Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sharp Dressed Warbirds

No excuse needed for this shot. Taken at the RAAF Museum's Pageant on 23 February, 2008, it shows three W.W.II allied fighters wearing historically appropriate shark mouth schemes.

From the nearest: The RAAF Museum's CAC Mustang A68-170, Alan Arthur's Curtiss P-40N-1 Kittyhawk NZ3125, and the Temora Aviation Museum's Supermarine Spitfire Mk.VIII A58-750. (Also present are a NAA T-28 and Mustang VH-BOB.)



The RAAF Museum's scheme is an Occupation of Japan scheme, of 77 Squadron RAAF, Al Arthur's an Italy Campaign 112 Squadron RAF version, and the Temora Spitfire in the colours of Bobby Gibbes' 'Grey Nurse' 457 Squadron RAAF.


Later that day the three aircraft flew a unique shark mouth flight scheme. A challenge for our readers; does anyone know of any other occasion three different types of shark mouth painted W.W.II era warbirds flew together? It's possible, but I can't recall another occasion.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Noakes in the Reds

John Noakes flies with the Red Arrows, 1975. Sadly John died yesterday at the age of 83. For many he exemplified the 'have a go TV' presenter, one of the greats of children's TV show Blue Peter and was regarded in playgrounds across the UK as fearless. Though this programme is entitled 'Go With Noakes' there's plenty of Blue Peter badges to be seen.

This excellent BBC documentary shows what a good documentary should contain. Though there are shortcuts ("cleared to taxi..." - takeoff shot!) it's remarkably good at showing the breadth of the job of practising and putting on a display, and shows both answers to the usual questions and answers to questions people probably wouldn't think to ask. It also, for once, shows what the ground crew do (John, as he says here, was a former RAF fitter himself) and it's a much better than usual effort in doing that, too.

Filming quality is remarkable - no tiny high-def GoPros here, but larger, unwieldy professional tape or film cameras; the Gnat's cockpit is tiny at the best of times - a camera inside at 2.5 to 4 g would be very challenging.


Some aspects have changed a lot, but the core of what the Reds specifically, and display teams in general, haven't changed in the last forty years. You can also see some of the foundations laid for the team by previous leader, the late, incomparable Ray Hanna. On which, more later...

BBC link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/aerialjourneys/5328.shtml

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Shoreham Hunder AAIB Accident Report

The UK's Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) have released the final report of the August 2015 Hawker Hunter crash that resulted in the deaths of eleven bystanders.

The summary is here, with the full report here and earlier reports and a brief video illustrating the aircraft's critical manoeuvre at the bottom of the page.

While the report is very long, there are numerous air display safety points touched upon (as well as recommendations specific to the UK's airshow industry approach) many of which are worth the time of anyone professionally involved in airshow organisation or safety in any country.

My comments on the accident at the time, are here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Aircrew's - 100 Up & Out

 It's the final Aircrew feature in Aeroplane Monthly by Ian Bott and myself. Thanks to Ben Dunnell for the note, and Ian's write up below.

I'll just say that we weren't out of ideas and had still a good list of potential roles to do, but we didn't want to end up doing 'riffs on a theme' - minor variations between similar roles either. In short though, 100 was a good number, and we all thought it was time to move on to new projects!

It's a demanding, engrossing project that's taken a lot of my time and energy over the last seven years. And it's been a fascinating journey, and I've learned a lot and hundreds of people have helped to make it what it was. However three people without whom...

Ian Bott, a great artist, and a great guy to work with on this. We've pulled each other into doing things we'd perhaps otherwise not have done, but each and every one's been well worth it. Original editor Michael Oakey, who got us started with it, and current editor Ben Dunnell of Aeroplane Monthly, both who supported us with the it, and both gave us their backing and a remarkably free hand too.

So we'll be keen to see what people think of the replacement once it's out - no sneak peeks yet, except to say Ben's been very supportive of the idea, and Ian and I will be working together on it - which we're pleased to do.

You can amuse yourself in the meantime by seeing if you can name all the subjects (not just the aircraft - that's too easy) in Ian's picture montage above...

Ian said: "Here's the latest Aircrew feature on the job of an EF-111 Raven electronic warfare officer in the new issue of Aeroplane Monthly with illustration by me and words by James Kightly. It's a big landmark for us because it's the 100th feature and, sadly, it's also the final one."

Ben Dunnell's editorial comment - thanks, Ben - "This month marks the end of an Aeroplane era, as our popular Aircrew column, so diligently compiled by James Kightly and splendidly illustrated by Ian Bott, comes to a conclusion. Their examination of the role of a US Air Force EF-111 Raven electronic warfare officer is the 100th subject in the series, and we felt that this milestone provided a suitable opportunity on which to close. Thanks to James and Ian for all their hard work on Aircrew - but they'll be back to collaborate on a new regular feature from the May issue onwards. Watch this space."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A hat with a light

Not something you see very often! The 1980s Royal Navy Historic Flight had a pith helmet (or shola topee) fitted with a rotating red beacon that was sometimes 'used' by one of the crew of Fairey Swordfish LS326 during taxiing.



It's seen here at the Shuttleworth Collection's Old Warden airfield.

I do hope it made it into the RNHF's regimental curios collection.