In this recent post, I had an RAF Poseidon flying over the house. A little while later, I was at Boeing Field when the same jet came back from a test flight. Here are some shots of it as it rolled out after landing. It wasn’t long after this that the jet was delivered to the RAF and made the trip to its new home in Lossiemouth.
The RAF has been taking delivery of its new maritime patrol aircraft. The retirement of the Nimrods left the RAF without a maritime aircraft for about a decade which is a strange choice to make. Finally, the P-8 Poseidon was ordered to reinstate that capability. They started coming off the line here in Seattle a while back. The fourth aircraft has been undergoing testing ahead of its delivery. It was returning from a test flight and was coming straight for our house. It is not unusual for planes heading to Boeing Field to come our way so I grabbed the camera and got a couple of shots as it flew by. It even turned slightly giving a slightly wing down view in one shot.
The F-35 has been around for quite a while by now so I have shot them on plenty of occasions (although an F-35C is still on the wish list). My UK trip was one where I was hoping to get an RAF F-35B. It was scheduled to make an appearance at RIAT but the information did not make it sound like a display. On the first day of the show, the weather was shocking. Low cloud and rain got in the way of a lot of things displaying. Late in the day the F-35B was due in. Our initial forecast for arrival was extended as the cloud base meant an instrument approach was needed. It finally appeared and flew through the display line once. Then it powered away and a while later we were informed it had gone home.I was shooting video of that which is at the bottom of this page.
The next day had better weather so I was hoping for a little more. It did show up and we did get more than one pass. However, even then, it was a rather lackluster performance. I guess they have not worked up any form of display – not even a hovering portion – so we got some passes and a couple of configurations and that was it. I don’t think I was alone in feeling a little underwhelmed by what they put on. I guess in coming years, a more worked up display will be seen but I will have to wait a while for that.
There will be much online about the retirement of the Tornado from RAF service. Global Aviation Resource has been putting together some great information on the history of the jet in service and I would recommend you take a look there if you are interested. I am not going to repeat the information about the history of its service. However, I do have a history with the jet. It was entering service just as I was getting very in to aviation. Then I ended up working on the program undertaking handling clearances for different configurations and clearing urgent changes that were implemented for the first Gulf War.
I figured I would share a few pictures of Tornados. These are all the IDS version of the jet be they GR1 or GR4. I haven’t included the ADV jets since they went away a while back. Some of these shots are scans of old negatives and aren’t the greatest quality but they are part of the early life of the jet. Some others are more recent.
I will always have a soft spot for the Tornado. It remains in service in Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia but for the RAF, the service that drove the aircraft to be a more complex jet than the other partners initially wanted, it is now history.
The Royal Air Force has replaced its tanker force since I left the UK. The VC-10s and TriStars have been retired and there is a public private partnership in place to deliver tanking support. This uses converted Airbus A330s. They are able to provide tanking and transport services (with some of the aircraft configured only for transport). In RAF service, these jets are named Voyager. Red Flag 17-1 was my first real opportunity to photograph a Voyager in action. (Annoyingly my sister has shot them before me and has been on a refueling mission with them!) While an A330 might not be the most exciting jet to see, I was really looking forward to photographing it.
As the mission was recovering, the light was great. Low sun providing a warm and soft illumination on the returning jets. Then, the Voyager called up. Just as it did so, the sun went in. The Voyager came down the approach, its gray fuselage in the shade of some clouds. It landed, taxied in and then the sun came right back out again. Arghh! Sure, I can bump up the white balance a bit to warm things up but the jet was in shade and there is not much I can do about that. I had to leave before it recovered on the following day so no luck then. They will be around for a while so I guess I will get any crack at this at some point.
The Royal Air Force was back at Red Flag and the Typhoons were a big part of what they brought. It’s always nice to see Typhoons up and about but, sadly, the RAF has adopted an approach of combining the squadron jets into a maintenance pool. This means that they don’t carry individual squadron colors. A couple off the jets still had markings – one from 6 Squadron and one from 41 Squadron – but, sadly, the rest of the jets were all plain gray. Nothing colorful about them at all. We did get some nice winter light to photograph them in but even that is not going to make them look that great.
Red Flag may be well known for the fast jet activity but the jets aren’t the only ones that get to play. The transports also get to have a role. One of the exercises earlier this year included the U.K. RAF. They brought along a C-130 Hercules. I got to shoot it a couple of times. One thing that was clear as the aircraft took off was that the bottom of the fuselage was very dirty. I think it was safe to say that it had been landing on some rough strips somewhere out on the range.
The Brits were at Red Flag in numbers too for 16-1. An E-3D Sentry was part of the AWACS fleet while a C-130J Hercules launched each day I was there. Judging by the dust and dirt on the underside, they were landing on rough strips out on the ranges during their missions. However, the thing I was most looking forward to seeing was the Typhoon. The RAF brought eight jets from 3 and 11 Squadrons. Most days six of them launched.
In my youth, I worked on what was to become the Typhoon in my BAE days. I was an aerodynamicist looking at airframe loading and the possible flight envelope for the first flight. I was not looking forward to the job when I was given it but working on loads turned out to be a great task and taught me a lot about structural limits, flight controls and the process for expanding the flight envelope. A mentor of mine had told me it sounded dull but was very valuable and he was spot on. I guess he is a smart guy because he has gone on to be rather successful in the company!
Back on topic, the Typhoon is something I am very pleased to have worked on. Getting to see them in action is great. The launches when we were out by the runways were great. When we were by the EOR, we were directly across from the ramp that the Typhoons were using so I managed to see them crewing up for the launch. Then, of course, they had to come right by us as they taxied out. I know it was a long time ago but I can’t help but still have a soft spot for them when I see them in use.
The Lake District is an area that is known to be popular for low flying military aircraft. In all of the years I have been going there, I have hardly seen any jets coming through. Mainly that was because I was there at the weekend and the military don’t tend to fly much at the weekend. I was hopeful that we might see some traffic on this trip since we would be there midweek. We did get some traffic but it didn’t go quite as planned.
A few times we saw Hawks zipping over the town while we were outside. We were generally getting ready to go somewhere else and they caught me out as they came through. On one hike I took a long lens with me. Of course, this didn’t go to plan. Most of the time I was looking at some lovely scenery so I had a wide lens on the camera. This was the time the RAF chose to show up. No jets this time but a selection of Tucano turboprop trainers. I wasn’t expecting them when they came through so grabbed the camera with the lens I had on at the time and got a few shots. These won’t be of much use to me but they do remind me of the excitement of being caught out be a low flying plane of any type.
It’s quite strange to think that I live about 90 minutes from a major air museum but have not been to it since moving here. Such is the case with the Castle Air Museum in Atwater CA. Located on the edge of what used to be Castle AFB, the museum has an extensive collection of Cold War and Second World War types, predominantly from the US but also with a variety of types from other countries. The majority of the collection is located outside which, given this is the central valley, should mean it is pretty sunny. How I managed to get there on a cloudy day I do not know. However, it was indeed overcast when we started walking around. Things did clear up a bit later on, though, so I actually went back to get a few extra shots of things I had seen early on.
As a one-time SAC bomber base, there are quite a few large bombers on display. From the B-29 and B-50 through the enormous B-36 Peacemaker (got to love irony) up to the B-47 and B-52 strategic jets, there are all sorts. Some rarer bomber types are also on show. Not necessarily successful ones but they add to the collection. The Brits are also represented with a Vulcan on display.
It isn’t just bombers though. Plenty of fighters and trainers are included in the collection and a good number come from the US Navy so, despite the base having a USAF history, they have covered both services well. There is enough space to have all of the aircraft well spread out so you can appreciate them from many angles. You also get quite a walk in if you take a look at everything.
One of the nice additions is an SR-71 Blackbird. There are a few SR-71s on display but not a huge number and seeing another one is always cool. However, they are quite tricky to photograph, particularly outdoors when the black paint scheme really makes for a strong contrast with the daylight. Still worth a go though.
There are a few types on display that are worthy of a little extra time so I may post about them separately. If you have even a vague interest in planes, though, make a trip to this museum. Nancy came along and, while she is not a big fan of planes, she found the variety of types quite interesting. High praise indeed!