RNAS Yeovilton

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30th July 2014

Wednesday the 30th July to Friday the 1st of August was our planned three day trip repeated from last year to visit RNAS Yeovilton followed by two days at RNAS Culdrose taking in their Air Day in the middle of the visit. Last year we had some weather issues getting into Culdrose and on the Air Day itself but the final day was lovely with a great trip to the Scilly Isles. This year was the reverse. The first day was forecast as very good, the ‘Air Day’ reasonable but the Friday pretty horrid. After much pouring over forecasts and with no chance of leaving Culdrose early on the Thursday afternoon after the displays had finished coupled with the complications that getting stuck there would bring the only sensible decision was to very reluctantly cancel the Air Day part of our trip. As the weather subsequently turned out this was completely the right decision. The visit was therefore shortened to a one day visit to RNAS Yeovilton and once again brought home the importance of having a hotel that can be cancelled on the day without penalty when anything to do with flying is involved.


The weather on the Wednesday was absolutely lovely with a clear blue sky and some gentle fluffy cumulous around 2500ft. Six aircraft and eleven bods were taking part in the day and it was to be the first group outing on which the Diamond DA42 G-SUEO would be joining us in the very capable hands of Stewart Braddon and Jonathan Senior. With the aircrafts sparkly stripes and Stew and Jon’s previous appearance in pink hi viz’s this has now resulted in the aircraft being known as FAB 1. I understand that whoever is the PIC is ‘Parker’ and the other is Lady Penelope! Well in absence of any other Thunderbirds to play with we had to make do with prep’ing our PA28’s and C172’s for the trip to Somerset. We had a very tight window of 15 minutes to get all our aircraft into Yeovilton due to flying events taking place so our departure times needed to be well planned and co ordinated to allow a little separation but also to ensure we all arrived within our allotted slot. Early or late wasn’t an option and it had been made clear that early would mean a hold off and late a diversion to another airfield such as Compton Abbas or Henstridge. A call to the Flight Planning Manager Mr Roger Bardnachuk otherwise known as Mr B throughout the Royal Navy resulted in the arrival slot times being reiterated and a ‘before you ask, no you can’t’ on the other end of the phone. I have known Roger for a number of years as a result of wangling the group into Yeovilton on previous occasions and despite pressing him all I got in response was ‘you will see when you get here, but you still cant!’ Intrigued I went back to the aircraft prep. Now that’s not strictly true, actually my mostly trusty manservant ‘Baggins Fellows’ had done it all for me before delivering VB from High Cross. Once Phil had escorted me to the plane, plugged in my headset, placed the chart on my lap, mopped my brow and got me securely strapped in (although one strap kept tightening around my neck for some reason), it was time to depart.  


The route was the now well trodden westerly departure to Bovingdon BNN, over Wycombe, down to Compton CPT via the Benson MATZ stub and then to Devizes and Frome before a left turn direct to Yeovilton. The area around the Salisbury Plain Danger Areas as far as Frome was notified as having low level fast jet activity so that meant a slightly more northerly track than usual, although with RAF Lyneham closed that doesn’t present any airspace issues. Along the route was near perfect, excellent viz, great scenery and nice and smooth, a real pleasure to be flying day. Calls to Farnborough, Wycombe Tower, Benson Zone and Boscombe Zone before calling Yeovilton Radar were all straightforward although interestingly and for future reference Wycombe Tower will no longer grant ATZ transits when gliding is taking place. We had to route around the ATZ towards the Stokenchuch mast to remain clear. We were all bang on time and were positioned to join right base for Yeoviltons long R27. On short final Mr B’s words made sense as sitting majestically on the sun drenched apron close to the tower was the Vulcan XH558 and close to that a stunning and very rare WW2 B25 Mitchell bomber. That made for a great view over the last part of the landing. After landing we were vacated to the apron behind the tower where marshallers slotted us nicely into a tidy line. The NWFG aircraft in the sun with the Vulcan and the B25 as a backdrop was pretty impressive. However my day dreaming was soon shattered by the booming voice of a yellow helmeted, dark visored Mr B echoing into our cockpit as he welcomed us with his usual effervescent mixture of friendly abuse and banter. Roger is a great character and takes on a lot of extra work to accommodate the likes of us into his very busy world and for that I am extremely grateful.


Our first stop was to be the hanger of the Royal Navy Historic Flight where were greeted by a very enthusiastic Katie Campbell the flight display manager who gave us an incredibly detailed and interesting tour of the aircraft and a lecture on the history and workings of the RNHF. www.royalnavyhistoricflight.org.uk  At the end of the tour we were very lucky to be able to stand close by and watch the Sea Fury being readied for a display over the airfield before departing for Culdrose. After start and taxing out it took off to perform a stunner of a display over the airfield as part of a squadron decommissioning ceremony. At that point I’m sure nobody even imagined that the following day the aircraft would be severely damaged in a forced landing at Culdrose when the landing gear collapsed after the aircraft suffered partial engine failure during it’s same display routine there. Fortunately the pilot escaped unscathed. Also watching the display with us was the flying legend Capt Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown RN, CBE, DSC, AFC, Hon FRAeS who at the grand age of 95 is still incredibly spritely. Coincidentally there had been a documentary on him on TV a few weeks before and this mans life and career are just incredible. As well as being the Royal Navy’s most decorated living pilot he has flown more types of aircraft (487) than anyone else in the world and holds the record for the most carrier landings (2407). He was also the worlds first pilot to land a jet aircraft on a carrier when he landed a Sea Vampire on HMS Ocean in Dec 1945. I could go on with his achievements but if you are interested look him up as it makes fascinating reading. We were very privileged to have met him briefly and he was very accommodating when asked if he would join us for a group photo. One definitely to remember. A display by two Wildcat helicopters doing things that helicopters shouldn’t be able to do completed our excellent visit to the RNHF.


We then boarded a mini bus escorted by Mr B. I suspect this was to ensure we didn’t coerce the driver into stopping by the Vulcan as we headed off to the Fleet Air Arm Museum on the south side of the airfield for a group lunch followed by a tour of the museum itself and the excellent exhibits. I’ve written about the museum on our previous trips and it’s still a great visit especially as we had more time on this occasion given we weren’t going on to Culdrose. If you haven’t been it’s a very good day out if you are in that part of the world, unfortunately flying in as a one off isn’t possible due to the transport and security issues.


Once it was time to return to our aircraft we boarded the minibus once again and headed off to our aircraft getting a great close up view of the Vulcan looking spectacular in the late afternoon sunshine as it cast a giant shadow across the apron with it’s unmistakable delta wing. A truly beautiful aircraft and a real pity that we didn’t see it display at Culdrose the following day but certainly not a cause to grumble as we had had a pretty good day out and had at least managed to complete a third of our planned trip.


The route back was uneventful and the weather still stunning all the way to North Weald. It was just a pity that the weather was changing from the southwest and although they managed to do the Culdrose Air Day the following day the weather was patchy at best and we would certainly had been caught out on the Friday which could have resulted in a rather long and expensive stay. There is always next year………well hopefully.


My thanks as always to those who took part but a very big thank you to Rodger Bardnarchuk at Yeovilton for putting up with us yet again and arranging the logistics splendidly as always. Katie Campbell of the RNHF for an excellent tour of the flight and also Lt ‘Teddy’ Thurston RN for all his time, efforts and ‘string pulling’ in arranging the RNHF visit for us and just as importantly getting the necessary permissions to get our group into Culdrose as well even though we didn’t make it.


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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.

email: paul.bazire54@gmail.com
phone: 01992522090