On two previous occasions, the RAF’s Sentinel fleet has made an appearance on this blog. The most recent was for a damp example at RIAT that was in this post. The Sentinel fleet has spent a number of years under threat of retirement. It is a small fleet and it is custom made so it will have very high sustainment costs. Also, it provides a role principally in support of the Army so I imagine it isn’t the highest priority for some of the RAF upper echelons.
Previous reports of its retirement have been followed up with a reprieve. However, the MOD in the UK has just issued a request for proposals (RFP) for companies to come and dismantle the aircraft (along with a pair of E-3D Sentrys). This looks like it is really going to happen. The RFP states that the aircraft are not for reuse and that the selected contractor will disassemble them on site at RAF Waddington. Not only is the RAF not going to use them but they are making sure no one else does.
Various bits of information have flowed around about them. There is a suggestion that obsolescence issues mean a lot of equipment needs to be replaced. Since that will be a custom process, it will be an expensive thing to do and, with the axe having been hanging over them for a number of years, spending a lot of money on them if they might not be around for much longer just doesn’t seem likely. Maybe there are other issues too.
I’ve had a soft spot for V Sqn from the Lightning and Tornado F3 days. Seeing it move from a fast jet to a bizjet derivative was a bit odd but at least it survived while so many other squadrons disappeared. I wonder whether it will surface again. Maybe an F-35B unit at some point? We shall see. My best interaction with the Sentinels was on a Red Flag when I got to shoot them in some great light. Farewell you oddball.
Prior to the 1960s, the Isle of Wight had an extensive rail network. The Beeching cuts reduced it to one line, from Ryde to Shanklin. It was electrified and the rolling stock was initially old London Underground stock from the 1920s. This was in use when I was a youngster but it got replaced in the late 80s by the new(er) Class 483s. These were also London Underground castoffs – this time from the 1938 stock. They had gone through a modernization program to be used but they were hardly new.
Their time has finally come. Replacement is underway with “new” stock based on retired District Line trains from London. See a pattern developing here. The system is shut down for a while for some significant track upgrades which will allow for a more frequent service. The track desperately needed work and the old trains were falling apart so, hopefully, this will provide a big improvement.
When I lived on the Island, I didn’t think much about the stuff that was there. All of these pictures I have taken when visiting more recently. This is all I have to record the new extinct Island Line stock. Two examples will be preserved if you want to go and see them!
I understand that the Spanish Air Force is retiring (or has retired) their C-130 fleet. I guess with the A400Ms coming into service, the Hercs were done. I have not had much interaction with Spanish C-130s but here are a couple of shots to mark their end of service.
A Spanish Air Force KC-130 Hercules launches out of Nellis AFB to provide refueling support to a Red Flag mission.
Recently, the Blue Angels made their last formation flight with the F/A-18 Hornet. The team is transitioning to the Super Hornet ahead of 2021 and they have started working up with the new jets. It has been a while since I last saw the Blue Angels demonstration so I thought a few shots with their aging legacy Hornets was in order. They always got the oldest jets in the fleet so I hope they are happy to have some slightly newer airframes to work with.
The Air France A380s have gone away. Their retirement had already been identified prior to the COVID-19 outbreak but it accelerated their departure. I had shot them on a few occasions with SFO and LAX being regular destinations. Since I won’t be seeing them again, here is a farewell tribute to the Air France A380. Hope one or two of the airframes find a second life.
These shots aren’t particularly nice but, at the time I took them, I didn’t realize that they would be a bit more significant for a friend of mine. He was a skipper for Virgin Atlantic and making his first run to Seattle. I went out to get his arrival despite it being a bit gloomy. We met up afterwards for a beer and some food. He flew back the following day.
Since that time, the airline business (along with many businesses) has taken a bad turn and Virgin Atlantic has been getting rid of staff. My friend was eligible for retirement and decided to take it. Consequently, this flight turned out to be the last landing he made in his commercial flying career. The return leg landing was made by another member of his crew. It would have been nice if the conditions were better but I am glad I was there to see it. Happy retirement Chris and see you soon I hope!
Another airline retiring another type. This used to be an occasional topic on the blog but the massive reductions in airline service means I could probably almost pick one a day. In this case it is American Airlines and the Boeing 767. The 757s have also been grounded but they are not definitely retired yet so we’ll wait for a while. Of course, by the time this post hits the page, that might have changed!
The 767-200 fleet went away a while back but I am going to include them here. The 767-300s have been around until now. I didn’t travel in them very much but have made the occasional trip. I think I took one from Chicago to Manchester in the UK and definitely had a ride from SFO to JFK once. There have probably been other times that I don’t now recall. It has been quite a while since I was a regular with American.
All that aside, the fleet is now done. Some may find a second life – possibly as freighters – but probably the majority will end up being parted out. We might suddenly find 767 parts are not as in need as they were until recently but there is still a sizable fleet of freighters and there are still in production so maybe there is some value.
I posted here about KLM retiring their 747s early as a result of the COVID-19 related pummeling that the airlines have taken. It wasn’t long before another airline made the same announcement – this time it was Qantas. Qantas has operated the 747s since the beginning and it is quite a shame to see that they are no more. Here are some of my Qantas 747s from over the years. I should note that there is a rumor that they may not be gone for good and could return. That would be great but I suspect it will not be the case given that they didn’t have long left anyway and things are going to be rough for a while for the airlines in all probability.
The massive reductions in air service as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has put airlines in a tough spot. One of the first things they have done is ground a significant portion of their fleets. For some airlines with types that were due to go out of service before too long anyway, this just accelerated the plans. The KLM 747s were due to last until 2021 but they have been grounded and are not expected to return. As I have done with the end of 747 operations for other airlines in the past, this is a small tribute to the KLM 747 fleet. An interesting livery amongst a world of white jets.
As a small boy, the new thing in British trains was the Intercity 125. Known in the industry as the HST, this was a step forward in fast train travel for the UK. When I started working in the rail industry many years later, the HSTs were a big part of our fleet. They had been in service a long time by then but were still the backbone of certain corridors and were getting further investment. Move on another 20 years and now the fleet is finally disappearing.
Some are still being reconfigured for a future on new routes, but the majority of the fleet is being replaced by a new generation of trains and it is a surprise just how long it has taken to find their successors. The HSTs have been a solid fleet with strong performance, a level of redundancy and a ride quality that was impressive. I figured I would through in a couple of shots I have of them. I have very few, sadly. One is an old one in British Rail colors from the 80s and the others are from the days of GNER. What a shame I don’t have more. Given the amount of time I spent traveling on them or inspecting them at depots and overhaul facilities, I should have tons. Oh to have had had phones in our cameras then!