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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Sentry Eagle 2022 had a couple of F-16s on static display that had been painted up in special color schemes. They were supposed to be throwback schemes but, according to those I know that know more about these sorts of things, there are some issues with the schemes that they chose. I have no idea about such things but I have to say, neither scheme seemed to look that great to me. They felt slightly cartoonish but I can’t come up with a better explanation what it was.
Getting shots of them both was not straightforward. First, there were a ton of people around as they were central to the static displays for the show. Also, the sun was very high and bright and they was a lot of contrast to deal with. One of them was also close to a shadow from a hangar which made for even more contrast issues. Since we weren’t staying on base for the full show, I only had a narrow window to work with. It did improve just before we left, thankfully.
Our return trip from Klamath Falls also provided a bunch of opportunities to stop en route and see different aircraft. We had seen some images on Google Maps of A-4 Skyhawks at Albany in Oregon. The airport is right next to I-5 so we decided to take a look. Sure enough, the airframes were on the field but not where they had previously been seen. However, we had missed that a preserved A-4 was on a pole at the entrance to the airport so we got some shots of that first.
The stored airframes were now along a fence line on the east side of the field. This did not seem immediately accessible but, it turned out the the next property was an event center and it had a parking area that was open. We were able to get up to the fence amongst the parked RVs and get some shots of the airframes as they sat on the ground. No idea what the plan is for them but it doesn’t look like much at the moment.