Bomber Day ’09

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17th October 2009

The day finally arrived for the annual – and very popular – North Weald Flying Group ‘Bomber Day’ back to basics navigation competition. Amazingly this is the third year we have arranged this light hearted but competitive event and even more amazingly the weather has never scuppered this one, well so far. In the same format as previous years, the idea is to revert back to our days in training and plan the routes/tracks, wind drift and eta’s by the perhaps the old but tried and tested means of lines on maps, compasses and whizz wheels or the electronic equivalent. GPS units are not allowed. The point of the exercise is to find, identify and photograph specific ‘targets’ at the all important declared ‘time over target’. Points are awarded on a sliding scale dependant on how close to the declared eta the crew achieve.
To make it that bit more interesting the crews involved are unaware of the locations of the ‘targets’ until the morning of the event having only previously received ‘recce’ pictures of them by email. Once revealed the crews have 30 minutes to plan and declare their ‘time over target’ There were as in previous years three morning ‘targets’ and a further two in the afternoon.


Shipdham near Norwich, the old war time home of the B24 Liberator bombers of the ‘Flying Eight Balls’ was the lunch stop destination. Shipdham has featured in previous trip reports and some of its fascinating history as well as the appalling losses sustained are mentioned on other North Weald Flying Group ‘trips’ pages.

Unfortunately with G-NWFA being unserviceable due to its engine problem, a couple of members were unable to take part, but at least the recent return of ‘G-DCKK’ to the group meant that the lack of seat availability was very much mitigated. The crews were made up of Simon Plimblet and Axel Waldecker in KK, Julian Mitchell with Nick Allum and passenger Sarah Day were in ‘FG’, FC was crewed by Malcolm Jarvis, George Tunks and Barrie North. Andrew Calvert and Paul Weeks were in MM. Paul Bazne and Phil Fellows were the judges in the Archer ‘VB’. Finally David Rickwood with friend Ian flew all the way from Gloucester that morning in the little Eurostar ‘MI’ to take part, now that is keen!

The morning ‘targets’ were a sunken ship (no, not completely underwater before you think it) close to Gillingham on the north Kent coast, a road/rail bridge near Clacton and the church of St Margaret at IIketshall St Margaret near Bungay in Suffolk. With the times declared it was a staggered off for separation and reporting departing overhead to get a confirmed start time from NW Tower.


Excellent visibility below a cloudy overcast at about 3,500ft made for good flying conditions although the quite strong northerly wind made careful map reading and calculations of track and timings important. With VB circling high above a couple of the targets to ensure fair play, we eventually headed for Shipdham which had no radio that day so it was blind calls to land on their Runway 03. We used Shipdham as our stopping point two years ago but decided that we wouldn’t return unless the extremely poor condition of the original war time runway and taxiway was improved. We are pleased to say that the club at Shipdham have spent a lot of money on having the 800m runway resurfaced and it is now a very nice airfield to fly into, especially if you’re interested in visiting the airfield museum located behind their club house.

All the crews were in with the exception of ‘MI’ which had departed sometime after us due to their late arrival at North Weald as well as now struggling against the strong headwind. Over a freshly prepared standard flying club lunch of bacon or sausage sandwiches, the first round camera images were examined and some very good scores recorded. The first two had presented no problems but the church which that had chosen because of the possible difficulty in finding it had proved a little more problematic and had been misidentified by a couple of crews.


There was an opportunity for some of the crews to visit the small but fascinating museum and we would like to express our thanks to the Shipdham Club members who took the time to give us a very interesting tour.

The afternoons targets were revealed as two railway bridges, one south of Huntingdon and the other not far from North Weald near Cuffley. With the planning done it was back to the aircraft. Unfortunately David and Ian had to get a lift to go and buy petrol from a nearby garage as the Eurostar runs on Mogas and this left them short of time. They had to depart direct back to Gloucester to ensure a return by sunset.

The North Weald Flying Group headed across country to the fourth target and then back down the Luton/Stansted gap to find the last one. Squawking the new transponder code of 7010 it was all recovered into North Weald within about 15 mins from first to last. Once again the images were examined and points awarded and it was clear that for most that the afternoon session had presented a few more problems, both in the nav and particularly calculating accurate etas. However, the overall standard for this year was excellent once again. The clear winners were the crew of KK, Simon Plimblet and Axel Waldecker who managed to score the maximum available 50 points, an excellent result. Simon was half of last year’s winning crew and it must be very satisfying for Axel to have got this result on his first ‘Fly Out’. Well done guys.

Once again another excellent ‘Bomber Day’, an event that seems to be enjoyed very much by all the participants, or that’s what they tell us at least! Good weather prevailed and thanks to all our regulars that took part and to Shipdham Flying Club for accommodating us en mass.

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North Weald Flying Group operate out of the Squadron at North Weald Airfield.

The airfield is 10 miles south of Stansted and can be seen from the M11. Follow signs from the A414 and on entrance to the field, follow the perimeter track all the way around the field until you arrive at the distinctive Squadron building.

phone: 01992522090