NORTH WEALD FlyPast Photoday 23 September
Andrew Bates was there: Now a firmly established event in the airshow calendar, the FlyPast Photoday at North Weald once again provided enthusiasts with some unrivalled photographic opportunities, greatly assisted by some very welcome, autumnal sunshine. Organised in conjunction with long term resident The Squadron, the event, including the traditional fly-in the following day, again attracted a superb mix of historic and classic aircraft, pistons and jets, which were all nicely positioned for photography, without any barriers to spoil the view.
Many of the Weald based aircraft were already lined up, ready to greet keen photographers upon arrival, once the gates had opened at 9:30, although it took the best part of an hour before all the cockpit covers had been removed. However, that aside, the event soon got into full swing, accompanied by the almost constant click of camera shutters as everyone took full advantage of the sunshine.
In recent years, North Weald has become a focal point for Jet Provost operations, so it was no surprise to see six examples of various marks lined up in the main static, whilst a further pair were to be found parked over on the Aces High ramp. The main JP display consisted of a mix of civilian and RAF colour schemes, which comprised of a pair of T3s (XM478/G-BXDL & XN637/G-BKOU), T4 XP672/G-RAFI, and a trio of T5s (XW310/G-BWGS, XW355/G-JPTV, & XS230/G-VIVM). The last mentioned JP was adorned with International Test Pilots School titles, an establishment not previously encountered by your scribe, so further enlightenment would be most welcome, though ironically, this particular aircraft spent virtually its entire military career with the Empire Test Pilots School at Boscombe Down prior to demob. Also, within the ranks of JPs, but not looking out of place, was ex-Botswana Strikemaster Mk.87 OJ10/G-BXFS.
Continuing the jet theme, there was a trio of civilian registered L-39 Albatros trainers; G-OALB in a striking, black colour scheme, along with camouflaged G-BZDI and G-WHZZ/84, both with Russian markings. Of the three examples present, the only aircraft with any known pedigree was G-WHZZ. This had reportedly served with the Russian military until disposal onto the civilian market, and close examination of the airframe revealed the serial 433114.
Meanwhile, warbird fans were well catered for, with a veritable feast of classic designs awaiting the eager enthusiasts. Dominating the line up were the pair of resident C-47A Dakotas; N47FK still marked up as 292912, the identity it was given during film work earlier this year, whilst N147DC had forsaken a similar scheme to be adorned with smart USAAC colours, along with the codes 07 10TG. Another notable heavyweight parked alongside was the Scandinavian Historic Flight A-26B Invader 44-34602/N167B Sugarland Express, now a North Weald resident. Originally based in Oslo, the small fleet have now moved in to Weald, from where they intend to continue their future airshow appearances, presumably because Essex is a little more central to most European venues. Completing the Scandinavian HF line up, in amongst the jets, was ex-Swiss Hunter F58 J-4089/SE-DXA, resplendent in its Royal Swedish AF colour scheme. The remainder of the fleet, the Vampire and P-51D Mustang, were unfortunately conspicuous by their absence.
Returning to the warbird theme, it was perhaps quite appropriate that with all the Battle of Britain celebrations going on, a Hurricane and Spitfire were also on display during the day. The Shuttleworth Sea Hurricane IB Z7015/G-BKTH was already present when the event started, and a short while later, Spitfire PRXI PL983/G-PRXI appeared in the circuit, before landing and taking its rightful place alongside the Hurricane.
Other classic types included TBM-3R Avenger 53319/G-BTDP, Mustang 22 472218/G-HAEC (which is actually ex-RAAF A68-192, but is probably better known as Big Beautiful Doll), and FG-1D Corsair 92399/NX448AG. The latter aircraft, painted to represent F4U-1 55798 from USN VF-17, drew quite a crowd of appreciative enthusiasts upon arrival, as it had only been imported from the USA the previous month.
Continuing the trend for multiple types, there was a trio of Yak C-11 trainers, which included new arrival from France F-AZSF/11, along with a trio of Harvards, which included G-BRLV (ex-RCAF 20403), looking very smart in its USAF colour scheme as 93542. Elsewhere on the airfield classic aircraft of all shapes and sizes could be espied, including L-4 Cub, C-45 Expeditor, Pilatus P-2, SNCAN 1101 Noralpha, Beech D.17S Staggerwing, and the unmistakable shape of the EKW C-3605. Admittedly, a few aircraft present were painted in spurious markings, the P-2 and Noralpha especially trying hard to impersonate a WWII German fighter with their period Luftwaffe markings, but nobody seemed to mind, and as the sun continued to shine, the cameras continued to click. One thing was for certain, there was no mistaking the amount of TLC that had been expended upon all the aircraft by their respective owners.
For any enthusiast with an interest in photography, and a passion for historic aircraft, this is an event not to be missed. Not only for the opportunity to capture close up shots of some familiar airshow participants, but also for the chance to photograph some of the more reclusive aircraft not normally seen on the circuit. Besides all that, it is also a very enjoyable way to wind down the airshow season, and whilst trying not to tempt fate for next year, past experience has shown that the organisers somehow manage to arrange the weather as well.