Category Archives: military

P1A Tucked In The Back

The Boscombe collection has a couple of interesting testbed airframes.  The Avro 707 was in a previous post but another fine jet is the English Electric P1A.  The precursor to what was to become the Lightning, the P1A is very similar in some respects but quite different in others.  The nose is a pitot inlet without the shock cone that the Lightning adopted to house its radar.  The rest of the front fuselage has quite a different shape while it also feels lower to the ground than the Lightning was.  It is nice that a Lightning front fuselage is displayed alongside it for comparison.

Avro 707

The development of the Vulcan required a lot of concept testing before the full size jets were built.  Avro built a series of smaller scale delta winged jets to work out some of the issues under the name Avro 707.  One of these lives at Old Sarum in the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection.  It is painted a bright orange color and, while tucked in a dark hangar, it still looks striking.  It would be great to get some elevation to show off the delta planform of the jet but still happy to have managed to see it.  I was rather close to it so needed to shoot a variety of shots to stitch together afterwards which only worked so well.

A Middle Wallop Gazelle Is Worth A Wait

I was ready to leave Middle Wallop when a look at ADSB told me that a Gazelle was operating in the vicinity.  The Gazelles are becoming a rarity these days so this seemed worth waiting for.  After a while, it vanished from ADSB and I was beginning to think it had landed elsewhere.  Fortunately, it popped up again, very close this time.  I was coming straight for me.  Unfortunately, it turned south and skirted around the airfield.  I could just see it in the distance.

Then it climbed up to the east before turning and conducting an autorotation to the field.  It landed away from me and beyond a ridge so out of sight.  I moved back to the balcony to see if I could see anything and was rewarded with it taxiing across the field in the distance.  It wasn’t long before it was behind the fencing heading to its ramp.  Still, while not a close encounter, it might be the last time I see one in UK service.

Drone Control Meatbox

When Llanbedr was the home for a bunch of drones, it also had some old airframes used to support the drone operations.  The Sea Vixen was one of the more famous jets saved from that program but the Boscombe collection has a drone support Meteor.  The red and yellow paint scheme is not subtle but it looks good, particularly in the dark hangar at Old Sarum where the collection lives.  I can’t claim to love the Meatbox but I do find it an interesting jet and seeing one in such good condition is a treat.

Boscombe Down Aviation Collection

Middle Wallop was my first aviation museum of our vacation but there was a second.  I didn’t have a lot of time but, with a small gap in the schedule and a very accommodating wife, we headed to Old Sarum, home of the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection.  For those not familiar with UK military aviation, Boscombe Down is the center of military test in the UK and has a variety of unusual aircraft that are used for test duties and test pilot training.

The weather was dismal but the vintage hangars meant I could stay dry (although there were a couple of exhibits outside including a Hunter and the nose of a Comet).  The collection is full of interesting items.  There are whole airframes and cockpit sections from others.  The cockpits are all accessible and, if I had been there longer, I would probably have got in to some of them.  However, time was tight and hopping in wasn’t that important to me.  There were a variety of Canberra front fuselages and a Sea Vixen.  Some of the exhibits are special enough to justify their own posts so those will come in due course.  The stories of restoration of the airframes were pretty interesting too and a lot of good work had been done to preserve them.  (As an aside, the one thing I was a little disappointed in was the painting of the aircraft.  The colors and markings seemed inaccurate which seemed at odds with the great efforts made in to earth respects.)

A Sea Harrier was on display as was a Jaguar.  One of the highlights for me was Hawk XX154.  This is the first Hawk built and one that had a full career in test duties ending up at Boscombe.  It was moved to Old Sarum by the RAF with a Chinook lifting it across as a training exercise.  It is displayed in its final gloss black finish but I will always think of it in red and white.  There is also a front fuselage from one of the ETPS Hawks that was written off in an accident.

So much variety of exhibits and definitely a top place to visit if you like military aviation.  The nice thing is that the airframes are unusual in their configuration and history.  They tend not to be regular squadron jets so give extra to learn about.  I would love to go back again some time.

A Broken Aircraft Carrier

The Royal Navy has recently commissioned two new aircraft carriers.  At 60,000 tons, they are the largest ships the Navy has ever had.  The first is HMS Queen Elizabeth and the second is HMS Prince of Wales.  The Prince of Wales was due to undertake its first major exercise off the east coast of the US but, shortly after departing Portsmouth, it experienced some technical issues.  I don’t know whether there is official confirmation of what happened but there is a suggestion that one of the screws contacted the seabed.

Whatever the issue, she had to return to port and the Queen Elizabeth was substituted for the exercise.  There has been discussion that the ship will need to go to Rosyth for dry docking but, as of our visit, it was still alongside at Portsmouth.  I was able to get some good shots of it from Spinnaker Tower as well as some from the ferry as we headed to the Isle of Wight.  I hope they can fix whatever the issues are rapidly.

My First Time At The Edwards AFB Show

I have been to Edwards AFB before on a couple of occasions.  However, I had never been to an airshow there before.  I have thought about it a few times in the past and ended up regretting not going as the shows stopped for a long time.  It had been thirteen years since the last show so I was determined to go.  There were a few unusual types that I was hoping to see either on static or flying.

It might have been mid October but it was still warm in the desert.  The air temperature might only have been in the 80s but the sun was very strong and a concrete ramp reflects that up at you as well so it was a bit of a hard day out.  By the end, I was pretty spent.  However, there were plenty of good things to see even if a few that I was hoping for didn’t show.  I shall have some specific topics for posts of their own but I shall include some general shots here.  The show is the only one I know of in the US which includes supersonic flight.  We actually had a few sonic booms during the show and they opened with one on the day after the 75th anniversary of the breaking of the sound barrier.

There were a few interesting visitors on the static display and some hangar exhibits of interest too.  Foreign aircraft were limited to an Australian KC-30 and a British F-35B (which was part of a display of the A, B and C models of the jet).  Since NASA has its Armstrong facility on base, they had a particularly strong showing too.  Some civilian law enforcement helicopters were also on the ramp.  The flying display is always going to be backlit but it was still possible to get some shots.  The B-1B also did a roll off its high speed pass but it was well away by the time it did this so I watched it rather than took photos.

It was a different show and one I am glad I went to.  I got there very early which helped getting on base smoothly but did mean an early start.  Getting off the base was probably the easiest I have ever experienced.  Will I go again?  Maybe but I am not sure.  We shall see what might be promised for future years.

A Juno Interrupts My Lunch

Middle Wallop has a café upstairs in the museum and Paul and I retreated there for a little sustenance and some idle banter.  On the visitor ramp across from the museum, a Juno helicopter from the training fleet was sitting awaiting its next flight.  As we ate, we saw the crew step to the helicopter.  For those of you that have followed military aviation, you will know that there was no need to interrupt our food.  Unless there is an alert, military aviation happens at a deliberate pace.

After a while, with engines running and rotors turning, we did finally head out to the balcony alongside the taxiway that they would be using.  Even this was slightly premature as it was a little longer before the rotors finally generated lift and the Juno got airborne.  It then taxied towards us and through the gate to the airfield before turning across the grass and pulling up to depart.  A brief addition to the day but a good one.  My first Juno!

A Marine Corps Bonus Package

One weekend, I was at Boeing Field for a visiting warbird.  I was pleasantly surprised to see some US Marine Corps helicopters across the field too.  A combination of UH-1Y Venoms and AH-1Z Vipers were on the ramp.  I had no idea if or when they would fly.  However, luck was on my side as a Venom/Viper pair fired up and launched on a training mission.  The rest stayed on the ramp while I was there but this pair taxied out to the main runway and then departed past my location.  A nice extra!

Army Flying Museum

Our vacation in the UK wasn’t about aviation exploits but, if an opportunity presents itself, it would be churlish not to follow up.  I had made arrangements to visit my friend Paul while I was in Hampshire and, halfway between us is Middle Wallop, home of Army aviation in the UK and also a museum.  I guess that would be a good place to meet up.

The museum isn’t large but it has recently gone through some refurbishment and it is definitely a good place to spend a couple of hours.  Army aviation has a strong rotary element to it but there has also been plenty of fixed wing activity.  The collection is a good reflection of both.  I will save one exhibit for a separate post but there are plenty of others.  The Lynx was a big part of the Army’s fleet for many years and the example that they have in the first hangar is actually a development airframe that has been restored.  The three windows on the cabin door are the most conspicuous identification item.  There is another operational Lynx in the second hangar too.

A selection of Austers are included in the displays.  There is also a Scout (with a second one on the grass by the parking lot).  An Agusta 109 is tucked away too.  This example was in service with Argentina in the Falklands and was co-opted by the UK forces when they took control.  It was used for support to the SAS along with a second example.  They ended up buying two more so I guess they worked well.  The Beaver was also used extensively with one sitting outside too.  The Alouette had a career with the Army but was not as widely used.  It is still displayed, though.  There are some old types reflecting the early days or military aviation too.

The only thing that confused me was the name.  I have seen it called the Army Flying Museum (on the wall) and the Museum of Army Aviation.  I wonder which it really is!