Atlas Rising

Last weekend the Lord Mayor of London had a show, much like the Lord Mayor has a show every year. I wasn’t aware of it as I just happened to glance at 360Radar and see an A400 flying low over the City. A couple of messages later and I learn it’s to start the show. I have never seen the show, even when I could have been part of it. The A400 then turned east and stayed low to avoid all that traffic heading into Heathrow. It flew about three miles from my house and I managed to snap a little picture of it.

A400M Atlas
A400M Atlas

RIAT 2019

Freece Tricolori

I went to RAF Fairford a short while ago to attend the Royal International Air Tattoo. RIAT is a huge airshow which takes place each year at RAF Fairford. I’d never been to this particular airshow before and so I was quite excited. There were also a few aircraft types I had never seen static or flying before:

  • F35
  • Su-27
  • P8
  • F18 (a friend told me I had seen some at RAF Waddington years ago)
  • Patrouille de France
  • Freece Tricolori

Nearly all the other types of aircraft I had seen static or flying before. I have to say now that the very best displays were the F16s and F18. They were both incredibly impressive given how old their design is. The Flanker was amazing, utterly brilliant.

Here is a selection of some of the photographs I had once I’d returned home. Not all the credit goes to me, the kids took quite a few of the photos and did a good job.

The weather was a little cloudy at times but we coped. Photographs look better with a mixture of blue sky and fluffy Simpsons clouds.

The noise was amazing and I just loved the sound of the afterburning jets taking off and pulling many G to show off their capabilities. I also met some old friends while at the tattoo and it was lovely to arrange to meet them. I even managed to bump into George who is a colleague from the PAC at Amport, I knew he attended and I was hoping to see him.

I’m not too happy with the media page for the photos as I think the photo is too small on that, so the images link to the actual image file, I might get around to learning how to adjust that one day.

Mutability

A few summers ago my project was to build an ADS-B receiver and use the data collected to upload to an aircraft tracking website. If you want to see what I see then go to:

360 Radar

I don’t remember the details about how I found this but the project was good fun and I got the Raspberry Pi in the loft with a decent aerial, filter and pre-amp, and it was all working fine. I was using a lovely piece of software called Virtual Radar Server and was able to use this as a web server and people could see the aircraft on web pages served by the Pi.

360 Radar is good because it using multi-lateration to detect the positions on military aircraft. This is pretty handy for spotters like me and it also works well when I take cadets to RAF Wittering for some Air Experience Flying, I can see where my cadets are in the air.

Over the last few months I’d been receiving outage warnings from the 360 guys. It would appear that my Pi had stopped sending them data and while I live in a flight-busy area of the country and there’s plenty of contributors here every little helps. I had the occasional outage and this seemed to be when the router reset and the Pi wouldn’t re-find the existing wi-fi network. I just had to power cycle the Pi and everything worked fine. The outages seemed to be occurring more over the last while with the Pi stopping feeding every few days.

At first I thought it was a wi-fi issue so I bought some new ethernet-over-power adapters and linked the system into the route via a wired connection. This also meant I could ssh in to the Pi even if wifi was the original problem. I tried to work out how to turn the wifi connection off entirely but just ended up changing the SSID the Pi looked for as a simle way of ensuring the wired connection took preference.

After a week of testing I was still getting outages and my initial thought was that the VRS software was making the Pi work too much. I’m not sure why I thought that but I looked up ways to remove VRS. This was not the easiest as I had installed it years ago and couldn’t remember how it ran within the OS. I eventually managed to remove the Mono service and this stopped VRS running.

It was at this point I worked out how to use the log file of the MLAT client and I could see that all the software seemed to be working fine it was the Dump1090 program that didn’t seem to be sending data internally. I figured that Dump1090 had somehow stopped receiving the signal from the aerial. It all worked fine after a reboot and so I decided to replace the USB dongle that was decoding the ADS-B signals. I ordered a FlightAware USB stick and at the same time decided I would rebuild the Pi OS from scratch to have a “clean” build.

Once the new USB stick arrived I turned off all the systems and followed the excellent instructions from the 360 Radar guys to rebuild the OS of the Pi and just run a lite version of what I had been doing before. This took a while as I mistakenly thought the Pi wasn’t uploading to 360 because I was looking at the wrong server details. After an email to the support chaps it turned out I was contributing and a couple of hours of troubleshooting by me hadn’t been worth it!

So, the Pi sits in the loft, chugging away supplying data to 360 Radar, in return for which I get free access to their excellent tracking site. I’m running dump1090-mutability along with the MLAT-Client from 360. I’d really like to be able to allow you all to see the output of this but Mutability doesn’t have an external feed and I am not opening up my 80 port for the world.

Output of dump1090-mutability
Output of dump1090-mutability

Goodbye Tonkas

As part of my trip around Lincolnshire I spent a few hours outside Coningsby watching the Typhoons. They are pretty loud when taking off although one did set my car alarm off by doing a full-afterburner take off and heading straight up to 15,000 feet.

Eurofighter Typhoon
Eurofighter Typhoon

I also went to the BBMF hangar and looked around the various types they have there. Here’s their Lancaster:

Avro Lancaster PA474
Avro Lancaster PA474

I also saw another Lancaster at ex RAF East Kirkby.

Just Jane - Avro Lancaster
Just Jane – Avro Lancaster

However, the main reason for being a hundred and sixty miles from home was to be relatively close to RAF Marham so I could try and see some Tornados flying before they end their airborne days. I had noticed there was a NOTAM out for Marham on the Friday and so I planned to be there about half an hour before the start of whatever it was. I figured that if it wasn’t the Tornados it would be a Lightning II and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing to see. I still haven’t seen one fly and I could only just make out two in real life over the other side of the airfield.

Sortie - Rolling
Sortie – Rolling

I was lucky. There were five Tornados going up and preparing for a final display and fly past later in the month. It was really good to see them taxiing.

Tonka Formation - RAF Marham
Tonka Formation – RAF Marham

After about an hour over the North Sea doing their stuff they headed back to Marham but not before I had seen four F15s fly over and then three KC-135s in formation. They were a sight to see!

So I have two Tornado stories for you. The first was at North Weald airshow in the late 80s. My friend Nick and I had cycled from home and couldn’t afford entry so we just parked our bikes inside one of two fences in line with the end of the runway. We figured we weren’t airside and neither were we next to the road, we were in a kind of no-mans land. A Tornado lined up in front of us and then used full re-heat to take off. The noise and vibration was amazing. It was an awesome sight.

Just A Few Flights Left
Just A Few Flights Left

My next anecdote involves me being a cadet at RAF Coningsby in 1988. I was allowed to sit in the cockpit of a Tornado ADV and I played with the throttle. I was later told that doing this had dumped some fuel in the engine, but I wasn’t concerned. Later that night I was on the flight line “helping” and the aircraft I had been sitting in refused to start. It looks like I broke it [a little].

Head On - Panavia Tornado
Head On – Panavia Tornado

While at Marham the spotters got our own little airshow and it was such a delight. It was a special time to see these aircraft doing what they were meant to do, which is fly, for the last time.

I should add in that while in Cyprus on cadet camp there were Typhoons and Tornados taking off every evening to bomb ISIS in Syria and Iraq and I remember watching them leave while we were at the beach bar on Akrotiri. The after burners, the noise and the sight was spectacular. Tornados going to do the job they were designed for.

Busy South East

A few weeks ago when I was in the Lake District I would occasionally look at 360Radar to see what was flying close by. I found it curious that there was quite a lack of aircraft flying compared to Kent, where I live normally. Now, the south east does have the three London main airports and most air traffic heading to the continent. Have a look at the two following views and decide for yourself. Both are the same area of land and they are taken within a minute of each other. I think the difference is striking.

Lake District Air Traffic
Lake District Air Traffic

Kent Air Traffic
Kent Air Traffic

Of course, this communication could be entitled:

There’s a lot more planes where there’s a lot more airports

Probably Magic

Heading East
Heading East

This place was heading east early one morning [probably to Frankfurt] and the colour of the sky and the line of the contrails caught my eye. It looked lovely.

Wokka Over Maidstone
Wokka Over Maidstone

Then there was this Chinook. It passed right over my work place and was such a lovely sight and sound. It amazes me just how technologically amazing we are as a species. Now although I know how these things work it does seem like magic at times!

Spitfire
Spitfire

Finally, yesterday this Spitfire flew over my village. I keep trying to remind people that one day they will be gone and we won’t see them flying anymore. It’s a lesson I have learnt from seeing many planes in the 80s at various airshows without really appreciating just how special they all were.

53.08 Degrees and 40 Kilometres

While visiting Lincolnshire it’s hard to avoid RAF bases and do some aircraft observation. So I spent some time at RAF Coningsby, one of three fighter bases, hosting squadrons of Typhoons. I also visited the air museum at Newark, which I had driven past a few times before but never stopped at. Here’s a selection of the best photos for you.

Before this weekend I had seen Typhoons just twice before. Once at RAF Marham performing a touch and go and once at a Duxford air show. The noise was marvellous.

The name of this communication represents the fact that both Coningsby and Newark are 53.08 degrees north and pretty much forty kilometres apart.

NOTAM

In a previous communication about Tattershall I said that I had heard that the RAF Typhoon display pilot was going to practice his display. This sort of information is publicly available through NOTAMS, Notices To Airmen. There are websites that give this information in map form. Basically if a crane is erected or there are runway issues or events coming up that might affect flying then information about that thing is posted to NATS.

Typhoon NOTAM
Typhoon NOTAM

This is the Typhoon NOTAM with information about where and when. That way, if you are planning to fly there you can avoid CGY.

Here’s what the pilot had to say about his display:

He went up in a two seater so I wonder if he was being assessed. I remember being at Linton-On-Ouse when the Tucano display pilot was having his assessment to get his display ticket for the season, you could hear the engine pulling the plane in high-g turns just above the airfield. It was very impressive.

Not Splatted For A While

I am currently working on the Raspberry Pi I have installed in the loft as a web server and aircraft spotter. It’s been a while since I mentioned it here. I thought I’d just chuck up some images.

Aircraft Tracked
Aircraft Tracked

This picture gives an idea of how many aircraft can be tracked at once. Be aware this was early on a Sunday morning.

Radar Splat
Radar Splat

This splat shows how far away aircraft are detected. Please note I am not where the blue dot is, that would be quite weird. The smallest locus is up to 9,999 ft, the green is 10,000 to 19,999 ft, the purple is the 20,000s and the red is above FL300.

Duxford Airshow

May 28 2017 was a good day. I travelled to Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire for one of their airshows. Now, I’ve been to Duxford a lot and have taken some lovely photographs. I discuss my favourite birds here and more photographs are here. You can just search in that little box just over to the right.

The Imperial War Museum at Duxford is so large that it takes more than a day to see everything and that’s without a flying display to watch. I only zoomed around the hangers and static aircraft, paused at the Bloodhound replica, and then watched the gorgeous displays.

Of the static aircraft on display some were open for a walk through, I visited all of these:

  • Concorde
  • Hermes
  • York
  • Comet
  • Ambassador
  • Viscount
  • Britannia
  • VC10
  • Trident
  • One-Eleven
  • Herald

Of the flying aircraft, I was most impressed with the Typhoon, Rafale, Bronco and the Autogyro. All of these exhibited remarkable agility, they were stunning to watch. It was very good to see a Typhoon display for my first time along with the Rafale too. The Bronco is iconic and looked lovely. Even the World War 1 display wasn’t boring!

If you don’t find the Catalina gorgeous then you aren’t into planes.

The weather was really hot for the day and the storms went either side of Duxford so we didn’t get wet. I had paid for a ticket upgrade so there was a marquee with tables and chairs where we sat. Along with posh portaloos and a seating area outside just by the tower this proved to be a worthwhile investment. Well worth doing as I could dump stuff and walk around with just the camera.

The photos above are a selection from the over 400 that were taken on the day. My challenge next time is to get the colours showing on the aircraft more when they are flying. Photographs of just silhouettes aren’t that interesting.