Sunday, 23 March 2014

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

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