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KEMBLE Delta Jets Open Day 1 May 2000

Report by Andrew Bates

Additional pictures by Damien Burke

Any mention of a Bank Holiday Monday to the average person in the street would probably conjure up thoughts of gale force winds and driving rain. However, by way of a pleasant change, this years May Day was blessed with blue skies and warm sunshine, which lasted well into the afternoon. Consequently, the first of two planned Open Days at Kemble, organised by the resident Delta Jets, saw a large influx of visitors descend on this former military airfield. The pre-publicity had placed the emphasis on ex-military jet aircraft, and so as it transpired, any enthusiast with a passion for classic jets would not have been disappointed, especially where Hunters and Jet Provosts were concerned.

Effectively, the event took the form of a fly-in for most of the day, with some flying displays in the afternoon. However, as aircraft began arriving, it was not uncommon for some of them to perform an impromptu display prior to landing. Shortly after the gates opened at 10:00, visitors were able to see most of the Kemble fleet out on the flightline, which apart from Meteor F8 VZ467/G-METE and Buccaneer S2B XW986, included a quartet of Hunters, all beautifully presented in their differing colour schemes. These comprised of the familiar all black T7B WV318/G-FFOX and colourful ex-Swiss F58A J-4104/G-PSST, along with less familiar T7 WV372/G-BXFI, and recently resident F6A XF516/G-BVVC. The last two were both resplendent in RAF schemes, representing 2 and 234 Squadrons respectively. A little later in the day, this selection of Hunters was further boosted by the arrival of OFMC F58 J-4090/G-SIAL, still displaying its Swiss Air Force origins.

As the day wore on, the flightline continued to expand, with the Jet Provost and its derivatives ably demonstrating its continued popularity with the private ex-military jet operator. Once again, a varied selection of colour schemes were in evidence; T5A XW333/G-BVTC in a striking all black scheme, familiar Transair operated T3A XN459/G-BWOT in its usual all red scheme, also from Transair, T3A XM478/G-BXDL in overall silver, T3 XN637/G-BKOU in air defence grey and 79 Squadron markings, T5A XW433/G-JPRO in traditional red and white, complete with CFS markings, and finally, another well known sight, T4 XR679/G-BWGT from the Jet Provost Club, resplendent with its flame effect nose and tip tanks. Representing the JP ‘with teeth’, was the familiar pair of ex-Botswana Strikemasters, OJ4/G-UNNY and RNZAF schemed OJ5/G-BXFP as ‘NZ6361’. It was nice to see that G-UNNY was at last carrying full Botswana Defence Force markings, now that permission has been granted from the relevant authorities. As an interesting comparison to the JP line-up, Kennet Aviation’s Provost T1 XF603/G-KAPW was parked alongside as a reminder of the origins of this successful jet trainer.

Whilst jets did indeed dominate proceedings, other aircraft types were equally welcome to attend, so consequently, an interesting and eclectic selection was to be found parked amongst the Hunters and JPs. These included P-51D Mustang 44-73877/N167F from the Scandinavian Historic Flight, L-18C Super Cub 52-2436/G-CUBJ as French configured ‘18-5395’, civilian schemed Chipmunk T10 WK577/G-BCYM, Jersey based Pembroke C1 WV740/G-BNPH, and Bristol UAS Bulldog T1 XX656.

As far as unusual types were concerned, the British Antarctic Survey Twin Otter VP-FAZ was only overshadowed by the afternoon arrival of ex RNZN Wasp HAS1 NZ3907/G-RIMM from Cranfield. With the Wasp long since retired from FAA service, it was especially welcome to see this NZ example flying again, though it was interesting to note that this particular airframe began life with the RN as XT435.

It would seem that ex-RN Wasp helicopters are like buses, you don’t see one for ages, and than two appear, as parked in the small static display was Wasp HAS1 XT788/G-BMIR. This particular example was extremely popular with the kids, as the cockpit was open to anyone with a desire to get behind the controls, though for some bizarre reason, the serial number was presented as XT78? (composite airframe perhaps?). The remainder of the static comprised of some of the non-flying airframes at Kemble, such as Buccaneer XX894 from the Buccaneer Preservation Society, and a trio of Hunter T7s owned by Delta Jets.

Inside Delta’s main hangar it was possible to peruse the next rebuild project underway; Hunter T7 XL577/G-BXKF, which was looking very sleek, if a bit anonymous, in bare metal condition. Elsewhere on the airfield, the Britannia Preservation Society were proud to display their preserved Britannia C1 XM496, which, on arrival at Kemble in 1998, performed the last ever flight of this elegant Bristol design. Also open for inspection was the Bristol Aero Collection, with their fascinating museum of artefacts and airframes, including Harrier GR1 XV798 and ex-Kemble gate guard Meteor F8 WH364.

Although the flying display was scheduled for the afternoon, the circuit at Kemble remained busy for most of the day, with aircraft arriving, and others departing on local flights, before returning later. There was even an unannounced three-ship AAC Gazelle flypast as an added bonus. Consequently, once the display officially started, it was almost a continuation of the previous morning’s activity, with the Hunters and Jet Provosts dominating the proceedings. In-between the flying, it was nice to see Buccaneer XW986 conduct a high-speed dash down the runway, still resplendent in its ex-RAE ‘raspberry ripple’ colour scheme.

Judging by the size of the crowds, as well as the superb selection of visiting aircraft, this successful event proved to be a welcome addition to the early display calendar. From a photographer’s point of view, the only minor criticism was that some of the late arrivals were parked on a flightline that extended past the end of the crowdline, thus making photography virtually impossible. However, this did not detract from an excellent day out, made all the more enjoyable by the unusually fine weather.


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