RAF Coningsby Enthusiasts Day 2012 (by David Thompson, Stuart Reid & Chris Smith)
The Cleveland Aviation Society were invited to attend the RAF Coningsby Enthusiasts Day held every two years, it gives aircraft and military enthusiasts a rare opportunity to access and (very) freely walk around not just an active Royal Air Force station, but arguably the United Kingdom's primary Royal Air Force station.
Just one stop was made on the way down and that was to Gamston. At the time of morning we called in (pre-9am) it's very quiet here but the visit was still a satisfying one.
Retford Gamston Airport (EGNE)
CAS had a few places to spare which they kindly offered to the DTV Movements website updaters, so Stuart and Chris joined David with Chris taking on the driving responsibilities (although on the way back he frequently nearly joined David and Stuart and had a kip, much to their frustration and that of other drivers!!). When we got there we met up briefly with a few other CAS members and noticed quite a few familiar faces from other parts of the country as well. Once we passed through the very slow screening tent though it was every man and woman for themselves.
RAF Coningsby (QCY / EGXC)
Proceedings began with a walk around the static display located on the main ramp, with strategically placed air stairs to allow for greater photos.
Moving on, next there was a few stalls and burger vans etc, with a Hunter forward fuselage section, Lightning gate guardian, a mock-up Lightning cockpit and a Typhoon outside a hangar.
We were just about to glance over the various stalls, when a hangar was opened to tow ZJ806 in, causing a scramble to get the eight frames inside.
29(R) Squadron Hangar
Myself and Stuart grabbed a bite to eat at this point, before making our way over to the two coaches that were providing a gate guardian tour. The coach initially took us to the entrance of the base where the following were found and photographed.
Next we went across to get the other two gate guards located amongst the many HAS buildings to the south of the runway, firstly 11(F) squadrons to the east, then 3(F) squadrons to the west.
11(F) Squadron HAS (all 11(F) squadron unless stated)
3(F) Squadron HAS (all 3(F) squadron unless stated)
The coaches then dropped us back off at the main ramp, but not before teasing us by driving past a hangar with an unidentifiable Tornado GR4 visible inside, we later learned that this is the 41(R) TES hangar, with four-five airframes in it, at this point Chris tried to buy, bribe, blackmail and beat his way in, all to no avail, so he decided it would be worth the consequences to just sneak over before Stuart reeled him in!
Once back at the main ramp, we were booked on the 1340 pilots briefing, which was a 20-30 minute talk by a Typhoon pilot about what they do and how they do it, but they started early at 1330, we were still getting off the coach at that point, a member of staff did offer to get us in, but we chose to give it a miss and instead try to chase up an overflight we saw from the coach:
The KC-135 came from the North, which meant I should have had it on my SBS, when I got home and had a look, 60-0353 was the only possible candidate.
The flying display had began earlier with a Sea Fury doing all kinds of crazy sh*t as we were waiting for the coach to arrive for the gate guardians tour. The bulk of the flying display began at this point when a Tornado was seen flying down the approach, as it began an overshoot, no-one had noticed a second example flying the opposite approach, so it was a great thrill when they passed with just feet to spare! One continued to display for about 10-15 minutes whilst the other one had disappeared, with a lot of people cautiously looking out for it in all directions thinking it was lurking somewhere near with the intention of frightening everyone half to death. The weather took a turn for the worse so the Tornado called it a day and landed, with his mate rejoining him. This marked the end of the day as the Spitfire due to display was towed back into the BBMF hangar. An amusing sight was seeing everyone run for cover in the rain whilst the owner of the Hunter fuselage sat inside with the canopy closed looking rather pleased with himself!
It was a great disappointment to learn we missed a very special Tornado GR4, ZA398 "Shiny Two" of 2 Squadron, in a special 100 years livery. Also missed was a 100 Squadron Hawk and Typhoon ZJ936 which also wears a 100 years livery. With the exception of the Typhoon which departed early AM, the majority of people must have missed the others as most had either already left or were leaving as we were!!
Other aircraft noted throughout the day
On the way home, we called into the Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre to look at the Jet Provost and Vampire here, before heading to a closed RAF Barkston Heath, although we managed to get a Canberra on the fire dump, then finally it was to RAF Cranwell, again closed however, but we did nail another Jet Provost and Dominie. Due to the deteriorating weather conditions, a tentatively talked about visit to Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield was scrapped. I dropped David and Stuart back off at DTVA to find one last catch for the day in the form of AS355 Twin Squirrel G-VVBA.
Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre
RAF Barkston Heath (EGYE)
RAF Cranwell (EGYD)
Durham Tees Valley Airport (MME / EGNV)
Thanks for reading if you got this far, some photo links below.