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.
When you look at something like a ferry that can hold 180 cars and a thousand passengers, you don’t immediately think of agility and maneuverability. However, the Wightlink ferries that run between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight have surprising capabilities. The entry to Portsmouth Harbour is followed by a rapid change of direction to get to the terminal at Gunwharf. From the Spinnaker Tower, you get a great view of how rapidly the ferry can be thrown around. The St Clare is a bi-directional ship so it doesn’t back in like Victoria of Wight. Instead, it looks like it is doing a handbrake turn. The wake ends up almost combing out of the side of the boat!
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.
A variety of ferry operators have made their way on to the blog over time. Today I get to add a new one for me. I was taking a WSF ferry to Bainbridge Island and, as we were departing Seattle’s Colman Dock, some Kitsap Ferries services were also arriving and departing. The light angles weren’t ideal but I figured I would add to my collection of ferry shots anyway. Maybe I will go back deliberately at some point in the future to get some better shots.
While walking along the Thames, there were plenty of aircraft overhead making their approach to Heathrow. I wasn’t too focused on them and was instead photographing the scenes along the river. I did look up as one jet came over and it looked like it was in a livery I didn’t recognize so I grabbed a shot with the 24-105 fitted. Turns out this was a Rwanda Air A330. That is something I don’t see every day. I wish I had been using the longer lens but this will have to do.
One of the nice aspects of mirrorless cameras is using the tilting screen to see the shot while holding the camera away from you. I took advantage of this when I was near a swan at Mottisfont. We were walking alongside the water and the swan was swimming towards us. I wanted to get a close shot from low down but swans are not always the most friendly beasts. Getting myself down there didn’t seem like a good plan. Holding the camera out while looking at the screen seemed a better idea and the swan, while not totally enthusiastic, was less annoyed that way.
The Embraer E190 is the most common airframe to be seen flying in to LCY these days. British Airways’ Cityflyer operation uses a bunch of them on its services. Anything flying in to LCY needs to be approved for steep approaches. This usually involves a modification to the controls for a steep descent mode. As I watched the E190s descending on the approach, I could see that the spoilers were deployed all the way down. I assume that this is a higher drag configuration that makes the descent angle needed achievable while controlling the speed.
The thing that was more impressive than the descent profile was the departures. The runway at LCY is not long. Watching the jets spool up for departure, I wondered how much of the runway that they would use. As it turned out, they rotated really quickly and the climb out angle was very steep. With the buildings of Canary Wharf ahead, they need to climb quickly but I was quite taken by just how fast they climbed.
When I first started planning to trip to the Mojave Desert for the Edwards AFB show, a friend of mine in the Midwest was also planning on being there. He said he was also going to visit the Tehachapi Loop. I was vaguely aware of it but decided to look it up. While he ended up not making the trip, I took some time on my last day to go across to see the loop for myself. The Tehachapi Pass is a steep climb for a train to make and, in order for it to climb sufficiently in one section, the engineers that laid out the alignment put in a special configuration.
The trains make a 360 degree climbing turn and, given the length of the trains, the leading part of the train will pass over the top of the back end of the train as it climbs. It is quite something to have a long train twisting around on itself as it climbs the grade. Of course, descending is the reverse but that is less dramatic because the train is braking whereas the climbing trains are working flat out to make it up the hill. The sounds of the locomotives at high power reaches you long before they come in to sight.
When I got there, I had no idea whether I would see a train or not. I had plenty of time but I didn’t know whether the trains were regular on a Sunday. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before a train came into the loop heading down the hill. I watched it negotiate the curves and the parts of the train appear and disappear. The interesting news was, as it got a little further down the hill, it stopped. This looked promising in that it was probably holding for a train coming up the other way. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the sounds of multiple locos pulling hard came up the slope.
There were four locos on the front of the train dragging their load towards the summit of the pass. The cars were stretched out behind them down the grade and, at the back (long after the lead locos had gone), another pair of locos were bringing up the rear. With the train safely by, I decided I wouldn’t hang around to see if there was more traffic. I had a drive back to the airport to do and didn’t need to wait around just in case.
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.
The Royal Navy has recently commissioned two new aircraft carriers. At 60,000 tons, they are the largest ships the Navy has ever had. The first is HMS Queen Elizabeth and the second is HMS Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales was due to undertake its first major exercise off the east coast of the US but, shortly after departing Portsmouth, it experienced some technical issues. I don’t know whether there is official confirmation of what happened but there is a suggestion that one of the screws contacted the seabed.
Whatever the issue, she had to return to port and the Queen Elizabeth was substituted for the exercise. There has been discussion that the ship will need to go to Rosyth for dry docking but, as of our visit, it was still alongside at Portsmouth. I was able to get some good shots of it from Spinnaker Tower as well as some from the ferry as we headed to the Isle of Wight. I hope they can fix whatever the issues are rapidly.