Tag Archives: RAF Fairford

Cranfield Jetstreams

I read that Cranfield is getting a new SAAB 340 to be used as a flying testbed.  It is replacing the current Jetstream 31.  The plane is used for test work but it is also used as a flying classroom for aeronautical engineering students.  The Jetstream 31 was an old BAE Systems airframe (one I was involved with in my days at Warton) and it replaced a Jetstream 200.  That old Astazou powered airframe was in use in the late 80s when I went through the course.  Here are shots of that old plane when we were using it as well as the current one when it showed up at RIAT.

CV-22 Display

I have seen plenty of MV-22B Ospreys in service with the Marine Corps but I haven’t see too many CV-22s with the Air Force.  One of the early ones was at Hurlburt Field when I visited years ago but we weren’t allowed to photograph it.  RIAT provided my first opportunity to shoot one in action.  I got some shots of it on arrival day but I was not pleased with the results for a lot of them.  I don’t know whether the focus was off or it was my struggles with the low shutter speed but I didn’t do too well.

They did display during the flying program, though, so I had a lot more chances to get some shots.  The extra lumps and bumps make this distinctive from the USMC version but it is still a hard thing to photograph if you want to get significant blur on those giant, slow turning props.  The different shade of gray they go with seems slightly more interesting than the Marine’s scheme too.

The Arrows’ Display Itself

I have posted a few times about the Red Arrows at RIAT covering their prep for display and post display.  I haven’t actually shared any good shots from the display itself.  Here are a few that I got over the course of the show.  Some were taken close to show center and others were taken from the end of the display line to give a different perspective on the same maneuvers.  They put on a great show and it is funny that, when you see them regularly, you get blasé but, when you haven’t seen them for a while, you come to appreciate the display a lot more.

Departure Day

I have been to a bunch of shows at RIAT and have done arrivals day a few times too.  One thing I had not managed to do before was be there for departure day.  I wasn’t going to be able to do the full day because I needed to head off on the next leg of our vacation but I got a good chunk of the time.  Of course, the weather continued its theme of overcast conditions.  There were certain things I really wanted to see which didn’t always work out whether it was Tornados going when I wasn’t there or things that departed up field and didn’t come near us.

Even so, there was a great selection of interesting bits and pieces to see heading out.  Some of them just took off and climbed away normally.  Others seemed to be trying to get as high as possible quickly which wasn’t much fun for the gathered photographers.  A few put on a decent wag of the wings to please us.  The rotation point for most aircraft was quite a way from where we were which was a bit of a shame as rotation can make for an interesting shot.  A bit of heavy cropping and you can get the idea.  At least the lack of sun reduced the amount of heat haze.  Here is a gallery of a bunch of shots from the time I had.

Lynx/Wildcat Selection

The Lynx was a favorite helicopter of mine in my teens.  It was in service with both the Royal Navy and the British Army in substantial numbers.  We used to see them a lot as they often flew past our home on the seafront in Cowes moving between the Navy bases at Portland and Portsmouth.  The Lynx has gone from UK service, replaced by the Wildcat.  I hadn’t seen any Wildcats before RIAT so was glad to see them from both the Army and the Navy (not that they look that different unliked their predecessors).  Old style Lynxes were still represented though.  The German Navy had an example visiting.  They are not going to be around for much longer, though.  They will be replaced early in the 2020s.

Northrop Grumman Firebird

Northrop Grumman brought the Firebird to Fairford for RIAT.  RIAT is a big public show but it has developed a significant trade element to it and Firebird was clearly aimed at that audience.  It is a Scaled Composites design (with Northrop Grumman having bought Scaled a while back) and, while it has a cockpit, apparently it has the option to be flown unmanned.  I don’t know whether this is well tested or not.  Nor do I know the state of production examples.  I believe the one at RIAT was the prototype.

It was parked in the static park for a portion of the time I was there.  I did see it getting towed across to the north side at one point, presumably so it could be parked in a hangar rather than left out.  Supposedly, there is a US Government order for some of these and I imagine they will be fitted with some interesting systems.  Whether I shall ever see one is a different story.

Odd F-16 Vortices

With a sharp LERX, the F-16 regularly pulls a nice vortex on each side as it maneuvers hard.  Getting a shot of that is not a surprise.  However, I have recently been slowly making my way through shots from RIAT (months after the event) and I was working through some shots of the Belgian F-16 display.  I came across a shot of the jet pulling and rolling, taken from astern of the aircraft.  I noticed a second, smaller vortex trailing from the tail plane.  It appears that, with differential tail for the roll, there is a vortex coming from the tail plane – possibly at the route.  This pleases the old aero guy within!

Apache Wall of Fire

The British Army display of the WAH-64D Apache is one I have seen plenty of pictures of but I haven’t had much of a chance to shoot it myself.  The majority of the display is pretty standard stuff with them maneuvering tightly in front of the crowd, much like the US army’s display of the similar type.  They do use a little bit of pyro during the display but the finale is a wall of fire.  I was a bit concerned about my position compared to theirs as they positioned for the big moment as the background looked like it might not be all fire.  However, things turned out well enough and I got the sort of shot I was hoping for.

Turkish Phantoms

F-4 Phantoms are rapidly disappearing from service.  They remain in a few countries but their replacements are lined up in most cases.  The Turkish Air Force is still using them and brought some examples to RIAT.  They made their way to the west end for us to get some shots.  These jets had been planned for replacement by the F-35A Lightning II.  However, with the political fall out of the Turkish acquisition of Russian missile systems, they have been blocked from the program.  Maybe the F-4s will live on a little longer after all.

Patrouille de France Takeoff Configurations

I was working through some RIAT photos of the Patrouille de France display.  I had some tight shots of the first four jets as they took off and, as I looked closer at them, I was confused as to why two of the jets had a more nose high attitude than the other two.  Since they are taking off on formation, I figured that they should look the same.

A closer look at the images and it seems that the flap settings of the jets vary.  The nose high aircraft seem to have less flap – hence their need for a higher angle of attack – than the other two jets.  I have been trying the think why they would adopt this approach.  With all jets accelerating together and climbing together, I had imagined that they would all be in the same configuration.  I wonder whether there is something to do with the outwash from the nearby jets that requires a different configuration but I haven’t come up with anything conclusive.  I throw it out to the aero engineers that read this to propose your ideas as to why.  If any of you know anyone in the PdF, feel free to ask them instead!