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20 December 2007 - Boscombe Down

QinetiQ says farewell with probably last ever UK Jaguar flight

A historic day for aviation enthusiasts - Jaguar T2A XX833, which for the past six months was the only flying UK military registered Jaguar left in service, took its last flight, marking the end of an era for Jaguar flying in UK - the last of the RAF's Jaguars were themselves all retired earlier this year.

XX833, which is operated in conjunction with the MOD as part of the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre (ATEC)* operation by Qinetiq, was undertaking trials flights, after which the airframe went out of hours. It was piloted by Sqn Ldr Andy Blythe, and accompanied by Wg Cdr Paul Shakespeare, both from the Fast Jet Test Squadron (FJTS), based at MOD Boscombe Down.

At around 11:30 the aircraft took off from its home base for a medium level flight, routed via RAF Coltishall, RAF Coningsby and BAE Systems Warton, locations each with a long Jaguar heritage, plus it overflew RAF Marham where a number of the engineers that worked on the Jaguar are now based, before returning to MOD Boscombe Down. Then at around 15:00, XX833 took to the air for the final time with a low-level flight around Wales prior to an overflight of St Athan, eventually returning to MOD Boscombe Down for a final flypast before landing at around 15:45.

XX833 was manufactured by BAe at Warton as a two-seat operational advanced trainer and delivered to the MOD in February 1975. It was transferred to RAE Farnborough in February 1989, transferring to MOD Boscombe Down in April 1994 and finally became a QinetiQ asset in July 2001.

On retirement, XX833 has flown around 4,700 sorties, clocked up over 5,335 flying hours with more than 7,690 landings. In the twelve years of service at MOD Boscombe Down it flew 1,070 hours, suffered five bird-strikes, one lightning strike, consumed nine engines and carried out over 864 sorties.

Since manufacture it had a comprehensive instrumentation recording and telemetry system fitted; this required the removal of the Aden Gun facility and modification of the ammunition tanks to accommodate its experimental fits. The aircraft was used as a development test vehicle for the Jaguar 96/97 updates and had a number of systems broadly comparable with those fitted to T4 aircraft. A Head Tracker System (HTS) was provided to give steering and target information to the Head Tracker System and NAVWASS (Navigation and Weapon Aiming Sub-System). The HTS was used in conjunction with HMD (Helmet Mounted Display), Display NVG (Night Vision Goggles), or Integrated Panoramic NVG (IPNVG) to provide a Helmet Mounted Sight (HMS) facility. Courtesy Qinetiq/RAF Air Command


16 December 2007 - Coventry

Sporting a shiny new coat of red paint is DC-3 G-ANAF of Air Atlantique. This was owner Mike Collett's choice after seeing an aircraft land at Jersey airport with a similar scheme, and he was so taken with it he instructed the boys in the workshop to do update G-ANAF. The aircraft is used for pollution-control work and also does mapping/survey.

It has an auxilary motor on the right-hand side to power-up all the electronic kit inside, because the aircraft's
own power is not enough. The equipment installed is quite heavy and AA needed a good sturdy aircraft - because it's a tail-dragger, it's ideal as there is very little return on the radar of bits of the aircraft as the dome is at the very front of the aircraft. Courtesy Gary Watson


13 December 2007 - Lakenheath

They used to be ten-a-penny, but these days even Belgian F-16s stir a bit of interest in the UK. December was also the times visitors used to pour into Lakenheath to take advantage of a trip to Harrods in London, but the tight fiscal environment of today's armed forces have put a stop to all that...Picture courtesy Mike Kerr

12 December 2007 - Marham

Still wearing its Operation Telic scheme from 2003 is Tornado GR4A ZA400, which has had a distinguished operational career. In the first Gulf war of 1991 ZA400, then a GR1A, was the personal aircraft of Wg Cdr R F Garwood in which he flew nineteen low-level night reconnaissance missions over Iraq and was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Picture courtesy Mike Kerr

10 December 2007 - Farnborough

Lewis Hamilton helps fly2help!

Aviation Charity fly2help, based at Kemble Airport in Gloucestershire, today hosted an event for a group of very special and brave parents and children from Chase Hospice, who support families with children who have life-limiting illnesses.

Thanks to the generosity of Bombardier Skyjet International's partners Cirrus Aviation and Sovereign Air, TAG Aviation, Farnborough TAG Airport, RAF Odiham and many other contributors, six children from Chase, three siblings and eleven parents enjoyed an adventure that will never be forgotten. The VIP day started with the children and their families being met at 07:00 by Lewis Hamilton at Loseley Park, Guildford, before the group departed for a thrilling ride on an RAF Chinook Helicopter to Farnborough TAG Airport.

Upon arrival at Farnborough Airport, the children were greeted by Father Christmas and a huge welcoming group, before being whisked off for breakfast with Lewis Hamilton in the Airport Terminal, where there was time for all the group to meet and talk to the Formula One star. The families then had little time before boarding their waiting Bombardier Learjet aircraft on the tarmac outside and departing in luxurious style for Disneyland Resort Paris, waved off by Lewis Hamilton, Father Christmas and the group of helpers.

At Disneyland, the group were treated to a VIP guided tour of the resort, getting the chance to meet all of their favourite characters, enjoy the rides and having VIP seating to watch the Christmas Parade. At the end of the day, the groups boarded their jets in Paris and flew back to Farnborough Airport to culminate a very special day for all of those involved.

If you would like to support the charity, you can find out more and donate on-line at www.fly2help.org. Our work, along with the very nature of flying, involves huge costs, ranging from the fuel expenditure all the way through to the aircraft themselves; therefore, it really is only through the generous donations and support of others, that we can fund our ambitious aims and make such a difference.


5 December 2007 - Sywell

Starting to look like an aeroplane again, 'Biggles Biplane' BE-2 replica G-AWYI has now been moved across the aerodrome at Sywell and is sharing a hangar with a range of other historic aeroplanes while work starts in the workshops on the rebuild of its wings.

The fuselage is steadily becoming complete, with the addition and trial fitting of engine mounts, cabane struts and undercarriage skids, not to mention a full set of tail feathers. The next big challenge will be getting the fuel tank to fit under the front fuselage decking!

Minor glitches have included discovering two of the upper wing spars were beyond recovery, meaning preparing two more fifteen-foot long Canadian spruce wing spars, plus of course all the ribs already planned to produce.

Many thanks go to Sywell residents Paul and Sarah Ford for their help with the wings, which is keeping the project on track for a 2008 first flight. Courtesy Stephen Slater


4 December 2007 - Mildenhall

It's been a long while since we've seen one of these babies in Suffolk skies - B-1B 86-0135 uses full reheat on departing an overcast and wind-blown Mildenhall after a night-stop, en-route for the USA from the Middle East. Also seen was KC-130T 162308 from VMGR-234. Pictures courtesy Andy Court

3 December 2007 - Luton

An exotic visitor to Luton, Gulfstream IV J-755 of the Pakistan Air Force has undergone work at the Gulfstream facility at Luton, and is
now ready to return to Pakistan.

This particular aircraft, c/n 1325, was delivered in January 2006 and is on strength with 12(VIP) Squadron ('Globetrotters'), based at Chaklala. Its previous identity was N102FM. Courtesy Ken Withers

3 December 2007 - Newark

The Newark Air Museum has just taken delivery of its latest aircraft project a Ward Gnome, which currently remains un-registered.

Built to the specification of local designer Mr M Ward of North Scarle near Newark this example of the diminutive single-seat monoplane has just been placed on long-term loan with the museum.

The project has so far been constructed to a very high standard, but it still requires a significant amount of work to see it completed. Hopefully in the coming months some of this work will be carried out by the museum volunteers and will eventually see it displayed in Hangar 1 at the museum’s Winthorpe Showground site.

When the original Ward Gnome design came out in the late 1960s it was billed as “the UK’s smallest piloted aircraft”. Courtesy Howard Heeley, Down to Earth Promotions


1 December 2007 - East Midlands

Squadron anniversaries in the picture

With just over four months to go before the Royal Air Force celebrates its 90th birthday, the Commanding Officers of four of the Royal Air Force's (RAF) oldest squadrons got airborne to mark the 95th anniversary of the establishment of their units this year with a unique formation photo-shoot.

Aircraft from No 1 (Fighter), II (Army Co-operation), 3 (Fighter) and IV (Army Co-operation) Squadrons - Harrier GR9, Tornado GR4, Typhoon F2 and Harrier GR9 respectively - met up off the east coast of England to fly various formations before flying through their home airfields of RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, RAF Cottesmore, Rutland, and RAF Marham, Norfolk.

The formation was led by OC 1(F) Squadron, Wing Commander Andy Lewis. Wing Commander Andy Hine, OC II(AC) Squadron who flew the Tornado GR4, said: "For many years the debate has raged amongst some circles in aviation as to which squadron is the most senior in the Royal Air Force, and whether that seniority should include service with balloons as well as fixed wing aircraft. All claims were put to one side, however, as the Commanding Officers took to the air for the combined photo shoot," he added.

"One factor that is not in dispute," he continued, "is the operational pedigree of these four squadrons, who, from their early days of existence in the Royal Flying Corps, have been in the thick of many campaigns, winning numerous battle honours between them."

Today, these squadrons remain very much at the fighting edge of the RAF's contribution to operations. Both the Harrier and Tornado GR have been on continuous operations since 1991, most recently for 1(F) and IV(AC) Squadrons with Harriers in Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick, and soon for II(AC) Squadron with Tornado GR4s in Iraq on Operation Telic.

Number 3(F) Squadron had similar experiences as a previous Harrier unit, but since converting to the Typhoon, they now form part of the RAF's Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) for the southern part of the United Kingdom, whilst also working towards a full air-to-ground attack operational capability. Courtesy RAF Air Command


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