Sunday, 23 March 2014

Tristar C.1K ZD953 arrives at Bruntingthorpe

Following the postponement of the second and third Tristar arrivals the Wednesday before, the next deliveries were scheduled for Wednesday 19 March 2014.  Alerted by an email from friend Geoffrey Pool, who owns a two-seat Hunter, which is a "runner" based at Bruntingthorpe,

Ray Ball and I arranged to meet up for the event and as noted in the blog for the previous weeks arrival we were confined to the Cold War Museum aircraft pans. We met with various people and one of GJD Services's employees kept us informed on the progress. The plan for the day was to delivery two aircraft, ZD953 and ZE704 and the weather was perfect all day. The first aircraft was due to arrive at 12:00 and the following later that afternoon, with the aircrew being ferried backward to Brize Norton by BAe-146 of 32 Squadron.

RAF regulations require two RAF fire engines and an RAF ambulance to be on-site for the arrival procedure, the first fire engine arriving with the ambulance around 10:45. But, the second fire engine broke down on its way to Bruntingthorpe and the flight had to postponed till a second fire engine could be brought in, which arrived just before 13:30. Pat Fitzgerald and his wife Sandra turned up, but unfortunately had to leave well ahead of the aircraft arriving. Clifford Hill of the Coventry Aero Club, was also there and with the postponement of the first arrival we decided to have a quick lunch in the cafe on the airfield, which was recommended by Geoffrey.

Having returned from lunch, we were informed that the first aircraft was airborne and after a radar fix with Birmingham airport would transit to Bruntingthorpe. At just after 14:30 Dave Walton, who's company owns the airfield, drove into aircraft pan where we were gathered, pointing ahead....there was a dark grey
Tristar at roughly 3,000ft south of the airfield heading in an easterly direction. Dave Walton had given us permission to move onto the grass area between the taxiway and runway, where the windsock is located, an ideal position for unobstructed photography. So having seen the Tristar disappear towards the East we made our way over to the area around the windsock, but had to wait for another 15 minutes or so before the aircraft's faint image appeared just over the canopies of trees.

The first approach was made with the undercarriage up, flaps down and slightly to the south of the runway and was followed by a right hand circuit culminating in a full stop landing. The aircraft turned on the runway and backtracked, parking and shutting down at the end of the high speed turnoff t the eastern end of the runway. Within 10 minutes BAe-146 shuttle (ZE700) arrived to take the aircrew back to Brize (shown in the picture above, departing at 15;50). Shortly after its departure the news came that the second Tristar (ZE704) would not be delivered that day due to low sun over the runway expected when the aircraft would have made across from Brize Norton.

Here is an arrival picture taken by Ray showing were we were standing when the Tristar made its final approach and the picture below shows ZE700 departing Bruntingthorpe.

The final four Tristars are slated to arrive on the Leicestershire airfield on Tuesday 25 March 2014 and if that is the case it will be a busy day starting early in the morning and hopefully all RAF emergency cover will be there in time. Scheduled arrival times 09:30, 10:00, 13:00 and 15:30.

The Tristar that arrived on 12 March will be kept in running order and the longest present Buccaneer, XX900, has changed hands and is now owned by a small team lead by Denis Parker, who hopes to have the poorly hydraulics sorted and have the aircraft in running order again for the first Open Day in May.

25 March 2014
Theo Claassen

A captain re-united with his first Tristar

After the arrival at Bruntingthorpe of the first six Tristars on Wednesday 12 March 2014, I found out that one of the friends of our group, who has given two talks to the group to date on aspects of his career in the RAF, had the actual aircraft that arrived on Wednesday (ZE705) was the first of the type in his logbook. I have since seen the entries for this aircraft recorded in his logbook. You probably already realise that the person I am referring to is Pat Fitzgerald.

This gave both Ray Ball and myself the idea to arrange to re-united Pat with this aircraft. Ray contacted Geoffrey Pool who would not be available till the end of April. Now we all know that the ex-RAF aircraft coming to Bruntingthorpe are mainly for scrapping and the company that has bought the VC-10s and now the Tristars is GJD Services. Based on that I made the assumption that there might be some urgency required tomd of  see the aircraft prior to it secumbing to the tools of the scrapman. I contact the MD of GJD Services, Gary Spoors and his response was quick and very accommodating. He did mention in his reponse that ZE705's future had not yet been decided and that he was looking for alternative users for the aircraft. I agreed with Gary to pop in on the Saturday afternoon (15th) with Pat, Ray and Barry Jones.

I met up with Pat (and his lovely wife Sandra, who wanted to join us) and Barry and made our way to Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome. A friendly chap in the gatehouse told us to drive to the control tower, where Gary's office is located. From there we were taken to the aircraft, which Gary opened up for us and then left us to explore and reminisce.

As you can probably guess Pat was very much enjoying the visit and stories were abound. The Tristar's cockpit is very airy and roomy and although plenty of seats, but they are electrically powered and could not be moved so some had to stand. The captain's seat though was fine for Pat to take his rightful place. Look at the smile on his speaks volumes.

 After a while we were joined by a chap, armed with a camera, who stood in the cockpit doorway, listening to Pat's stories. He introduced himself and turned out to be an RAF pilot flying the new A330 Voyager tanker and who flew VC-10s for many years before that. His name is Andy "Tonks" Townshend and he invited us to have a look around one of the remaining VC-10s, ZD241, which is getting ready for a fast taxy performance at the Cold War Museum's May Open Day.

Gary had returned at this point and he took Sandra back to his office for a cup of tea, whilst we followed Andy across the busy race track to the pan where the three VC-10 are stored. The picture below shows VC-10 C.1 XR808 (Bob), which is destined to go to the RAF Museum at Cosford at some point in time.

The last VC-10 to arrive at Bruntingthorpe on 25 September 2013 (see my blog for that event) is now minus its Rolls Royce Conway engines and its in-flight refuelling probe. It will probably make a good spares source for ZD241.

Here is a picture of Andy with his Suzuki car......check out that nostalgic registration!

And, finally, a picture of Pat checking out the captain's seat and cockpit of VC-10 ZD241. It was a good day and even the weather was excellent. Our thanks go to Gary Spoors for his hospitality and we hope to one day welcome him to one of our talks.

23 March 2014
Theo Claassen

First Tristar arrives at Bruntingthorpe

Wednesday 12 March 2014, was the day for the delivery of the first of the Tristars to be delivered to Bruntingthorpe. Ray Ball was there to witness the arrivals and he takes up the story:

"I had a day of mixed fortunes, I rang up and got a disgruntled gatehouseman who didn't have time for calls, but he did tell me 11:00, but it as foggy over here. I went over for 11 and they did let me in, but I was confined to the museum aircraft pans. Over there I did meet up with some people I knew and also met with Geoffrey Pool. The plan was that three Tristars would fly in at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Apparently the RAF only had one Tristar crew and a DH-125 would fly with the Tristar and take the crew back to Brize to do the next flight.

However, the fog upset the plans. Things seem to be on and off throughout the day and we were finally informed that they were good to go at 3:30pm. The first Tristar (ZE705) arrived at 4:20pm closely followed by the DH-125. In view of the time, it was thought that there would only be ebough dayight for one more flight in. We were then informed that the secon Tristar had gone u/s at Brize and the flights were postponed to another day. Altogether six Tristars will be going to going to Bruntingthorpe."

Both pictures, taken by Ray, depict ZE705 in her final approach to Bruntingthorpe's lengthy runway.

21 March 2014
Theo Claassen

Friday, 7 March 2014

The end of DC 10 passenger flying

Biman Bangladesh's sole remaining DC10 finished its last scheduled flight at Birmingham BHX. The aircraft DC10-30 registration S2-ACR was made available for one hour pleasure flights from BHX.
The very last passenger flight was to be Monday 24th February 2014 before repositioning to its final resting place.
David Smith and Barry Jones were lucky enough to obtain window seats for this last flight.

After gaining our boarding cards we found the gate opened unusually early where we were surprised to find a champagne and cake reception and a welcome address from the airlines Managing Director and C.E.O. Mr Kevin Steele who also announced the purchase of a new Boeing 777 for use on BHX to North America routes.

On arrival at the flight line the press were in force from both ITV and BBC news. One recognisable guest was Janice Long the radio broadcaster, who as a young woman was part of the cabin crew on English based DC10's.

On board before the flight we were all offered a complimentary soft drink.

The flight itself was out and return to the Scottish Borders, visibility was good with but unfortunately 8/10th cloud cover, parts of Morcombe Bay and a little settled snow over Cumbria was clearly visible.

The engines were remarkably quiet theyseemed extremely powerful and responsive the rest of the aircraft I can only describe as tired, indicative of a long and hard life a bit like myself.

After landing the final accolade, the BHX crash crews honoured the aircraft with a tunnel of water cannon as we taxied to our stand. So ended the opportunity to say farewell to one of the first wide bodied jets.
Barry A Jones