RAF Transport Hub

I went on a day trip the other day to RAF Brize Norton. This place is the airport for the British military and there’s a lot going on. The best bit was being shown around the actual C17 that took the dead queen from Edinburgh to RAF Northolt.

Feeling Mean - Might Post
Feeling Mean – Might Post

So, not much to write here but plenty to see so here are a few of the photographs I took that day:

View From The Sun Roof - C17
View From The Sun Roof – C17
A Good Undercarriage Picture
A Good Undercarriage Picture
A Very Powerful Blower
A Very Powerful Blower
Cheeky Italian Number
Cheeky Italian Number

It’s hard to write stuff when it feels as though the whole country has gone mad. I am, broadly, terrified at the prospect of what the next few years will do with the utter shit we have in leadership. I don’t think I can write down just how much I hate the tories and everything they’ve done to destroy this country over the last twelve years. They are such a bunch of empathy lacking cunts that I fail to be surprised anymore at the levels of sheer shittery they are willing to throw around at the poor and yet enrich themselves. Viva la revolution!

RAFAC NASC SYE

This summer I spent a little time at RAF Cranwell and slightly longer at RAF Syerston with a short, unplanned, stop in Newark. This is my story of the National Air and Space Camp 2022. For various reasons I changed from a full week attendance to just half the week. I travelled up to Nottinghamshire [RAF Syerston] on the Wednesday morning, leaving Kent early to get to NASC in time to do some work. The first morning my job was to build Lego, so just like a day at home then! In the afternoon there were some aircraft practices as part of the Industry Day where people come in to sell their companies.

The airshow consisted of displays from a Chinook, a glider performing aerobatics – which was my second favourite, a Puma, a Juno, the Red Arrows, a Typhoon and Spitfire, TWO F-35s did a fly by and tight turn, and there might have been something else that was little but I didn’t pay attention. Of the displays the Typhoon is clearly my favourite, the noise was lovely. The glider came second and I was so impressed with the manoeuvrability and aerobatic ability – a super display.

Spitfire - RAF Syerston National Air and Space Camp
Spitfire – RAF Syerston National Air and Space Camp

On the Thursday I was helping organise and run the robotics stand. We had a really keen bunch of cadets and I was super impressed with their dedication to the cause. They worked from 0900 to 1700 with minimal breaks trying to solve the problems we had given them. It’s nice to have the cadet contact and be around people who are keen to solve problems and try to work hard.

Juno - RAF Syerston National Air and Space Camp
Juno – RAF Syerston National Air and Space Camp

Friday was meant to be simple, just a rerun of Thursday but we left some kit at RAF Cranwell where we were staying overnight so I offered to go and get it. My car then decided to hit me with a serious YOU MUST STOP warning just as I detoured through Newark because there were road closures and accidents causing massive traffic problems around the A1 junction. I pulled into a one-way street and found a parking place. Very soon the traffic was terrible all around. My predicament, after checking some basic things from internet searches, was that it was likely the car needed towing to Kent. So I had some stuff at RAF Cranwell, some at RAF Syerston and I was in the middle of the two.

Puma - RAF Syerston National Air and Space Camp
Puma – RAF Syerston National Air and Space Camp

People at the camp organised some transport and I managed to collect my things after a relaxing cuppa and bowl of chips at a pub next to a canal. Eventually I called the AA and they came out and I met the man at my car, once I had most of my stuff. He plugged a gizmo into the car OBD2 port and read through the error readings. He deleted the error codes that the car had generated saying that if something is really wrong then it would come back with an error eventually. I let him do his job. I don’t know how these things work. The car worked fine. The AA man followed me back to RAF Syerston and the car behaved.

Since then I have managed to drive home, around town, to Bluewater and back. The car seems back to normal. I have also bought an OBD2 thingy so I can plug in and see data for myself. I might have to delete further error messages so it’s worth getting although I haven’t played with it yet. NASC was good fun in all.

CCF Camp HLW

I’ve just returned from the first summer camp we’ve had for three years. In pre-pandemic times we would head off for a week each summer and spend that time at a RAF Station and have great fun doing activities. This year we booked accommodation at RAF Henlow and organised our own camp. Normally HQ would allocate us to a camp somewhere in the country but all the systems aren’t working very well yet, they’ll get there. So we drove ourselves to RAF Henlow and settled into the cadet block there, Barrack Block 56.

Required Kit For A Week
Required Kit For A Week

Our first day at camp was getting unpacked, checking the block and sending the cadets on a FAMEX. We also booked into the cinema in Royston to see Top Gun Maverick. It was much better on second watching and I didn’t expect that to happen! Sunday was a trip to Wyboston Lakes and an assault course in the morning followed by time on the inflatables in the lake. It was great, even with the A&E visit that was required.

Prank War Escalation
Prank War Escalation

LJ and I had a bit of a prank war going on and the picture above was the point at which we decided just to make it a verbal roasting war rather than anything physical. We could both see it was going to get out of hand! Monday was a multi-activity day with some cadets going flying with 5AEF at RAF Wittering, some cadets went to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford and others went for a trip around a nuclear bunker and some high ropes. Great fun was had by all. In the evening a pilot mate of mine came and gave the cadets a talk about the flying industry.

British Antarctic Survey Twin Otter
British Antarctic Survey Twin Otter

Tuesday we visited RAF Honington to see what the RAF Regiment and Force Protection get up to. We might have had some instruction on small burst weapons during the day and then had a visit to the heritage centre detailing all the exploits of the Regiment.

Wednesday was a visit to the RAF Centre of Aviation Medicine at RAF Henlow followed by weapon training. In the evening I ran a DCCT range over the other side of the airfield at the Force Protection flight.

Thursday was a trip to the Shuttleworth Collection for a private tour and trip on a bus that was over a hundred years old. There were a few planes flying and that was nice to see. RAF Henlow not being a flying base.

Not A Tiger Moth
Not A Tiger Moth

Thursday evening was another session in the DCCT range and virtually all cadets gained their L98A2 trained shot badge with the excellent guidance of the staff. It’s a pretty good achievement. Friday was the reverse of Monday with 12 more cadets getting airborne at RAF Wittering and the others heading to the bunker and high ropes.

High Visibility Paint Testing Platform
High Visibility Paint Testing Platform

Friday evening was paper plate awards and chill time. TR and I went to visit the Officers’ Mess and checked out the bar. Saturday we tidied up, somehow loaded our transport of all the kit and headed home after lunch. It was a great week and another memorable camp. Such excellent fun and hopefully an amazing experience for our cadets. RTU was around 1500 hours and then the buses were tidied and parked up. We arrived back at the same time as the Army section which caused some issues in the car park but it all worked out in the end. I’m looking forward to next year.

This Made My Day

The other day when I went to see Top Gun Maverick it was a special showing for cadets and staff of Kent Wing ATC. We were invited and so I took some cadets. Being in a theatre with other like minded people was brilliant as we watched the film. But, the best bit was that before the film we had a personal message from Tom Cruise. Now, I’m involved with the Combined Cadet Force and traditionally they are based at private schools although my school has been state run since just after the second world war [not sure if that should be capitalised!]. Our cadets were the only CCF cadets there but we are still part of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets and are based in Kent. Although our direct command chain doesn’t quite follow the Wing structure it was still great to get this message.

Top Gun: Maverick

I was always going to see this film, the big question was where and in what sort of cinema. That question was answered by an email from Kent Wing Air Cadets saying they were putting on a private showing of the film and would we like to go. The answer was a very easy “yes” and so we drove a school minibus down to Folkestone to watch the film in the Guildhall. I should normally waffle on about the tide here and even though we were in a port town I can’t tell you as I wasn’t close enough to the sea or local river to notice the state of the tide. I feel as though I have let you down slightly but also I don’t care because of this particular situation. After the film I rated it on IMDB, there’s a system so don’t quibble with me if you disagree.

There’s a lot to say about this film and I’ll probably add more after this is published. But I think it can be summarised thus: “it’s a Top Gun film”. I had a great time watching it and didn’t laugh out loud too many times at inappropriate places. I’m still amazed that before the film started we had a personal message from Tom Cruise to Kent Wing Air Cadets. How amazing is that? I’m super impressed with the people who organised this event and am slightly jealous too.

There are going to be spoilers in the following text. I don’t think I’m going to give much away of the story but I think I’ll be saying things that might spoil those little moments in the film. I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this justice so I’m just going to write the things I remember, they might be in the wrong order but I’ll try to make it match the film. Read on if you wish . . . .

The font to the opening titles was the same as the original. I liked this. I smiled. I was very excited and looking forward to the opening scene – which, let’s face it, is the best part of the original film. So, the opening scene did not disappoint, F18s launching from a carrier and “Danger Zone” playing over the top. It was bloody great. I loved it.

Cut to – Tom Cruise mechanicing with a spanner on his own Mustang. We know he’s good at this stuff because he has to wash his hands and so got dirty while doing stuff to the engine. Note we never see what he is actually doing, it’s just the spanner in some random part of the engine which was a Rolls Royce, of course. Then, Tom has dinner in his living room which is some chairs on some carpet in the middle of the hangar and I was struck by how stupid it was and how jealous I was at the same time.

Tom then rides his motorcycle along the taxiway on a major secret flight test location because they always let people just ride motorbikes on taxiways and he then pulls in a parks next to some super-good-looking plane straight into a conversation. Notice how, as a pilot, he never wears a crash helmet? In my experience pilots are some of the most safety conscious people I know. Anyway, actors don’t look good in helmets. Now let’s have some conversations about project in trouble and Ed Harris being amazing at some general or other. The plane taking off over the shitty little guardhouse is funny and stupid as fuck. Tom has to fly this new plane at Mach 10 or the programme is finished. So, Tom flies this plane at Mach 10. But then he can’t help being an immature prick so he pushes it a little faster and he breaks the whole thing and parachutes to safety. I think I genuinely would have loved it if they killed his character here and the rest of the film was about Rooster. Note – the Mach 10 plane could probably have carried out the secret mission perfectly well.

Next we have to put the team together. Cue “that one bar” where everyone goes in their full on uniform and drinks and talks shit to each other. Oh, it just so happens that this bar has been bought and is now run by some woman who Maverick used to fuck. The bar owner is also not too worried about the bottom line and owns a pretty neat yacht. I’m not sure what universe the economy is based in. There was some stuff happening with the Team.

My absolute favourite moment was the classroom scene. My god. I laughed. Military classrooms are the crappiest rooms thought about as an after thought and generally devoid of all decoration. The idea that a classroom would be placed in a hangar isn’t laughable. But. The idea that it would be a hangar on an operational flight line with the doors open and jet noise everywhere made me smile. Then, there was the flag. Or rather, THE FLAG. It was fucking massive. Just hanging there in the hangar. Being all stars and stripes. It was absolutely a laugh out loud moment. It was hilarious. Americans eh?

The hard deck of five thousand feet is always so close to the ground in the flying shots and I wonder if that’s because this is filmed in a mountainous region and the five thousand feet is AMSL? It always bothered me about the fist film and it annoyed me a little about this one. Also, if you fly an F18 between two other F18s they don’t really get “blown apart” from each other as they do in the film but then we need on screen action rather than reality here and I understand the choices made. I enjoyed the death spiral move that happened and I quite liked the flying scenes all the time. I mean, they are flying scenes.

I’m pretty sure some shit or other happens during the training and we get lots of machismo. There’s some love action with the bar owner who also happens to have a Porsche so this must be the only bar in San Diego and also just outside Fightertown and also next to the beach. Val Kilmer appears somewhere along the way and he was great. So nice to see him. I love the idea that Maverick is protected by this man. I’d say that’s quite realistic. The armed forces often come down to who you know rather than the rules sometimes, it’s just like life everywhere else.

I was amazed that the USA had valleys that exactly matched the ones in the Bad Place. We were told the F18s would have to fly down a twisty valley and follow an exact route. Fair enough. We were also told the computer would have the map but then, when training, they were flying down or up actual valleys. What an amazing coincidence. I didn’t mind, it looks much better to have aircraft flying near the ground or with clouds to give the impression of speed. I let them have this one. But I chuckled a little.

The target. The target. The target was the exhaust port on the Death star. I’ve nothing else to say.

The bomb run was great. Who cares that it was mostly bullshit? I loved it. The dogfighting was impressive. The SU-50s were amazing. The moves were cool. I liked the reconciliation scene between Maverick and Rooster and I also thoroughly loved the F14. The Tomcat clearly makes this Iran the Navy were attacking as they are the only country that still flies those gorgeous craft. But Russia are the only people with Felons. Oh well, who cares. I loved the F14. Bloody gorgeous. It was all amazing.

I really enjoyed this film. It was great. It was terrible but it was great. Just like the original. I’m not waiting for someone to make an “aircraft only” cut of the both films and put them together. Who cares about all the talk parts of the film. It is and always has been about the aircraft and cool things like that. I honestly don’t care about the story. The whole character arc of Maverick, if we can call it that, is an excuse to see the aircraft doing their shit.

Obviously, one B-2 Spirit and the movie would be over in two minutes.

RCO LR – Hythe Ranges

A while back in January I spent a weekend at St Martins Plain Camp and Hythe Ranges getting qualified to run a long range. The short range course was completed a few years ago and that allows me to RCO ranges up to 25m. The long range course gives me the qualification to take cadets and adult volunteers on long ranges which is any range more than 25m. Over the weekend we were shooting at 100m, 20m and 300m. We did this while using iron sights and I can tell you that the target is pretty small from 300m and so hitting the thirty percent that I did seems quite miraculous. I am now qualified on LR. This makes me happy and I just need to get out and use those quals now.

300m is a long way
Long Range, Hythe

This is communication number 2011 and I’ve been writing a few things that happen in those years. It started as a countdown to comms 2000 and now I don’t know when to stop. Well, there is a natural stop point, 2022, but what do I do then? I like having some quirks on this site. Anyway, here are some things that happened in that year:

  • The Arab Spring kinda goes nowhere. It was exciting while it happened, hoping that all the old power structures would be toppled . . .
  • Apparently 2 billion people watched a bloke called William marry some girl called Kate. I was not one of them.
  • South Sudan secedes from Sudan.
  • Race riots in London.

November Happenings

Sometimes it’s hard to keep finding “content” to fill these gorgeous pages. Often this site requires me to go to the cinema or at least go somewhere so I can then write about the terrible/great experience. Recently it feels that I’ve not done much. I mean I have but it’s just the boring same old.

Last Sunday I helped supervise some of the cadets who are entering a national competition in a couple of weeks, nothing exciting there. This past week I had two days off work ill and actually slept for the entire day for the first one. Then yesterday I ran a weapon training session and range for some of our new recruits. Oh, today I’m heading into town this morning to take part in the Remembrance Parade which I guess is something important but not always something I’ll take photographs at or write about each year.

This week just gone I’ve either been too tired or ill to cope with opening up the editing software and writing stuff here. I’ve actually just reminded myself that I started the album reviews for this exact problem, if I don’t have anything to write about then I can write an album review and publish it easily. So, this week I’ll probably publish a few of those. It also means I get to listen to those albums to remind myself of the specifics.

I do know that I’ve felt ill since the return to work in September. My lungs don’t feel correct and if I go for a run in the cold it really knackers those air bags. Not sure what’s going on, it’s not SARS-Cov-2 as I’ve repeatedly tested with both LFT and PCR. There are big issues with the LFT but it’s the best thing we’ve got at the moment I guess. I don’t think the government should be pushing them so much but they are blinded with their “success” of just under 150,000 deaths so far. Fucking twats. I honestly will not understand why anyone would still vote for the tory party after everything that has happened. They are in over their heads and horrible. Some people I talk to seem to think that voting labour endorses complete socialism or communism and they can’t bring themselves to do it. Happy to trudge along with the stupid cunts we have now in charge instead of wanting to help people. Let’s be clear, the government response to this pandemic has been disgraceful.

I’ve been playing Minecraft a little recently and am trying to give myself little projects in that as time goes on. I’ve just built a bubble elevator for one of the kids so they can build a sky base and we’ve worked on somewhere to attempt to kill the Wither. We’ll see how that goes. The last time we tried it I had to reload the world from a back up as our entire base got destroyed. My next job is to build an underground area in a few chunks a long way away for us to attempt to kill that bastard. We want a beacon. I think we’d also like some elytra but we are working on that. I don’t think we’ve found an end portal yet.

I keep being tempted with buying a PS5 but I will only play one game on it and so I don’t think it’s worth getting for just that. Especially when that game is available on the PS4. I haven’t pre-ordered my copy yet but I will. It comes out around the time of my completion of half a century of rotations around the sun. I’m currently having a go on Assetto Corsa on the PC and it’s ok but I possibly need to connect the steering wheel to the PC and that means moving it from the front room which seems like effort at the moment. Using a PS4 controller works reasonably well given my extensive experience in racing sims.

There’s nothing currently on at the cinema which I can be arsed to see. The only film I could possibly go to is Eternals but I dislike superhero movies so much that I reckon it’s just not worth going. My biggest issue is that the resolution to these films is always who fights better and never a negotiation or discussion. It’s never a cerebral conclusion it’s always fists and I fucking hate that.

I guess it’s time to start doing things to get ready to parade through Maidstone. Maybe later I’ll complete some more album reviews. I know that the Use Your Illusions are coming up and it’ll be fun to see what I think of those albums thirty years later.

This is communication number 1986 and so here are some things that happened in that year of our lord:

  • Chernobyl disaster.
  • M25 motorway is opened.
  • 2000 people die in a limnic eruption in Cameroon.
  • Top Gun is released.
  • Consensual sex between men is legalised from the age of 16 in NZ.

We Didn’t Even Ask

Had a trip where we swung by the RAF Museum in Hendon. It’s free to enter so it’s a great place to go. If there was payment then I would have to balance to cost with what is there and so the greatness would depend on the exhibits and the cost giving me a measure “value”. Now, I’m into aircraft and this is free. So it’s an excellent place. Actually, it is an excellent place and not by default.

Short Sunderland - RAF Museum Hendon
Short Sunderland – RAF Museum Hendon – they built 749 of these!

Now, I can’t just swan off to places like this in the work week without actually having good reason and so we did bring some cadets with us to have a look around. You might be disturbed by this but I think the motivation to leave school for some and have a day out of lessons is actually overcome by the fear that they will miss something important and, if I’m honest, we didn’t bring as many as I had hoped. It’s there choice but what have we done to education if children think a day out with friends learning about “other things” is not worth the effort?

EH101 - Hendon
EH101 – Hendon

This beast is one of the prototypes of the EH101 and it is pretty fucking big. It’s in the corner among all the other aircraft and this one is just huge. We were just hanging around and one of the museum helpers came over and asked if we would like to look inside. Well, you don’t need to ask aircraft nerds twice! So we took up the offer and wandered around the cabin – it was big enough to “wander around” – and then we sat in the cockpit as we were invited to. Really grateful to have had the experience.

EH101 Cockpit - RAF Museum Hendon
EH101 Cockpit – RAF Museum Hendon

Here’s a picture of me pulling a stupid face – I want to point out that I was deliberately making stupid faces – but I guess you can disagree with the deliberate part of that if you want.

Comms#1972, here are some things that happened that year:

  • The Godfather premiers in New York.
  • I was born.
  • A fire in a nightclub in Osaka kills 115.
  • US Officials own up to the Tuskegee syphilis study.
  • Apollo 16 lands on the moon.
  • Apollo 17 lands on the moon.

Golden Hour Time

That’s definitely “hour” and not “shower” in the title of this communication. What kind of site do you think this is?! Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford Airfield. Now, I’m going to skip all the issues I have with museums of war and empire, there’s plenty of time for that in future and past communications. However, I do love a pretty aeroplane and Duxford has fucking loads. In the last week I have spent three days at the airfield.

Camp Duxford
Camp Duxford

2523 (Linton) Sqn invited some of our cadets along to a weekend assisting Duxford in the smooth running of their Battle Of Britain airshow. We arrive there early(ish) on the Saturday and helped them out. We were allowed entry to the airshow once we’d done our jobs. It was a splendid day with plenty of propeller drive aircraft rumbling through the skies. For me, gas turbines hit the spot and so while not WW2 era, it was a delight to see a Whirlwind, Wessex and Sea King flying above Cambridgeshire.

Fighter Squadron
Fighter Squadron – you need to look a little closer for full effect

Once the show was over we managed to get up close and personal with the three helicopters of the Historic Helicopter flight. If you ever thought your hobby was a touch expensive and not much gained from it, but you enjoy it anyway, then imagine trying to keep helicopters airworthy, for the hell of it. Photographs were taken.

Historic Helicopters
Historic Helicopters

It seems to me that a good photograph is all about being in the right place and having the right amount of nudge with the big man in the sky to make the heavens look absolutely glorious. The golden hour in the communication title refers to the hour before sunset when the lighting for photographs is bloody amazing. The grand finale of the airshow was a flypast of fifteen WW2 era fighters. Such an amazing sight and sound.

Battle Of Britain Fighter Wing
Battle Of Britain Fighter Wing

I do worry slightly about a country celebrating not-losing a few battles. It is something the UK seems to do a lot. It’s as if it reinforces the natural superiority of the British above everyone else. The Brits have such nostalgia for things that only went their way though luck and good fortune that I guess it’s about time for that luck to run out. Oh, wait, now I remember the last five years.

I also spent a day at Duxford on Wednesday, just as a day trip to give some newer cadets the experience of a CCF trip along with seeing some amazing planes. We got up close to the Bristol Blenheim and some cadets even helped push a few Spitfires around to clear Shed 3.

Bristol Blenheim Up Close And Personal
Bristol Blenheim Up Close And Personal

There’s something about standing in a hangar staring at the only Blenheim in the world while surrounded by a collection of airworthy Spitfires, Hurricanes and Buchons. Some places are just a bit special. Much like the exhaust view on the Spit. Thanks BW.

Merlin - The Magical Kind
Merlin – The Magical Kind

Comms#1962. Here are some things that happened in that year:

  • Algeria gains independence.
  • The first 24 hours of Daytona, is run as a three hour race.
  • John Glenn orbits the Earth.
  • The Centralia Mine Fire starts.
  • Slavery is abolished in Yemen [I mean, how the fuck did it take that long].

If You Have To Ask The Price . . . .

As we have one very busy week end it’s only two more weeks and then I can probably think about organising all the other stuff that needs to be done. In the past seven days I’ve been i/c of two cadet trips, both of which weren’t even known about four weeks ago. If you have any idea how long it takes for authorisation for trips to come through from the “higher-ups” then you’ll know that I’ve pretty much been a one-man miracle for the last month. On the Aerospace Camp I met BW and he had some events in the pipeline and invited us along. It would have been rude to say no and so I got to sorting them out.

The first of these joint trips was to attend the Air Charter Expo at Biggin Hill. It’s a hanger and hardstanding area full of executive jets ready to be chartered. It’s like a car show but for more expensive items. The cadets did some work and I drank some coffee so all was good in the world. I could have done without the rain storms on the way to Biggin Hill and slightly less exciting weather would also have meant the traffic might have flowed a bit better but we got there and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Gulfstream G450
Gulfstream G450

My favourite aircraft for interior, comfort, and friendliness of staff was this G450. I neglected to ask how much it was to charter but then, if you ask those things, then you can’t afford it. The cabin crew I spoke to wouldn’t tell me who the most badly behaved celebratory was, but then again, they wouldn’t tell be the best behaved either. The crew were lovely, really nice people.

I got to sit in the cockpit of a King Air and this was quite strange as I’ve spent a lot of time playing the flight simulator and learning my way around the buttons and switches of this exact type. I didn’t have a go at starting the engines!

King Air Cockpit
King Air Cockpit

While the King Air looked the poorer cousin of the display I would like to mention that the pilot of this craft seemed the most honest and genuine flyer there. He was really chatty and love talking to the RAF Cadets, it’s almost as if he ignored the actual people with money. I suspect he was just pleased to talk aviation and flying rather than trying to sell the plane.

A great time was had by all and the day went smoothly in the end. It’s a hard life sometimes.

This is communication number 1961 and I had forgotten that I was doing this stuff, so here goes, here are some things that happened in that year. The year being the common one used by most even if it’s white colonialism.

  • The Portuguese Colonial War begins.
  • Yuri Gagarin orbits the Earth.
  • French police attack protestors, possibly over 200 dead.
  • The first edition of Private Eye is published.