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.

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.

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.

Name Three Things That Shouldn’t Be In The Same Neighbourhood

Had a lovely day out in the “it turned out to be nicer than expected” weather for a cadet trip to Lydd to use the long ranges there. A long range is anything over 25m. I have my range conducting officer ticket for short ranges and would like to get my ticket for long ranges but, one day. Lydd Ranges is a base with lots of space for shooting things down on the Kent coast within the Romney Marshes site of special scientific interest. As you might expect there is a Danger Area which extends out into the sea. If you are thinking “What else could we put near here to ensure almost the perfect disaster” and if your answer is: an airport and a nuclear power station, then you are in for a treat.

Lydd Dangerous Things
Lydd Dangerous Things

The three things that I have circled are, from top to bottom, an airport, Lydd live firing ranges and a nuclear power station. I suppose it doesn’t get worse than that for potential danger. This is a funny end of the world, some unique habitats and plenty of open space. The fact that access is restricted a lot also means that the wildlife has the space to get on with it.

At The Far End Of Lydd Serial 34
At The Far End Of Lydd Serial 34

Serial 34 is a gallery range with manual targets. We had some firing practice from 100m where we zeroed the weapons and then did some firing from other positions from 100m and 200m. The wind was a bit much for newish cadets to have a go from further distances. We’d also want slightly better grouping sizes to be able to progress. If you double your distance then you double the size of your grouping [Theory Of A Group]. So, we’d be hoping for 100mm at 100m which would then lead to 200mm at 200m. Once you are beyond those sizes you aren’t really going to be hitting the target that much.

Lydd Ranges Serial 34
Lydd Ranges Serial 34

The morning was mostly cloudy with a little wind. In the afternoon the wind increased but the sun came out and so I have mildly weather affected skin on the parts of my body which were exposed – mainly my head. It feels OK about twelve hours later so I think I’ll be fine but I might look silly as I was wearing a baseball cap and so half my head is burnt along with a little rectangle where the cap size adjuster lives. Oh well.

This is communication number 1960. In keeping with recent tradition [not sure what happens when I get beyond the current year] here are some things that happened in that year as curated by me:

  • Humans descend to the lowest point on Earth.
  • 12,000 dead after an earthquake in Morocco.
  • Blue Streak is cancelled in UK.
  • A U-2 is shot down over USSR.
  • Mauritania [the crappiest country you’ve not heard of] becomes independent from France.

RAFAC NAC SYE

In a kind of desperation to be somewhere (anywhere) else along with missing all things aviation based I volunteered to spend some time in Lincolnshire helping staff the RAFAC National Aerospace Camp. This event had been running for about six years and it seemed a good opportunity to use my knowledge and skills along with networking and meeting people of note. There was a large length of time when it was unclear whether this would go ahead or in what form it could run, due to changing Covid-19 restrictions and decisions in the upper echelons of the management structure. In the end it was decided to make this camp non-residential and so cadets would arrive each day from a base, brought by their parents or coaches from Wing. I wasn’t needed all week as a newbie and so I spent just two days at the camp getting to know the people and organisation. It was also a chance to meet old friends, mainly TR, who I last saw at the Shawbury camp two years ago.

RAF College Cranwell
RAF College Cranwell

The main crew for the camp seem to stay at PWG but I volunteered to stay ay Cranwell for two reasons. One, I’m not important enough to be with the main crew and Two, I might be able to sneak into CHOM, finally, and stand on the carpet [old traditions]. It’s quite different going to a base when you’ve been on many compared with your first time. I knew my way around and knew where to park along with knowing shortcuts through the mess which is huge.

College Hall Officers' Mess, RAFC Cranwell
College Hall Officers’ Mess, RAFC Cranwell

The above picture is not where I was staying, I was in the effective transit mess called Daedalus Officers’ Mess. The above picture shows CHOM and I went in their with the other staff staying at RAF College Cranwell because there is a carpet you may only walk on once you have your commission. When I was first at Cranwell in 2014 I was not permitted near CHOM because there was a passing out parade that day and it was a busy area [it did mean there was a Reds flyover though]. On the Tuesday evening, once we had returned from Syerston, three of us wandered over to CHOM and were allowed to have a look around and get photographs of us on the carpet. The porter was very helpful and lovely.

CHOM, RAFC Cranwell
CHOM, RAFC Cranwell

So, I finally feel official. I’ve stood on the carpet and been in CHOM. I’ve completed my OIC, albeit somewhat delayed. I feel happy that I managed to do my OIC in person as recently staff have been doing them virtually and so won’t get the chance to stay in Daedalus or visit CHOM until they are fortunate enough to be staying close by on some event. It’s quite likely the RAF team I’m in will have a “team building” few days sometime to have a wander around the noisy places in Lincolnshire.

The Tuesday for me was mostly seeing how the camp worked along with a brief chat with the Camp Comm. I saw a talk with Serco where they show us various gliders and engines. I liked the engines, they were cutaway versions so I could see inside. I knew a fair bit of what was going on so I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to the talk although I did chat with the engineer after the cadets and had some parts of the turbines explained.

RR Avon Compressor Blades
RR Avon Compressor Blades

Inside this hanger were loads of gliders and it looked as though they were the original stock from my days in the corps so I looked up my gliding log on this site. I was trying to spot an airframe that I had flown in and while walking along the line of “those yet to be maintained” I spotted one.

ZE585
ZE585

From this communication you can see that I’ve flown in 585 three times for around 28 minutes total. Not bad really. I do keep checking this site whenever I see an aircraft type that I know I’ve been in to see if it’s one of “mine”. Once outside we had a talk from a current glider pilot who also flew Tornados and he showed us around the two Tornados and the Tucano that were sitting on the pan.

Panavia Tornado GR4, RAF Syerston
Panavia Tornado GR4, RAF Syerston

I prefer the GR type of Tornado rather than the F type but I do have an image of the F type which is a rare one because it’s an F2 but fitted with F3 type engines and so the rear of the plane looks super stupid. But, I guess it worked. Lunch was provided by a field kitchen, and a fantastic job they did too, I was super impressed with the whole set up. In the afternoon I talked to people about PTT and how I can deliver that in my unit.

Wednesday was my final day at the camp, only here for two days if you remember and a chance to chat to people about PTT and also help with the car marshalling as parents were dropping cadets off in the base. It was nice to be involved and chat to new people. The main event for the camp was the Wednesday afternoon where a private airshow was organised and the bigwigs were invited to see what we do. There was an Air Marshall, the ACO Commandant and others. I just hung around with the few people I had go to know while my head slowly burned in the cloudy weather – we can’t wear lids on the airfield and we have to wear uniform so we can’t wear a baseball cap and I forgot my sunscreen.

On the ground was an Apache from Wattisham and a Juno from Shawbury. It was the actual Juno that I had flown in two years ago which was pretty cool. The flying display consisted of the Red Arrows, the Chinook [which also landed], a Spitfire, a Hurricane, the RAF Falcons, and finally the Typhoon.

Red Arrows - Head to Head
Red Arrows – Head to Head

I had wondered whether to use my camera a lot and possibly concentrate too much on getting the perfect picture or do I just watch and absorb the atmosphere. I chose to just take the odd picture here and there on my phone. It was a really chilled out atmosphere and a good chance to chat to plenty of people. The Red Arrows performed their “rolling display” because the cloud cover was pretty low. The BBMF aircraft were impressive for their age and the Chinook was very – how the hell do you make it do that? I really wanted to see the Typhoon because – NOISE. I though even the nine jets of the Reds were quiet. Maybe it’s growing up under a flightpath that means not a lot bothers me.

Red Arrows, RAF Syerston
Red Arrows, RAF Syerston

I was on marshalling duties when the Typhoon display took place. So I was an extra 800m away from the display centre and, while slightly disappointed, I still had a good view. I was basically in charge of keeping the parents calm and in the car park as the Typhoon display was delayed slightly by technical issues. When this thing did arrive the noise made me very happy as the first minute or two is at 100 power and full reheat. You know it’s loud when you can’t talk to the person next to you. It was brilliant and well worth driving through the bloody Dartford tunnel to see. I had a really good time at Syerston and made some good contacts. I’m looking forward to returning next year.

Hmmm, this is communication number 1939. So, in keeping with tradition I write a few things that happened in that year, I’m going to avoid the obvious:

  • 30,000 killed in earthquake in Chile.
  • Borley Rectory is destroyed by fire.
  • Lina Medina gave birth aged FIVE, I mean, WTF?
  • A passenger air service starts between USA and UK.
  • 32,700 people die in earthquake in Turkey.

Slightly More Normal Thing

With the most recent SARS-Cov-2 regulations in the UK we’ve been able to operate some activities at work. So, a couple of weekends ago I spent some time with the officers, CIs and cadets and we ran a “summer camp”. It was only a weekend and there was only one overnight in the open on the school field. But we managed to fill the weekend with school based activities. We are lucky that we have plenty of equipment and also suitable venues within the school site.

Sunday Station
Sunday Station

My job on the Sunday of this camp was to run an orienteering activity. Nothing too hard in terms of map reading but something to give the cadets a feel for orientating the map and basic navigation around a wooded area. It was lovely to be doing something close to normal.

A Day Somewhere Else

I recently had the good fortune to spend a day out in the woods somewhere else. It had all been approved and risk assessed and we were allowed to run some navigation training in Mereworth Woods. It was a pretty nice day and I enjoyed being somewhere else. I arrived in the wrong dress which was embarrassing I guess but got over that and proceeded to just have a chilled out day. Even the two hours of consistent rain didn’t manage to dampen my enjoyment. I took a few photographs but if I’m honest they all look the same. The woods appear to annoy and manage to be homogenous.

Mereworth Woods
Mereworth Woods

Biscuits Weren’t Enough

Yesterday I was in work helping move our HQ from one side of the site to the other. We have new offices and stores, which will be nice. The cadets did most of the work and I’m really pleased with the results. We’ve now got a good space for administration of the unit and filing etc. We had a box of biscuits left over from a competition in April and so I carried them to the cadets, thinking I would make their day. But, as it turned out the Kent and Sussex Air Ambulance landed just as I brought the biscuits over. The cadets were super excited by the Leonardo AW169 and the biscuits were a long second place.

Kent Air Ambulance
Kent Air Ambulance

Obviously it’s not a good thing that the air ambulance lands near you. It means you either live in a hospital or airfield, or something terrible has happened to someone nearby. I do hope that whatever and whomever was affected are ok as can be.

Air Ambulance operated by SAS
Air Ambulance operated by SAS

Given that summer camp didn’t happen this year for reasons of pandemic it was nice to be close to an aircraft and also hear the start up sounds that I miss so much. It’s a really impressive piece of kit and I thought it was pretty quiet – other staff thought it was loud but then they aren’t often around twin afterburning jets.

Specialist Aviation Services Kent Air Ambulance
Specialist Aviation Services Kent Air Ambulance

Later that day I took part in our virtual sports day. I went for a 10 km run but made sure that kilometres 2-6 were at a “competition” pace. I did not enjoy anything from about 3.5km into the race onwards. But I did it and got what I think is a respectable time.

1km time - I'm happy
1km time – I’m happy

These times have now been added to the virtual competition and while I know I’m not the fastest, there will be points for participation. One member of staff I spoke to managed the 5km in 18 minutes. They have longer levers than me though and age on their side.

5 km - not to be repeated
5 km – not to be repeated

So, an interesting day. Helicopters, commissions, books, DVDs and VHS tapes all needed to be sorted out. Then the challenge of not killing myself while trying to run “fast”.

90% Sure

90% sure that’s me.

The CCF Facebook page look as though they have a picture of me on their front page header thing. I mean, that’s cool an’ all. Feel a little glowing of pride. I’m 90% sure. It’s definitely the helo I flew in. It’s definitely RAF Shawbury. My OC was in that position taking photographs as I entered the helo. I seem to remember him showing me this afterwards. Black boots, stable belt, quite tall. That’s enough evidence for me. #proud.

Better The Second Time

I recently spent some time away at St Martin’s Plain Training Camp. I was part of the team training cadets on aspects of cadet skills. It was the second time that I have gone through this particular process and I have to report that it was definitely better the second time.

Channel
Channel

This picture shows what the view was once the weather had cleared up. It’s always interesting weather on the top of the hill next to the body of water. In the distance in the picture is the channel looking across to France.

SMP Views
Rough Line Of The View

Overall, I had a good weekend. Looking forward to the next one.