North Weald, 22 September
Andrew Bates checks out what was on offer.
Late September once again heralded the FlyPast Photoday at North Weald, a firm favourite for many camera-toting enthusiasts with a penchant for historic aviation. Organised as ever by Key Publishing, in conjunction with 'The Squadron', the event once again proved to be a very relaxing and enjoyable day out, whilst no doubt others would have made a weekend of it by attending the Fly-In the following day. For regular attendees of the event, it was very much a case of déjà vu, as the weather once again proved to be glorious throughout the day, ensuring that any overtime worked at Kodak and Fuji would be fully justified!
As with previous events, there were a wide variety of classic and historic airframes on view, with the added interest of further arrivals throughout the day. Of these, it was probably the P-51D Mustang which commanded the most attention within minutes of arriving. A relative newcomer to the UK show circuit, this example has been on rebuild for a number of years. Owned by Maurice Hammond, P-51D 45-11518/G-MSTG has been beautifully restored in the markings of 44-14419/LH-F 'Janie', the mount of Major William Price from the 353rd Fighter Group when he was based at Raydon. Just to add a touch of authenticity, a period US Jeep was thoughtfully parked close to the Mustang a short while later, which provided a further opportunity to capture a flavour of the era.
Another more familiar warbird on display was C-47A N147DC from Aces High, which had undergone yet another transformation in terms of colour scheme. It has now forsaken its previous USAAC markings, to become a RAF Dakota, with the fictitious code NF-A. Obviously, another scheme indicates another starring role. This time it has been earning its keep during work on a new film called 'Charlotte Gray'.
From the same era as the Dak, but on a much lighter scale, came a selection of L-4 Grasshoppers for those with an interest in the light observation and utility types of WWII. There were three variants on display; L-4A 42-38410/G-BHPK, L-4H 43-29405/G-BCOB and L-4J 44-80321/G-FRAN, all proudly displaying D-Day invasion stripes as a reminder of the relatively unsung but vitally important rôle they had to play during that time.
At the other end of the spectrum, the jet selection was again dominated by the familiar shape of the Jet Provost, most of which had been present at last year's event. This was no surprise, as a number are based at North Weald, so it was quite understandable that the various owner/pilots would make them available again for this year's Photoday. However, apart from regular favourites such as T3A XN459/G-BWOT and T4 XR673/G-BXLO, there was one newcomer that captured the attentions of many visitors - ex-Royal Saudi AF Strikemaster 80A 1121, indicating that the cache of ex-Saudi Strikemasters held in storage by Global Aviation may soon begin to disperse to new owners around the country.
Also present again was Jet Provost T5P XS230/G-VIVM from the 'International Test Pilots School'. Readers may remember my report last year, whereby my ignorance required that I requested further enlightenment on this subject. I can report that this JP is actually based at Coventry Airport, which is where ITPS also has its offices, and it usually lodges with Canberra WK163/G-BVWC from Classic Aviation Projects (which has recently been sold). I should have known this really, as I work only a few miles from Baginton (many thanks to Dave Jackson at CAP for the information).
The remaining jets comprised of a pair of L39s and a pair of Hunters, one example of each proving to be Photoday debutantes. These both proved popular with the photographers; privately owned L39 ES-YLB/55 and Classic Jets's stunning Hunter prototype re-creation, GA11 WV256/G-BZPB/'WB188'. The paint finish on this overall duck-egg green Hunter really is a credit to everyone involved in the project, so the plan to use another GA11 to also re-create WB188 in its later all red, world speed record guise, complete with pointed nose, is awaited with bated breath. In the meantime, if anyone wishes a sneak preview, they could always aquaint themselves with the real WB188, which is appropriately preserved at the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, on long term loan from the RAF Museum.
Training types of varying vintage were much in evidence during the day. These included a pair of immaculate Boeing-Stearman Kaydets, an ex-Spanish AF CASA 1.131E Jungmann, Harvard, Chipmunk and adding a touch of elegance from a bygone age, Miles Magister I V1075/G-AKPF. Completing the training theme from more recent times was a pair of newly demobbed RAF Bulldogs, both still displaying their UAS markings. This pairing consisted of XX524/G-DDOG, still marked as '04' from the London UAS, and XX624/G-KDOG, still marked as 'E' from the Bristol UAS. Although the Bulldog has now been completely replaced by the Tutor in RAF service, their operational days are far from over, as evidenced by their popularity on the civil market. As the stored examples at Shawbury continue to disperse after auction, no doubt a new chapter in Bulldog operations is about to begin.
Compared to previous Photodays at North Weald, there appeared to be a few less participants than normal. Whether this was a result of the tragic events in America the week before, or just operational reasons, is open to debate. Certainly, the offices at FlyPast received a number of calls enquiring if the event had been cancelled, but common-sense prevailed, and the decision was taken that the show must go on. Without wishing to sound disrespectful, this had to be the right decision. Cancellation would have only served to deepen the generally sombre mood even further.
From Magister to Strikemaster, or Jungmann to Hunter, the organisers once again provided enthusiasts with a rich variety of historic airframes to peruse and photograph. As before, the event proved to be a relaxed and laid-back affair for photographers, almost to the point of exclusivity. If historic aviation is your thing, and you enjoy photography, this event is highly recommended.