Andrew Bates soaked up the mist at this year's Valley photocall. Pictures by Geoff Stockle/Aeromedia
Organised in association with the Valley Aviation Society, RAF Valley hosted another of their summer photocalls on 11 August this year, an event that must now qualify as a regular fixture on the 'airshow' calendar. As always, this is what could be best described as a 'live' photocall, with visiting aircraft arriving and departing during the event rather than arriving a day before and departing the day after. Almost in the same league as a 'Fly-In', but with military aircraft instead! With access to the entire length of the visitors' ramp, a good vantage point would have been available to all the camera-toting enthusiasts present. Whilst never guaranteed to be a particularly large event, this is always a great opportunity to sample, at close quarters, a typically busy day at an RAF station in a relaxed and informal manner. For many, it was a case of pick your spot, pull up a chair, get the camera ready, select a sandwich and wait to see what turns up.
Obviously, the enjoyment factor of a photocall such as this is very much dependent upon the weather. Initially the omens were good, with the majority of the drive over to Anglesey being conducted in some very pleasant early morning sunshine. Unfortunately, it was after crossing the Menai Strait that the fog came down! Despite repeated assurances from the amateur weather forecasters amongst us that 'this will soon burn off', the fog persisted for most of the morning, although the sun did finally break through by early afternoon. It was decidedly chilly for mid-August before the fog dispersed, so jackets and fleeces were definitely required attire during the morning, but the most important thing was, it didn't rain. Once the sun did come out, the fog was soon forgotten as jackets were quickly discarded.
Apart from the photocall participants, another feature of the day's planned activities was the occasional flypast of various aircraft as they traversed the local airspace. Unfortunately, thanks to the fog during the morning, this was generally confined to listening to any passing aircraft rather than actually watching them fly over the airfield, a somewhat frustrating process to say the least. Fortunately, the murk did lift sufficiently to allow a glimpse of a B-1B on an overshoot approach. This was one of a pair of Dyess based machines on deployment to Mildenhall during that particular week.
So, what turned up? Well, as expected, RAF fast jets were the predominant feature, though not in any significant quantities. Frontline hardware firstly consisted of a trio of Jaguars, two from 41 Squadron and the other from 6 Squadron, whilst also in attendance was a trio of Tornados, consisting of a 111 Squadron F3, a 617 Squadron GR4 and 14 Squadron's anniversary schemed GR4. Helping to swell the photocall line-up was a Hawk from each of Valley's reserve squadrons, along with one of the resident SAR Sea Kings. Completing the RAF theme was a 1 FTS Tucano and a privately owned Bulldog. However, there was to be some further international participation courtesy of the Irish Air Corps. Arriving through the clag after their short flight across the Irish Sea was a Dauphin, closely followed a little while later by a PC-9M. The Dauphin was reportedly making its last flight prior to retirement from IAC service.
Clearly this was not going to be a huge event by any stretch of the imagination, especially with the unwelcome addition of fog, but with all the regular Hawk movements during the afternoon, there still seemed enough to keep the majority of punters happy. The important thing was everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and, of course, some very worthwhile charities would ultimately benefit from the proceeds. So, many thanks to all the volunteers from the Valley Aviation Society who gave up their free time to ensure a smooth running event.