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Aerodrome looks back at 2018

Aerodrome looks back at 2018

Welcome to this decidedly festive edition of Aerodrome and our traditional end of year review blog, where we take a look back at some of the interesting aviation related features we have brought you over the previous twelve months. This has been a historic year for aviation in the UK, with the RAF marking their centenary year and November’s Remembrance Sunday bringing an end to four years of Great War centenary commemorations. As the winter weather really begins to bear its teeth and we are all quietly dreading the arrival of our January credit card statements, let’s concentrate on more positive thoughts and look back at some of the aviation highlights of 2018 and consider what may be of enthralling us during the coming year.

At this time of year, it is always nice to acknowledge some of the people who have helped to make the blog such a success this year and without whose support it would not be possible to produce Aerodrome. Unlike the other blogs on the various Hornby websites, that means me and you! This blog is all about the love of aviation and is produced by an aviation enthusiast for the enjoyment of fellow enthusiasts, wherever in the world they may be. Although it is and always will be an absolute privilege to be allowed to do so, it can sometimes be a lonely task and whilst I am extremely grateful for the ever increasing readership numbers, it would be great if more readers were to share some of their own aviation stories and photographs with our readership, who would certainly be interested to hear about them. It may even be possible for someone to guest write an edition of our blog in the future, taking over completely for one edition, especially if your feature is of particular aviation interest, or perhaps coming from a reader not in the UK. Early in the new year, we will be publishing our Aerodrome tribute to RAF 100 and would be grateful for any photographic contributions in advance of that – a little later in 2019, we will be devoting an entire edition to the mighty Avro Vulcan, particularly XH558 and her work with the Vulcan Display Flight and her triumphant return to the skies in 2007. If you have any pictures or stories which could benefit either of these features, please do send them in to our usual aerodrome@airfix.com address, where we would be only too pleased to hear from you.

Before we continue, I would like to say a few words of thanks to our fantastic readership, who have stayed loyal to us since we posted our first blog in the spring of of 2015 and have remained with us ever since. You are extremely important to us and without you, Aerodrome would not be the blog success that it is. Thank you for your support this year and I promise you that I will be working hard to bring you plenty of interesting aviation content throughout 2019.

Let’s end at the beginning

The Red Arrows feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

Is there a more iconic sight in British Aviation? The Red Arrows served up an early season treat, even though the review was one of the last to be posted in 2018

From a blog writing perspective, 2018 turned out to be something of a strange old year. As I was planning my events calendar for the coming year in the period between last Christmas and the New Year, I had no idea that I would be afforded an unforgettable aviation experience just a couple of weeks later and the opportunity to spend a day in the company of the 2018 Red Arrows at their home base at RAF Scampton. With the chance to attend a specially arranged Licensee Day at the very beginning of the RAF’s centenary year, I knew this would be a memorable occasion, but as we were in the middle of a particularly poor spell of winter weather, surely we would not get a chance to see the team engaged in any flying activities. As it turned out, the weather was glorious on the day and our small group were treated to something most of us will never forget and a real highlight of this important year for aviation. In something of a blog dichotomy however, this first outing of 2018 would not make it into a feature edition of Aerodrome until the following December for quite a number of perfectly valid reasons, but did turn out to be something of an early Christmas treat.

The Red Arrows feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

Another training sortie over and there is much to talk about. The Red Arrows would have a significant part to play in the RAF centenary commemorations

As the Red Arrows look forward to their historic 55th display season in 2019, it has recently been announced that the team will embark on a high profile nine week tour of North America from August next year and will therefore be unavailable for the final shows of the UK Airshow season. With their usual flying style, they will showcase the professionalism of today’s modern Royal Air Force and undoubtedly earn the team an  army of new admirers in the process, whilst at the same time, helping secure significant future overseas investment for British companies. Flying the flag for Britain in these uncertain times, the Red Arrows are an aviation institution we can all be proud of and no matter how many times you have seen them perform previously, they are always a highlight act on any Airshow display programme.

Hunting classic British aircraft

Fairhaven Spitfire on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

This local landmark has a fascinating aviation story to tell and Aerodrome brought you the details early in 2018

With the previous Airshow season well behind us and the first events of the new year still many months away, you do have to be a little more creative if you want to find interesting aviation content during the winter. Fortunately, your intrepid Aerodrome reporter is always on the lookout for suitable opportunities and doesn’t let incidentals such as poor weather and long distances get in the way of a good aviation story. This was certainly the case during the early part of 2018, as I embarked on a nationwide hunt for classic British aeroplanes which took me from Fairhaven Park to Salisbury Hall and encompassed both historic and replica aeroplanes. Having spotted a scale replica Spitfire mounted on a plinth in Lytham St Annes some years ago, I felt it was about time that I discovered the story behind the project. I managed to uncover a fascinating wartime story of one town’s determination to buy a Spitfire for the Royal Air Force. The subject of ‘Presentation Spitfires’ during the Second World War is truly inspirational and illustrates that despite severe personal hardship, local communities across Britain and its Commonwealth, went to unbelievable lengths in raising money that nobody could really spare, just so their town could purchase a Spitfire and carry the name of their community into battle. Perhaps of even greater significance, these funds galvanised a nation at a time when the war news was not always positive and let the troops know that the people were fully behind them.

Spitfire Ground Display feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

Pride of the Lytham St Annes Spitfire Ground Display Team, full size Spitfire Mk.IX replica ‘Lucy’ allows the public an opportunity to get close to this iconic fighter

The Fairhaven Spitfire story led me to the man who was the driving force behind the memorial and his current project, which is significantly more ambitious. Attending my first Lytham St Annes Spitfire Ground Display Team Open Day, I not only had the opportunity to visit a historic hangar at the former RAF Squires Gate, but also to find out about plans to eventually see an airworthy Spitfire once more operating from this airfield. The Team are now the custodians of a magnificent collection of vehicles, artefacts and memorabilia from the Second World War, but the heart of their collection are several replica aircraft which not only attract thousands of visitors to their Squires Gate airfield site, but are also the stars of film and screen, with a number of notable appearances to their names. Their first and most cherished exhibit is a 1:1 scale replica Spitfire Mk.IX affectionately named ‘Lucy’, which has been displayed at events all over the UK since 2011 and has raised lots of money for local good causes during that time. Now the centrepiece of an impressive static display, Lucy and her friends have a new mission on their hands, not only to renovate and improve the team’s facilities at Squires Gate, but also to help realise a dream that this Ground Display Team will one day be the custodians of an airworthy Spitfire. This is certainly one local aviation project I will be keeping a close eye on in the years to come.

de Havilland Mosquito feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

The opportunity to see two de Havilland Mosquitos displayed in the open air had Aerodrome heading down to Salisbury Hall to record the occasion

Having only previously visited the de Havilland Aircraft Museum on one occasion, I was determined that 2018 would be the year this was finally put right and pencilled a second  visit in to my schedule. Later, whilst reading a copy of Flypast on one of my journeys down to head office, I spotted an advert they had placed in the magazine which added a sense of urgency to the matter and immediately had me making arrangements. Their RAF Centenary Bank Holiday Spectacular would see them moving two of their historic Mosquitos out of their hangar for a proposed night shoot event – this was certainly an opportunity which would be too good to miss. The long drive down to Salisbury Hall was made all the more stressful by a weather forecast which did not look good at all and threatened to force the cancellation of the entire event, however, the tantalising prospect of seeing either of these magnificent aircraft in the open air was enough to ensure these doubts never really had the chance to take hold. The weather did turn out to be pretty bad and did eventually prevent the evening photoshoot from taking place, but not before two Mosquitos had spent some time outside their hangar and even managed to catch a fleeting glimpse of the sun.

de Havilland Mosquito feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

One of the most historic aircraft in Britain today, Mosquito prototype W4050 was designed and built in the very place where it is now preserved and displayed

There is no doubt that the de Havilland Mosquito is regarded by many as one of the finest fighting aeroplanes of the Second World War and the opportunity to see three complete examples of this magnificent aircraft at the historic location where the prototype aircraft was designed and built is a rare aviation treat indeed. In fact, the actual prototype Mosquito W4050 is one of the prized exhibits at Salisbury Hall, which makes this museum something of a rite of passage for any aviation enthusiast worth his salt. Add to this the knowledge and enthusiasm possessed by the museum volunteers and you have a day of de Havilland indulgence the like of which cannot be equalled anywhere in the world. I will definitely not be leaving it too long before I make my third visit to this magnificent Mosquito shrine.

Cosford’s nocturnal treat

RAF Cosford centenary nightshoot feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

Now home to an impressive number of former RAF Jaguars, Cosford’s early season nightshoot produced some of the most memorable images of 2018

As RAF Cosford prepared to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force in some style at their annual Airshow in June this year, they started their preparations early and began gathering airframes from all over the UK in support of their plans. Of great interest to UK enthusiasts, this impressive collection included former RAF No.111 Squadron McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1 XV582 ‘Black Mike’, transported from its previous home at Leuchars airbase, one of the most attractively presented Cold War jets preserved in Britain today.  Phantom FG.1 XV582 saw service with both the Fleet Air Arm and the RAF, making its first flight in early 1969 and delivered to the Navy later the same year, but after many successful years operating in naval colours, she was transferred to the Royal Air Force and No.43 Squadron in 1988. In Royal Air Force service, this magnificent aircraft continued to build its growing reputation, becoming one of the most famous of all the British Phantoms – she was the only FG.1 machine to serve with No.228 Operational Conversion Unit and the first to exceed 5000 flying hours. XV582 was also used in the record breaking ‘Lands End to John O’Groats Run’ on 1st April 1988, when the aircraft covered the 590 mile distance in just 46 minutes and 44 seconds – an impressive average speed of over 757 mph.

Phantom FG1 Black Mike feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

The undoubted star of the show, Phantom FG.1 ‘Black Mike’ has now moved on to a new home at the former RAF St Athan, making these images even more significant

The fateful decision which ensured Phantom XV582 would become one of the most famous aircraft to see RAF service occurred in the late 1980s, when she was selected as the aviation canvas for a striking squadron commemoration for Leuchars based No.111 ‘Treble One’ Squadron. Intended as a high-profile acknowledgement of the illustrious history of this famous flying unit, which had operated large formations of Hawker Hunters (The Black Arrows) and English Electric Lightnings during the classic jet era, the Phantom was given a handsome gloss black paint scheme and adorned with the famous yellow Squadron markings of ‘The Tremblers’. XV582 was selected because her extensive service dictated that she was categorised as a limited fatigue life remaining airframe and it was initially intended that this visual tribute would just be a short-term arrangement. The smart all black Phantom caused so much interest that she immediately became one of the most distinctive and popular aircraft in RAF inventory and although initially only intended for static display duties, the aircraft continued to be flown for a short while, as it seemed anyone with the authority and capability to do so wanted some flight time in this beautiful aircraft. Retaining its ‘M’ code, XV582 was quickly referred to as ‘Black Mike’, a name which has become synonymous with British Phantom operations and one of the most distinctive aircraft to see Royal Air Force service. From the enthusiasts’ perspective, her new found popularity and the decision to allow the aircraft to continue flying for a short while resulted in a number of stunning air to air pictures being taken, which now serve as a fitting tribute to the British Phantom and its years of exceptional service throughout the Cold War period.

100 years of the Royal Air Force

RAF 100 Airbus A400 Atlas feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

Of all the aircraft to wear the commemorative RAF 100 logo, the massive Airbus A400M Atlas was perhaps the most impressive

One of the undoubted highlights of the past year has been the many events staged to commemorate the centenary of the Royal Air Force, the oldest independent air force in the world. As we headed into 2018, it was clear that the summer’s Airshows would be dominated by the RAF 100 theme, but we could hardly have imagined how magnificent the weather would turn out to be, providing us all with a blue sky backdrop for this aviation theatre to be played out in – it was a truly spectacular year. We will not be placing too much emphasis on RAF 100 in this review blog, as we are planning a special edition of Aerodrome in early 2019 to focus specifically on that. Several readers have already been good enough to send in their favourite RAF 100 images in support of this special, so if you have any free time over the holiday period, please do let us have your pictures, for what will hopefully be a really memorable tribute edition – our usual aerodrome@airfix.com address is the one to use please.

Dambusters 75 feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

75 years to the day since the Dambusters launched their famous raid against the great German dams, the only commemoration we saw over Derwent Dam was this solitary pass from an RAF Typhoon

In a year of significant anniversaries and commemorations, the 75th anniversary of the Dambusters raid saw me getting up at some ungodly hour and clambering up a hillside in Derbyshire, in anticipation of witnessing a really poignant flypast which should have been one of the major aviation highlights of the year. Unfortunately, the best laid plans don’t always result in catching the worm (I think that I got that one about right) and all I saw was a large dam wall through mist and rain showers and a single pass by an intrepid RAF Typhoon pilot – well, at least I can say that I was there. The weather turned out to be so bad at RAF Coningsby on the day that Avro Lancaster PA474 was unable to take off, due to the strength of the crosswind and what had initially looked like being a truly memorable occasion, ended up being something of a disappointment for thousands. Most right minded enthusiasts understood that the safe operation of aircraft is the only consideration in cases like this, even though our resolve was tested when we heard that the flypast took place the following day, when the weather was much better. To make matters even worse, the commemorative flight over the Derwent Dam the following day was made with one very important passenger on board, Squadron Leader George ‘Johnnie’ Johnson MBE DFM, the last surviving British Dambuster. This flying hero was seated in the bomb aimer’s position of the Lancaster as it flew over Derwent Dam, the same station he occupied during ‘Operation Chastise’ on the night of 16th /17th May 1943. Unfortunately, unlike the day previously, there were few people there to witness this historic flypast, 75 years after the famous raid.

Dambusters 75 feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

Later in the year, the Royal International Air Tattoo staged a memorable tribute to three aircraft types which have represented RAF No.617 Squadron over the past 75 years

The number 100 has proved to be significant throughout 2018 and August was to mark an important occasion in the history of our Aerodrome blog – our 100th edition. Bringing our readers what we hope has been interesting and engaging aviation related content for well over three years, the centenary edition of Aerodrome was a proud moment for us and we celebrated in some style. Returning to one of our favourite venues, the subject of this special edition was this years Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre Airshow and a catch up with their famous Lancaster ‘Just Jane’. In what turned out to be an unexpected bonus for the thousands who attended the event, recently arrived de Havilland Mosquito Nightfighter HJ711 was also on display during the day and offered the opportunity to see these two aviation icons positioned next to each other for the first time at a public event. In a year of so many aviation highlights, the sight of the Lancaster and Mosquito together at East Kirkby will certainly rank highly in the top ten RAF 100 memories of anyone lucky enough to witness it.

Mosquito and Lancaster feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

One of the sights of 2018, the East Kirkby Lancaster and Mosquito together for the first time at one of their Airshow events

Determined that the centenary edition of our blog would be remembered as a significant one, we maintained our links with Lancaster ‘Just Jane’ by offering one lucky reader the opportunity to win a very special prize in our Aerodrome Centenary competition – the chance to visit the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in 2019 and take your place on a VIP Day Taxy ride. This was the most spectacular prize ever to be offered on one of the Hornby blogs and as you can imagine, the number of entry submissions we had for such a prize was enormous. In the end, there could only be one lucky winner and we are very much looking forward to joining Martin Webster as he takes his place on a future VIP day and will bring readers a full report of the occasion. All in all, 2018 has proved to be a pretty special year for Aerodrome.

Looking forward to 2019

RAF Tornado retires feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

After a long and successful service career, the Panavia Tornado GR.4 will finally be retired in April 2019, bringing the aviation curtain down on yet another classic aircraft type

One of the best things about having a little extra time over the Christmas holidays is the opportunity to do a little planning and think about all the things you hope to achieve over the coming year. As far as the Aerodrome blog is concerned, we will be once more looking for varied and interesting aviation content to bring our readers, already knowing that there will be some significant events to cover in 2019. After almost 40 years of RAF service, the Panavia Tornado is due to be retired early in the year and we hope to be in a position to catch up with the remaining examples of this famous aeroplane before it finally passes into the annuls of RAF history. 2019 will also witness Europe marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day and a great many of the events planned for this summer will include flying tributes to this historic operation, which paved the way for eventual victory in Europe. At the head of these commemorations, the Daks over Normandy event promises to gather an impressive number of Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft for an evocative recreation of the aerial assault which took place ahead of the beach landings. Described as the aircraft which led D-Day, this formation of C-47s could be the most poignant flying tribute to the battles of WWII since the end of the conflict and will certainly be a notable highlight of the coming year.

The Fighter Collection Fiat CR42 feature on the Aerodrome 2018 review blog on Airfix and Corgi Aerodrome

One of the more interesting restoration projects in Britain today, the Fighter Collection’s beautiful Fiat CR-42 will hopefully be the star of next year’s Flying Legends Airshows

Having made the difficult decision to choose RIAT over Duxford’s Flying Legends Airshow in 2018 (specifically for RAF 100 and the first time I have missed this Warbird spectacular), I am looking forward to getting back to Legends, where I will hopefully be part of a crowd witnessing the first flying appearance of a recently restored Italian fighter, the Fiat CR-42. This magnificent WWII biplane fighter is a stunning addition to the UK Warbird scene and whilst the aircraft was on static display during Flying Legends 2018, it has yet to make its flying debut. Hopefully, Aerodrome will be there to witness this historic occasion.

Finally, we are also at the advanced stages of negotiating two aviation adoptions for 2019, where we will be getting close to two aircraft on the UK aviation scene and produce a series of features on each, giving our worldwide readership a much more intimate understanding of their history, the people behind them and what it takes to operate a historic aeroplane today. We may accompany the aircraft on an Airshow appearance, or look at some of the challenges facing the operating team throughout the year. We are certainly hoping that this new feature will be of great interest to our readers and look forward to bringing you more details about our adopted aircraft in the very near future.

I am afraid that’s it for another year and the end of our 2018 review edition of Aerodrome. The only thing that remains for me to do is to wish each and every one of you a very enjoyable and prosperous New Year and I look forward to seeing you all back here in 2019. There will be a little blog timing shuffling going on over the next few weeks, as both the Airfix Workbench and Corgi Diecast Diaries blogs are moved to accommodate the 2019 product range launches for both brands, so the first blog of the New Year will be Aerodrome, which is scheduled for publication of Friday 4th January. Until then, have a great time and try not to overindulge during the holidays, unless it is catching up on classic war movies, or sending us your RAF 100 pictures.

Even though we are all going to be knee deep in Quality Street and cold turkey over the next few days, we are always keen to hear your ideas for future editions of Aerodrome and would be especially interested to hear from anyone who would like to supply an article for us to share with our worldwide aviation readership. If this could apply to you, please send your suggestions or pictures to our regular contact e-mail address at aerodrome@airfix.com, where we will be delighted to hear from you.

For those who enjoy time spent contributing to social media, all the latest Aerodrome and aviation related discussions are taking place right now on both the Airfix Aerodrome Forum and Corgi Aerodrome Forum and your contributions will be most welcome. Again, if you have any specific comments, questions or suggestions for future editions of Aerodrome, please do feel free to drop us a line and let us know your thoughts. We also have our popular Airfix Facebook and Corgi Facebook pages, along with Airfix Twitter or Corgi Twitter accounts available for viewing – please could we ask that you use #aerodrome when posting about an aerodrome topic.

As mentioned above, the next edition of Aerodrome is scheduled to be published on Friday 4th January. We look forward to seeing you all back here then.

Once again, may we take this opportunity to wish you a final Happy New Year and to thank you for your support during 2018.

Thank you for your continued support.


Michael

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