Friday, 25 April 2008

Fogging hell

With a big exercise going on and the chance of some foreign visitors, Tuesday after getting up at 2 a.m. and driving 200 miles I struggled the 600 feet up to the top shelf at Bwlch pass with a very heavy "Lowpro" bag full of cameras and lenses, my watch chimed 8 a.m. just as I put my heavy load down in some sheep poo.
I had some company today albeit on different parts of the hill, we could shout conversation, it meant that with several pairs of eyes nothing should be missed.
It was a lovely day, the scanner crackled to life, callsign "Tiger" and foreign accents, F16s maybe......
It was a slow day, lots of traffic above, but no one low-level, I sat down on a rock and had a drink and...... I was there in the back seat of an F15; the hills reaching to the sky either side as I screeched around the valleys holding on for dear life and trying to keep my breakfast where it was........ well I didn't hear the shout but the engine roar stirred me back to life as the Hawk rolled around the valley end towards Bala, my dreaming finished at 11:39, a long wait for some action today!
3 Belgians joined Gareth, Jamie and I, it was their first time, excitement grew as Tornado's, Typhoons and F15Es went high over the top of us, but it was an agonizing 5 hours and 4 minutes before the next Hawk came through, and in a short space of time we had 3 more passes from Hawks, the Belgian contingent "chimped" their shots and chattered gleefully and talked about how good it must be to see a big Hercules coming down the narrow valley.
It was nearly 6pm and a few people made their way down, the Belgians were off to Valley the following day and despite my saying that there might be a late surge of action while there was still some light they said goodbye and set off downwards, and just as they climbed the style to the car park a Herc came around the valley... as always the best plane of the day arrives when you get back to the car, sods law!.
The forecast was great for the next day according to the telly, we had dinner in the pub and I was in bed by 9 ready for an early start.
7 a.m. in the Bwlch car park the bottom of the cloud hugged the fence posts! as it started to lift I set off for the top, it would take 50 minutes climbing, the fog will have cleared by the time I get there.. it hadn't!
RAF Valley was closed by fog, those Belgians really had got bad luck with them this trip, and by lunchtime I was on the verge of packing in and heading home, when a Hawk came through, the weather cleared and we had glorious blue skies.
Finally some excitement; 2 F15Es headed our way but climbed out just before us and went over too high for photos, then there was 2 more and they went low, but up the valley to Bwlch y Groes, then 2 more went the wrong way for us, but finally we had a good low pass, and when I looked at my images the world was a better place, those few minutes of action made the whole two days of hard climbing, cold, boredom, disappointment, and fog all worthwhile..... and yes, I can't wait to do it all again!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

More of the Vulcan

Some more shots of XH558 as she departed Cottesmore. I could not resist going back to Cottesmore to see the Vulcan leave. The distinctive growl and howl from the four Olympus engines was music to my ears.

Harriers at Cottesmore

Some Harrier action at Cottesmore added to all the Vulcan excitement, the aircraft with the heavy loads of tanks etc had just arrived back from Cyprus.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Cold, wet, windy and wonderful!

A day to remember today, many thanks to those 'in the know' posting info on the various internet aviation sites I was able see the Vulcan back in the air today, if only my old dad was still alive to see it too, it was his airshow favourite, so for me its not just a reminder of "cold war" aviation history, in conjours up memories of many happy days of childhood airshow and base visits with my dad.
After the mad dash up the A1 and lugging all my camera gear across a field it really was a slow day, as the hour of the Vulcan drew nearer the blue sky and photogenic cumulus cloud submitted to a glowering black storm laden darkness and increasing winds. Although suitably equipped with wet weather clothing I took shelter behind a tree as the heavens opened and hail and wind hammered the bleakness.
As the skies cleared the howl of the Vulcan high above stirred memories, it was airbourne again for just the second time after 14 years of restoration; a couple of Harriers buzzed around the airfield doing "touch and go's", but it was while before the news of the V bombers approach reached the assembled crowd.... and it was bad news, a fire on the aircraft meant it was headed back to Bruntingthorpe, its home base, and many grown men who'd made the pilgimage to this windswept field looked sad and disappointed.
However with what could have been a major emergency and Cottesmore having the better fire/emergency cover at the base the Vulcan headed our way.
Then there she was, hanging in the sky and trailing four distinctive plumes of grey-brown smoke, she clung to the air as if not wanting to give up the gift of flight, she sunk into the mirror mirage of haze at the far end of the airfield and rolled toward us at the 2-2 end with an ever growing throng of red and white emergency vehicles flashing blue and amber chasing her along the runway.
The Vulcan and crew back on the ground safe and sound with what was just a faulty warning light responsible for all the concern...
Its good to see her back flying!