North Weald Fighter Day

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22nd September 2007

Our Fly Out on the 22nd September offered a little something different from our usual trips. ‘Fighter Day’ was to be a light hearted test of observation, airmanship and hopefully a little aeronautical deception with a slightly competitive edge. The basic aim was to get ones aircraft into an airfield undetected by the ‘fighters’ that were on patrol in the vicinity. After a couple of months studying maps and going on a few recce’s, Gt Oakley airfield just outside Harwich was chosen for its uncluttered surrounding airspace up to FL55 and quiet non training circuit.
Tim Spurge the very pleasant owner was more than helpful and enthusiastic to support our little venture even if it did mean us dominating his airfield and radio frequency for most of the day.


Heenans Flying Circus from Andrewsfield were once again more than keen to ‘join forces’ for the combined assault. The original plan would have seen two fighters and some eight aircraft acting as the incoming ‘hostiles’ Owing to various factors crews and aircraft began to drop out and on the actual day we managed to put up a total of six. This meant reining back the plan to put up only one ‘fighter’ and five incoming.

With safety and remaining legal being of paramount importance, specific ‘Rules of Engagement’ were prepared to ensure that all participants were fully briefed and that set procedures were followed in the immediate vicinity of the airfield. The incoming aircraft would be ‘safe’ once established on base or final and were given a window of 30 minutes in which to arrive.


The respective crews gathered at North Weald and Andrewsfield for a final brief and update on the conditions at Gt Oakley. The weather was kind once again and although not perfect the 1800ft broken to scattered cloudbase fell nicely into the incomings hands. Paul Bazire and cousin David Rickwood (PPL trainee) were the ‘fighter’ for the morning heat and were airborne from NW in the PA28 G-NS at 11.10 to take up a patrolling position 3nm out from Gt Oakley ready for the incomings window of 11.40-12.10.

From the NWFG were Stefan Atrill with Paul Weeks in G-RB, Paul Hutson and Kieran Hardiman in G-KK whilst Julian Mitchell with girlfriend Rachel made up the crew of G-WH. From the HFC, Paul Davies and Darren Witham in C172 G-XK, Nick Ferris with Mick Sarling in the another C172 G-RS. 


Established in an anti clockwise patrol around Gt Oakley the crew of NS quickly spotted and identified the first incoming aircraft at about 3 miles range and slightly higher as a C172. ‘Tally Ho’, all we needed now was it’s registration and would have our first ‘kill’ Pulling NS around into a steep turn to get into a position for a positive ID had us greying out as the ‘g’ came in (oh alright a slight exaggeration) and we followed the 172 for about 3 miles trying to read it’s reg with our binoculars in the slightly turbulent air only to discover on other side of Ipswich that it wasn’t one of our players. ‘Blast’ back to Gt Oakley and then there’s another one, high again at 12 o’clock. Up we go and another couple of miles on and yep another non player. As we returned from our wild goose chase RS and XK had managed to sneak in. Picking up yet another 172 out on our 3 o’clock again high we started our climb. This one appeared to be making use of the cloud cover and despite NS’s superior speed we weren’t making that much progress. Fearing that this was another non player and that with our luck he was probably going all the way to Holland we broke off the pursuit. As it turned out it was KK who had in fact seen us and headed around the clouds then successfully sneaked in with a long low approach off the sea. We claimed RB as a kill although this was disputed as they pleaded radio failure, Ah! WH sneaked in last as NS was downwind to land when they finally appeared.

Lots of smiling faces greeted our arrival and lunch was taken on the patio of the clubhouse with exchanges as to the tactics employed. It was a unanimous decision that as everyone had had so much fun on the first, the afternoon heat should go ahead. RB was going to play fighter this time and we all launched into the now much brighter weather. Various tactics were tried by the incoming and despite what can only be described as ‘fishing’ on the part of RBs crew they did manage to bag KK and WH inbound. NS, XK and RS all made it by employing the similar approach of low and fast (well relatively) toward the airfield.

Tea and Medals were enjoyed in the clubhouse with everyone having had a great day with a promise that the event would definitely be repeated next year, hopefully with two fighters and more incomings.

On the way back to NW we were passed by a yellow tailed P51 Mustang. It looked spectacular as it was highlighted by the sun against the cloudy cumulus backdrop. It was a poignant reminder that to the guys who flew these in the past that our little game was for real and carried out at three times the speed. If you didn’t see your opponent before he saw you, then the chances were the last thing you would feel was the hot lead from a Mauser cannon shell. Sobering really.

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Contact us

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