April 12, 2012
Philip Stevens for Aviation News reports;
Money raised through donations from those attending is used for the restoration of Northolt's Battle of Britain Sector Operations Building (Building 27) which was the prototype of United Kingdom's air defence system devised by Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding (later Lord Dowding) in 1929. Due to be demolished four years ago, the then Station Commander Group Captain Guy van den Berg realised how important the building was and started a fight to save it. The Air Historical Branch approached English Heritage and it was subsequently given a Grade 2 listing.
In 2007 Phillip Dawe a retired Air Traffic Controller was asked to drive the project forward. He now spends six days a week doing much of the building restoration himself. As the photo shoot organiser and key fund raiser, he explained his motivation; "Building 27 is not important because of its architecture but for what went on in the building. We don't have public money so we have to fund raise. We are in year three of a six year project, the photo shoots have
On the night
April showers had threatened but thankfully failed to materialise. Starting at 19:00 as the sun was beginning to set 135 photographers began to make the most of the interesting selection of six aircraft bolstered by another two which arrived later in the evening. Two French Alpha Jets from Cazaux were on a foreign land away which is required by their training schedule, they should have been accompanied by a Belgian Alpha Jet also from the Advanced Jet Training School (AJeTS) but it had to cancel on the day due to the lack of an available pilot. The Irish Air Corps Agusta-Westland AW139 of 301 Squadron was also night-stopping following a navigational training exercise to and from Baldonnel. An Aérospatiale AS-555AN Fennec of EH 03.067 Armée de l'Air and based at Villacoublay was making a second appearance at the night-shoot. Both sets of helicopter aircrew were happy to perform an engine run for the photographers during the evening. Netherlands government officials with the Dutch Royal Family were visiting with their Fokker 70 had consented to Phillip Dawes' request for it to be photographed. During the evening a Eurocopter EC-145 with the Metropolitan Police came and went. A BAE 146 CC.2 arrived and parked alongside an Agusta A.109E Power Elite both are with 32(TR) Squadron and based at Northolt.
A little black book and a bucket list
Phillip Dawe admitted that it is no easy task in attracting aircraft for the photographers. These days everyone is subject to defence cuts. Philip Dawe said before the event; "We are hoping for a 22 Squadron Search and Rescue Sea King for an hour or so, he will come in refuel and go." The most frustrating part is the no-shows, promised aircraft can cancel for technical or operational reasons at the last minute. The Westland Sea King HAR.3 was another casualty failing to show due to a failed GPS (Global Positioning System). An Army Air Corps Gazelle from 8 Flight was also expected but was diverted to Castlemartin Range in Wales on the day.
In deciding who to invite Phillip Dawe is always open to sensible suggestions; "I have a bucket list of what people have asked for." However as the short runway can't accept all aircraft types and a rule that single engine aircraft cannot over fly London his options are limited. He admitted that he has a little black book of contact names to start the ball running, but it can take time; "The Eastern Europeans need something like a year's notice to get approval at their end for a visit." The star of the previous photo shoot held in October 2011 was a Sécurité Civile Turbo Firecat water bomber from Marseille in the south of France, its eventual attendance took two years to organise. He may contact an air base first but ultimately he has to go through official channels such as Embassy Air Attachés. The current Station Commander is Group Captain Tim O'Brien, Phillip Dawe is grateful for his help; "He is ex VC-10 tankers he has some good contacts and is very supportive."
The concrete hard-standing in front of the huge 32(TR) Squadron hangar can cater for six to ten aircraft with at least 180 photographers keeping behind a white line. The aircraft are positioned well under bright white stadium flood lighting eliminating the need for colour correction during image post processing. Photographers are required to bring a florescent safety vest and arrive on time at around 18:00, the event usually last at least three hours. You are asked not to use flash because of the possibility of pilots using night-vision goggles. A tripod is therefore used by most photographers enabling slow shutter speeds of several seconds which is perfect for attractive propeller or rotor blur during the engine-runs. The flight line is sufficiently long for all photographers to easily get a good position for each shot, especially as everyone swiftly moves from one aircraft to another gaps open up. Early in the evening the light changes very quickly as the sun sets producing a variety of different images. Pilots will pose with their aircraft if requested and switch on navigation lights. 80% to 90% of attendees have been to many of the previous shoots, this was the eleventh.
A minimum donation of £20 is requested plus £6 on the night to cover any aircrew's hotel expenses. Philip Dawe is happy to organise many more events as long as photographers wish to attend; "It's a nice way to raise money, everyone wins, we get the money, photographers get the photographs and these are passed to the aircrew."
The next event is scheduled for the autumn, anyone wishing to find how to attend should visit the UK Airshow Review (UKAR) website forum where Phillip Dawe provides regular updates.
|Aircraft are well spaced down the photo shoot flight line, the powerful white light stadium floodlights are perfect for the photographers.|
|Irish Air Corps Agusta-Westland AW139. Held in April this photo shoot enabled photographers to take advantage of the setting sun.
The light changed dramatically over the first hour before it got fully dark.
|Left to right: Agusta-Westland AW139 (279) of 301 Squadron Irish Air Corps based at Casement Aerodrome (Baldonnel) near Dublin.|
|Left to right: French Air Force Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet E (E141 '120-NF') of the Advanced Jet Training School (AJeTS) ET0 01.008/02.008 (Ecole de Transition Opérationnelle) from Cazaux (BA 120).|
|Left to right: French Air Force Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet E (E102 '120-LM') of the Advanced Jet Training School (AJeTS) ET0 01.008/02.008 (Ecole de Transition Opérationnelle) from Cazaux (BA 120).|
|The Netherlands government Fokker 70 was providing support for the Dutch Royal Family. Queen Beatrix's son Prince Johan Friso has been in a coma since a skiing accident in February. He was transferred to Wellington Hospital in London soon after the accident in Austria.
Left to right: Fokker 70 (PH-KBX) of Netherlands government.
A gap in the flight line had been left outside its hangar.
|Left to right: BAE 146 CC.2 (ZE700) of 32(TR) Squadron.
|Left to right: EC-145 (G-MPSA) of the Metropolitan Police.
|Agusta A.109E Power Elite 32(TR) Squadron aircraft are readily available to fill in for any promised aircraft that fail to make it.
Left to right: Agusta A.109E Power Elite (ZR322) operated by 32(TR) Squadron in the VIP transport role.
|Arriving during the day from its base of BA 107 Villacoublay near Paris the Armée de l'Air aircrew of Aérospatiale AS-555AN Fennec were happy to briefly power up the engines.
Left to right: Aérospatiale AS-555AN Fennec (5468 '67-VX') of EH 03.067 'Parisis' Armée de l'Air based at Villacoublay