Andrew Bates reports on Northolt's Charity Photocall, held on a warm & sunny 10 June. Pictures by the author, Roger Cook and Bob Franklin
After a very successful inaugural event last year, another charity photocall for enthusiasts was held at RAF Northolt during a sunny afternoon in June. In fact, the weather was virtually identical in every detail to last year's event, so the extremely pleasant warm and sunny conditions once again kept all the cameras clicking away from start to finish. As before, the event had been specifically timed to follow on from the Families' Day held the previous day, but with all the safety barriers taken down and stashed away, leaving all the keen photographers with unlimited photo opportunities. In true fighter pilot parlance, it was a target rich environment!
In comparison to last year it's fair to say that the event had grown in stature, with approximately a third more airframes in attendance. This also included increased foreign participation, with an additional four countries taking part, so clearly the organising committee had done a grand job during the run up to the show. As expected, the resident 32 (The Royal) Squadron helped to swell the number of aircraft on show with a BAe 125 CC3 and Agusta A109E on display. A BAe 146 would have been nice as well, just to complete the trio, but with one on deployment and the other under maintenance, both examples were absent.
Naturally, there were a number of other RAF aircraft present, which included a small selection of anniversary and special schemed airframes. These consisted of the 100 Squadron 90th Anniversary Hawk and the 56 Squadron Tornado F3 display aircraft with 'Firebirds' artwork on the tail, plus another chance to photograph two old favourites from 2005, the 90th Anniversary Tornado GR4s from both 13 and 14 Squadrons. Other RAF assets included single examples of the Chinook, Griffin, Puma, Tucano and Harrier (actually an 800 NAS example), whilst there were a further three Hawks on show, another from 100 Squadron and also one from each of the two Valley Squadrons (19(R) & 208(R)). Rounding off the UK military participation was the welcome appearance of an ETPS Lynx AH7 from Boscombe Down, whilst returning for a second year was Martin Baker's superb all-black Meteor T7 from Chalgrove.
Foreign participation again included contributions from the Irish and the Germans, but it was also nice to see the USA, Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands taking part this year. From the Irish Air Corps came a PC-9M and EC-135 whilst Germany provided a trio of Heer Bo105Ps from KHR-36 for the second year running. Better still, whether by luck or judgement, they provided three entirely different examples from last year. Other foreign choppers on display included a Dutch AH-64D Apache, whilst from the Belgian Armed Forces came an Agusta A109HA and the now familiar anniversary-schemed Sea King RS-05. Meanwhile from Poland there were two examples of the M28 Bryza, one from the Air Force and one from the Navy, whilst the USAF contributed a pair of A-10A Thunderbolts from the 81st FS/52nd FW at Spangdahlem prior to its deployment to RAF Lakenheath.
Just for added interest there were also a few privately owned machines on display, such as a Jet Provost, Wasp, Yak-52 and even a DH82 Queen Bee, which really provided a contrasting sight parked as it was next to the AH-64D. All in all, the aircraft, the location and layout, and of course the fabulous weather made for another thoroughly enjoyable afternoon for everyone lucky enough to attend. Full marks again to the organisers and of course to all the volunteers who kindly gave up their Sunday afternoon to help run the event and ultimately help raise a nice sum of money for charity.
With modern day costs and manpower concerns now preventing the average RAF airfield from holding a traditional public open day, perhaps this could be the way forward to at least enable some stations the opportunity to meet the public and raise funds for local charities. It was rumoured that RAF Benson was considering a similar event this year but unfortunately it was not possible due to operational commitments. Should Benson or any other station consider such an event in the future, they could certainly do no harm in looking at Northolt's Photocall as a benchmark. It's probably an understatement to say that many enthusiasts will be keenly scouring the calendar in 2008 to check it's on again. Here's sincerely hoping that is indeed the case next year.