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.
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!
Our vacation in the UK wasn’t about aviation exploits but, if an opportunity presents itself, it would be churlish not to follow up. I had made arrangements to visit my friend Paul while I was in Hampshire and, halfway between us is Middle Wallop, home of Army aviation in the UK and also a museum. I guess that would be a good place to meet up.
The museum isn’t large but it has recently gone through some refurbishment and it is definitely a good place to spend a couple of hours. Army aviation has a strong rotary element to it but there has also been plenty of fixed wing activity. The collection is a good reflection of both. I will save one exhibit for a separate post but there are plenty of others. The Lynx was a big part of the Army’s fleet for many years and the example that they have in the first hangar is actually a development airframe that has been restored. The three windows on the cabin door are the most conspicuous identification item. There is another operational Lynx in the second hangar too.
A selection of Austers are included in the displays. There is also a Scout (with a second one on the grass by the parking lot). An Agusta 109 is tucked away too. This example was in service with Argentina in the Falklands and was co-opted by the UK forces when they took control. It was used for support to the SAS along with a second example. They ended up buying two more so I guess they worked well. The Beaver was also used extensively with one sitting outside too. The Alouette had a career with the Army but was not as widely used. It is still displayed, though. There are some old types reflecting the early days or military aviation too.
The only thing that confused me was the name. I have seen it called the Army Flying Museum (on the wall) and the Museum of Army Aviation. I wonder which it really is!