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.
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.
The 173FW at Klamath Falls has flown a variety of types over the year. One of the advantages of the base being open for Sentry Eagle 2022 was the chance to check out the preserved examples that they have. There is a central avenue on base that is the location of an F-4, an F-15 and an F-16. They are mounted on poles and in the colors of the unit. The lighting can be a bit tricky depending on the time of day but there are ways of making the most of what you can get.
Each plane is set up in a dynamic pose as is appropriate for a fighter aircraft. They are well looked after and there aren’t too many items on them that you would want removed, like spikes to deter birds from landing. I was surprised how few of the visitors to the event actually came to check them out as they weren’t far from the main route to the ramp but it certainly made it easier trying to get some shots.
The F-15 Eagle recently had the fiftieth anniversary of its first flight. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that a jet that I still think as high up the pecking order is really over fifty years old. Of course, the jets in service now are not the originals but the F-15Cs started production in fiscal year 78 which meant they were delivered from around 1980 onwards. Therefore, they are over 40 years old which is quite something for a jet getting such heavy use today.
The 173FW put a four ship of F-15C/Ds up for the Sentry Eagle 2022 air show. They tore up the field in an impressive way for the practice days and the main show itself. Having been a fan of the F-15 since my youth, this was a lot of fun to watch. I got a series of shots of one of the jets as it pulled hard to the vertical in full burner and then turned towards the crowd direction. Looking at the surface of the rear wing, there is definitely some deformation of the skins as the structure is loaded up. This is not a problem. It is quite common to get aircraft skin to ripple under varying load conditions but it is usually something that is more common on aging airframes.
The provision of aggressor services continues to expand across air forces. Some have come and gone and it is a developing situation with various old or retired military aircraft being picked up by the contractor market to provide services. Some of these seem to have a short life span as the demands of the customers increase beyond the point that older jets can be effective. One operator is called Tactical Air. They are operating a bunch of F-5s and have some based ay Klamath Falls.
One of their aircraft was on display in a hangar at Sentry Eagle 2022. It wasn’t the ideal conditions to try and get a shot of it but it was there and I was hardly going to pass it up. Earlier in the day, one of their jets had been towed to the north end of the field. I grabbed a shot as it passed, wrongly assuming it was a visiting T-38 and only realizing it wasn’t later. They had other jets parked at the alert facility but it was the sort of place that showing up with a camera seemed like it might be counterproductive so I didn’t get any shots of them.
I have posted about a MiG 21 and an F-104 Starfighter that we found in Corvallis and, if you read both posts, you might recall that we were there because we had heard about a Taiwanese F-5E Tiger II that was supposed to be there. While I have focused on the other two, it was indeed true that the F-5 was there. It was also tucked up at the back of the hangar.
It was squeezed in amongst the other aircraft which made getting a clear shot of it a touch tricky. I was using my phone – why I didn’t go back to the car to get the main camera I don’t know – but I ended up taking shots to stitch together when I got home. The jet looked in good shape. It even had a data plate on the wing tip which is unlike most other jets I have seen. I grabbed a bunch of shots but we had a long drive ahead of us and we couldn’t stay forever.
On the morning after our arrival in Klamath Falls, we headed out to a location that was hopefully good for getting shots of jets departing to the north in the morning. What we hadn’t counted on was that the based aircraft would be practicing their display for the air show the following day just after we got there. This was a four ship display that involved some sporty departures and then beating up the airfield from various directions and in various combinations.
They launched four F-15s in stream. The first jet up was the specially painted aircraft that the unit has had for a while but which I had not seen previously. It was joined by two more single seaters in unit markings and the last of the four was an F-15D that wasn’t carrying any unit markings. They would keep it really low after getting airborne and then cross the fence at speed and with burner locked in.
Then they would each pull hard to the vertical and blast upwards. The first one caught me off guard a bit – not ideal since this was the special paint jet. It turned out I got some shots of it, even though I found myself, twisting awkwardly to try and keep it in view. The others I had a slightly better idea about and was ready to track them as they went.
In a previous post, I mentioned coming across a MiG 21 in Corvallis Oregon. When we saw this jet through the door of the hangar, we were surprised. However, we are polite types so I went in to the office attached the hangar to ask if we could take a look at the MiG. When I said this to the person on the desk, she asked if I wanted to see their Starfighter. I was confused but wasn’t going to argue about the type since I wanted them to let me in. She pointed me through the door to hangar and said I was welcome to look around.
I went through the door and looked to my right and immediately realized what she was talking about. Tucked in a corner to one side of the MiG was an TF-104G Starfighter. It was in bare metal but there was a hint of previous paint on it. I found a panel with markings on it which suggested the jet had seen service with Turkey. Mark advised that they had received jets from other countries so it might have served elsewhere before.
While it was tucked in the back of the hangar, the hangar doors had plenty of clear panels which meant there was some nice light illuminating the jet as it sat there doing very little. The Starfighter is such a fantastic looking jet. It is so dynamic looking and, when in bare metal, it looks even more cool. I have no idea the story that brought it to Corvallis but was so happy to have found it as part of a short diversion from the long drive home.