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F-F-Family f-f-fun

Guy Harvey braved the arctic chill at Coltishall for the 16 and 54 Squadrons' families day on 12 March. Pictures by Damien Burke

Just chillin'

It's days like this that you question your sanity - several hours standing in a frozen field in the hope of catching a glimpse of a few noisy aeroplanes. It doesn't help that you know many of the show participants have cancelled due to the strong winds and miserable conditions of the day before, but it's those Jaguars you have really come to see.

Just a couple of years ago things would have been different - if an offer had been made to stand in a muddy field, endure a twenty-knot gale in temperatures barely above freezing just to watch some Jaguars, your first thought would have been "Nah". But now things are different - you know that the airfield will close in eighteen months time, and the chance to get 'close up and personal' at the threshold of runway 22 will be gone for good. No more fingers in the ears as the afterburners kick in - no more chats by the small wooden fence, waiting for the farmer to come and turf you off.

Gone too will be the Jaguar, after a brief sojourn at Coningsby. Okay, so it wasn't the most charismatic of aircraft, not in the same league as the Lightning, but as the years passed your fondness for this Anglo-French hybrid grew. In a world increasingly populated by F-16s, it reminded one of a an earlier age with its simplicity, even though it was only a few years younger than the ubiquitous Falcon. You could rely on it being low enough over the fence on take-off if you were at the wrong end of the airfield - and you always knew it would dump a bit of fuel, especially if it was a T-bird.

So you don't mind freezing your proverbials off this particular day - it may be the last chance you get to see a diamond-nine formation. Just as with Lightnings at Binbrook and Phantoms at Wattisham, it is the beginning of the end of an era and you want to soak up the sights and sounds before it's too late. You're not alone - about two hundred like-minded souls line the fence, paying homage to two of the RAF's most famous squadrons. No matter that the sun has disappeared, and the icy wind gets more bitter by the minute, at least you are here.


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