Text & Pictures: Alexander Vandenbohede © sbap 2014

Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome is home to the Cold War Jet Collection including iconic aircraft such as the Victor, Nimrod, Hunter, Canberra, Comet, Lightning, Starfighter, Mystere, Sea Vixen, Buccaneer, Harrier, Jet Provost, Iskra and Jaguar. Most of these types rarely fly anywhere in the world nowadays and can only be seen in musea. However, the Cold War Jets Collection maintains several of them, in fully serviceable order. Twice a year an open day is held whereby a number of these jets carry out full power taxi runs along the main runway. This makes for an incredible spectacle and an ideal opportunity to get close to the aircraft.

The aerodrome, formerly RAF Bruntingthorpe, used to accommodate both the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force. The station was opened in 1942 as home of No. 29 Operational Training Unit RAF operating the Vickers Wellington. The base was not used between 1946 and 1957 when it transferred to the United States Air Force which used it until 1962 as a heavy bomber base. The wartime one mile long runway was removed and replaced by a two mile long one, necessary to take the Boeing B-47 Stratojet nuclear bomber. The first B-47E of the 100th Bomb Wing arrived in January 1959. Following de Gaulle's requirement for all foreign nuclear forces to leave France, there was a readjustment of USAF deployments and the B-47s returned to the USA. However, Douglas RB-66B Destroyers of the 19th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (10th TR Wing) took over the place in August 1959. The 10th TR Wing was based at RAF Alconbury near Huntingdon, but it could not accommodate all three squadrons of the wing, so one was based at Bruntingthorpe, which became its satellite.

But back to the open day. Before the start of the taxi runs, it was possible to walk in-between the airplanes, take a look at the cockpits or have a chat with the crews who maintain these gems. The Canberra and the line of Buccaneers attracted a lot of attention. So did the two Lightnings in an  original Q-shed, armed and ready to challenge any intruder of the Crown's airspace.

Dassault MD-454 Mystère IVA has an interesting history being destined for the Israeli Air Force. For some reason this airframe remained in France. The Starfighter is an ex-Luftwaffe example of JaBoG 34 which was based at Memmingen. Also notice the Tristar tanker in the background.
Making itself very noticeable is he Super Guppy, a large wide-bodied cargo aircraft based on the Boeing C-97J Turbo Stratocruiser. Sea Vixen XJ494 was used as a trials aircraft and has an undernose camera mounting and a cable running down the port boom, leading to what may be a transponder or beacon fairing on the tailfin. She took part in Red Beard and Martel missile trials.
It is intended to put back live in this BAe Sea Harrier F/A2 and make fast taxi runs. And we finish this short walk through the static with a Seaking HC.4 of the Royal Navy.
The honor to open the show fell upon the Jet Provost. Developed from the piston-engined Percival Provost, the Jet Provost made it first flight exactly 60 years ago, 26 June 1954 at Luton. Six examples taxied in front of the public, including T3, T4 and T5 versions.
Many of these airframes have varied careers behind them. XN637 for instance was originally destined for firefighting practice after being struck of charge in 1973. The jet moved instead to Winterbourne Gunner where it became part of the Nuclear Bacteriological and Chemical Defence Centre fleet of instructional airframes.
XW324, coming-in for the landing, was part of the 1973 "Gemini Pair" aerobatic team of the No.3FTS at RAF Leeming.
Next to produce some jet sound was Canberra WT333. She was built by English Electric as a B(I)8 variant with offset "fighter" style cockpit canopy in 1956 and never saw active RAF service. WT333 underwent various trials installations for the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, including a Smiths Mk.19 autopilot and power rudder stabiliser and she performed functional and flight trials of the Low Altitude Bombing System. WT333 departed on 24 May 1966 for operations from Woomera, Australia. On 24 February 1972 Treble Three returned to Pershore for further development work and she was fitted with the cockpit of a Canberra B.2 before being withdrawn in September 1993.
The ex-Romanian air force L-29 Delfin trainer provided a glimpse of the Cold War's "other-side". Unfortunately Hawker Hunter XL565, the third production T7,  experienced problems during start up.
Buccaneers XW544 and XX900, both S.2B variants, had an active RAF career. XX900 for instance was one of the trials aircraft for the ALE-40 chaff and flare dispensers, fitted in a hurry to support operations over Beirut. Notice the Pave Spike laser designator pod on XW544 which was used to buddy lase for the Tornados during operation Granby.
Spitfire MK PRXIX of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, on its way home from the Duxford show,  performed some spirited fly pasts, as did this Gazelle helicopter.
Lightning F.6 XR728 was without doubt the most noticeable participant: the sound, sight and feeling when she thunders by in full afterburner is truly impressive. XR728 was originally build as an F.3 but was converted to an F.6 in 1967. She finished her career as the Binbrook station CO's personal aircraft (hence the JS on the fin).
Victor XM715, the fourth production B.2, was converted to K.2 tanker standard between 1972 and 1975. She provided tanker support during the Falklands War, for instance during Black Buck 7, the last Vulcan bombing mission. XM715 also participated during Operation Granby where she received the "Teasin Tina" nose art.
The Nimrod MR2 (XV226)  and VC-10 (ZD241) arrived in 2010 and 2013, respectively. It is hard to consider these types as part of history after seeing them in action at airshows in the not too distant past. Luckily, they are kept as living history at Bruntingthorpe.

And then, it is time to pack up and point the bearings to the boat at Dover. Overall, I spent a most enjoyable day at Bruntingthorpe. The Open Day provide an opportunity to see unique aircraft from close and in action. A passion for classic jets and a dedication for their preservation, that is what Bruntingthorpe is about.

 

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