runs during the evening and, unlike some other events, the plentiful space allowed for everyone to move about freely without fear of getting in others way – helped by the restriction of just 50 people. With a price of just £20, it also seems to buck the current trend of ever increasing prices of this type of event with the average rapidly approaching £50 for private, low attendee events which for many puts the price out of reach for a single evening. Although the two running Gazelles had been seen at the previous event, this certainly wasn’t the original plan and understandably maintenance can sometimes cause unexpected delays very much in the same way the cancellations can – they are out of the control of the organisers. With another event planned for the end of 2016, who knows what may happen with perhaps the twilight debut of two of the Squadrons most anticipated aircraft – the Sharks schemed XX436 nicknamed Gordon and ex-Army Air Corps AH.1 XZ321 Gary – a veteran of the Falklands – which is due to appear in an Operation Granby ‘desert camo’ scheme. This is certainly an event off the radar of many at this time but certainly worth the effort to attend!