At home with the BBMF
Welcome to this latest edition of Aerodrome and our regular look at the fascinating world of aeroplanes and the historic aviation scene in the UK.
With the arrival of Autumn and its depressingly dipping temperatures, the delights of the 2019 Airshow season already seem like something of a distant memory, but before we pack away all our camera gear for another year, there are still just one or two events to tempt us out into the cold. In this latest edition of Aerodrome, we join the legions of Battle of Britain Memorial Flight supporters who headed for RAF Coningsby and the BBMF Visitors Centre site, for one final day of historic aviation indulgence, before we finally allow ourselves to admit that the 2019 Airshow season is over. This annual event is the highlight of the year for many enthusiasts, as it allows Lincolnshire Lancaster Association members and BBMF supporters the opportunity to get close to the aircraft they love, in addition to the people who help to keep them in the air. We will see which of the Flight’s famous aircraft were in attendance this year and how not everything went exactly to plan.
Before we get started, I would just like to take this opportunity to thank all the Aerodrome readers who have already sent in a selection of their favourite 2019 aviation related pictures – there are some absolute crackers amongst them. There is still time to have your shots included in our 2019 review edition, so if you are yet to do so, please could I ask that you send your images to our usual email@example.com e-mail address. Right then, it’s destination Coningsby and a chance to show our enduring appreciation to members of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Lincolnshire’s Lancaster devotion
Avro Lancaster B.1 PA474 has always been able to count on a devoted army of enthusiastic followers and whenever she emerges from the protection of her hangar, an audience of admirers is guaranteed. Here, she has been captured through the fence in the early morning of the 2019 LLA Members Day
There can be little doubt that Avro Lancaster B.1 PA474 is one of the world’s most famous historic aircraft and the jewel in the aviation crown of the UK Airshow display circuit. One of only two airworthy Lancasters in the world and the only example flying in Europe, the aircraft not only captivates millions of people with its displays and flypast appearances each year, but also serves as a ‘living tribute’ to the wartime contribution made by the air and ground crews of Bomber Command during WWII, as well as marking their strong association with the county of Lincolnshire. In addition to being loved by millions of people across the country, the eminent position this aircraft holds in the world of historic aviation has resulted in it attracting the support of a dedicated group of enthusiasts, each one eager to contribute towards and be informed about her continued wellbeing.
The Lincolnshire Lancaster Association is an impressive organisation dedicated to the preservation of this magnificent aircraft and ensuring she remains in the county which played host to so many Lancasters during WWII. A registered charity, the association is unique as the official support group for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and over the years, its continually growing membership has managed to raise many thousands of pounds and sourced rare aircraft artefacts and components that have benefited the all aircraft of the Memorial Flight. Originally established to ensure that an example of the Avro Lancaster remained in the Lincolnshire area to mark the close association between the county and Bomber Command during WWII, the association worked tirelessly towards this goal and can be extremely proud of their efforts over the years.
Not only do they now have an Avro Lancaster permanently based in their fair county, but they also have Europe’s only airworthy example of this famous bomber operating from Lincolnshire, just as they did back in WWII. Originally, the association’s request was that PA474 be brought back to the county for preservation when she was due to be retired back in the early 1980s and in those days, they could hardly have imagined what members of the association enjoy today. Due to the care and attention bestowed on this famous aircraft by the engineers and technicians of the BBMF, Lincolnshire may well have a flying example of the mighty Avro Lancaster for many years to come, with the continuing work of the Lincolnshire Lancaster Association and their worldwide membership supporting their commendable efforts.
Sharing the airfield with the RAF’s latest Typhoon fighters, the aircraft of the BBMF represent an earlier era of British air power and can claim to be more famous than their aviation contemporaries
Amongst the many benefits of becoming a member of the Lincolnshire Lancaster Association is the opportunity to attend the annual Members Day, which takes place at the BBMF Visitor Centre at RAF Coningsby each year, usually at the end of September or the beginning of October. Unfortunately, with many more members than places available on the day, attendance is allocated by ballot and if you are one of the lucky recipients of a ticket, you know that you are in for a very special day indeed. With the event usually scheduled to coincide with the end of BBMF’s hectic flying display commitments and the start of their busy winter maintenance programme, this delightfully informal event is an opportunity to meet other Association members in this unique setting and to get close to the men and women behind the Memorial Flight.
Having been fortunate enough to have attended several of these magnificent events over the years, I think I can say with some certainty that Members Day is as enjoyable for the entire BBMF team, as it is for the gathered enthusiasts. They are left in absolutely no doubt as to how much their efforts in keeping these magnificent aircraft in the air is appreciated by this cross section of the British public. Having said that, the real stars of the day are the magnificent aircraft of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the undoubted highlight of any Members Day is the opportunity to see the aircraft of the Flight at extremely close quarters. With all available aircraft either arranged on the hardstanding area outside the hangar, or undergoing maintenance inside the hangar, this is a chance for enthusiasts to get a really good look at these historic machines and gain a better understanding of the work involved in keeping them in airworthy condition.
Fighter Central. Although the Lancaster is undoubtedly the main focus of attention during the annual Members Day, it is always ably supported by an impressive collection of historic fighter aircraft
Although never guaranteed, the day also offers the tantalising prospect of a flying demonstration by some, or all of the serviceable aircraft of the BBMF, using the Flight’s hangar as their display datum and offering a truly unique aviation experience for those fortunate enough to be in attendance. As Airshow enthusiasts are only too aware, these rare and historic aeroplanes are lovingly maintained to an extremely high standard, however, as they examples of aviation technology from around 75 years ago, there are strict parameters around which they are permitted to operate, with the weather being a particular consideration. Despite the fact that several of these aviation classics were serviceable on the day, it would be mother nature, not the ground crews, who dictated whether these aeroplanes could play their airborne starring role on Members Day 2019.
Members Day 2019
Greeted by angry morning skies, we should have known that the worrying weather forecast was going to play a part in the day’s event
With RAF Coningsby only being just over two hours away from my home, this is one of the closest places of aviation interest to me, however, with fellow LLA members always arriving early for this exclusive event, this was still not an opportunity to grab an extra couple of hours in bed. As one of the first to arrive and park up, I decided to spend a little time looking through the perimeter fence and taking photographs, particularly as the Lancaster and several fighters had already been positioned outside the hangar, in preparation for the days activities. At that time of the morning, the conditions were bright, if a little breezy, however, the forecast was less than encouraging for later in the day – ever the optimist, I was clinging to the hope that the Met Office sometimes get these things wrong.
Once inside the airfield and in the section of the BBMF Visitor Centre cordoned off for the event, the relatively restricted space soon began to fill up, as people claimed their spot for the day, with the fence-line opposite the Lancaster proving to be particularly popular, for obvious reasons. Conditions during the rest of the morning continued to be relatively bright and even though the wind appeared to be gaining in strength, this did not prevent me from taking some pleasing shots of the aircraft arranged on the hardstanding outside the main entrance to the BBMF hangar – Avro Lancaster PA474, four Spitfires, a Hurricane and a Chipmunk. Inside the hangar undergoing maintenance but still available for photography was a second Chipmunk and the Flight’s second Rolls Royce Griffon powered Spitfire (PS915). We knew that the Dakota would not be present on the day, as this was still at Manchester Airport, having recently made an emergency landing due to an engine issue.
For the aviation enthusiast, RAF Coningsby really does offer a fascinating aviation juxtaposition, with some of the RAF’s latest fighter jets sharing the same airfield as an enigmatic collection of their oldest. On the far side of the airfield, hardened aircraft shelters house Britain’s premier fighter aircraft, several of which are on a state of constant readiness as they serve as the nation’s southern Quick Reaction Alert force, ready to respond to any hostile incursion into British airspace at a moment’s notice. This same job was being performed by the Spitfire’s of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain and beyond, restored examples of which use the same runway as Coningsby’s cutting edge Typhoons.
View from the hangar. Supermarine Spitfire PR.XIX PS915 and Chipmunk T.10 WG486 were undergoing maintenance during my visit, but were still available for a quick photograph
Adding to this interesting dichotomy, it is highly likely that almost every RAF Typhoon pilot would give his eyeteeth to get behind the controls of one of the BBMF’s aviation classics, which continue to have an enduring fasciation for both serving military personnel and the general public alike.
As the day progressed, I was just one of many people who asked members of the BBMF who were enjoying walking amongst the crowds, if there was any possibility of the aircraft flying later in the day, bearing in mind the strength of the wind. To my surprise, they confirmed that it was still their intention to fly all serviceable aircraft, however, as the allotted take-off time approached and the skies darkened, the public address system announced a delay until a break in the conditions arrived over the airfield – 3pm was the revised display time. As we all waited patiently, looking with increasing trepidation at the approaching weather front, the delayed take-off time arrived at the same time as what can only be described as a violent rain storm.
Many of us had already sought the sanctuary of the BBMF hangar and could only look on in dismay as the torrential rain signified a premature end to the event and confirmation that there would be no flying today. For those who had been caught in the open or had trusted in the protection offered by their umbrellas, they got absolutely drenched and it was not long before crowds of people began a miserable trudge back to their cars, clutching their soaked belongings and looking more than a little depressed about the situation - an unfortunate end to one of their favourite days of the year.
Best seat in the house. The BBMF hangar proved to be rather popular during the afternoon downpour at the 2019 LLA Members Day
Having dodged the main downpour by seeking refuge in the hangar, I only ventured outside again once the rain had finally stopped, with at least half of the original crowd having decided to call it a day. Grabbing one or two final pictures where I tried to be a little creative with the reflections offered by the many puddles, the quickly returning rain saw the camera immediately put back in its bag and the final acceptance that the good old British weather had won once again and it was back to the car for me.
Here is a further selection of images taken at this year’s Lincolnshire Lancaster Association Members Day:
It is difficult to believe that these two images were taken on the same day. It’s amazing how things can change in the space of a couple of hours
BBMF Supermarine Spitfire Vb AB910 was looking magnificent in her D-Day identification markings and it was such a shame we were unable to see her in the air
The beautiful Mediterranean scheme worn by Spitfire LF IXe MK356 really does need the sunshine to be seen at its best
After the storm, the reflections. This picture of De Havilland Chipmunk T.10 WK518 was one of the last pictures I managed to take on the day
Spitfire development. Both Rolls Royce Griffon and Merlin powered Spitfires were on display at RAF Coningsby
For many enthusiasts, the annual Lincolnshire Lancaster Association Members Day is the highlight of their year and an opportunity to spend time with fellow Lancaster enthusiasts
It could be many months before UK aviation enthusiasts have the opportunity to see Lancaster PA474 back in the air again, but when she flies, they will come to admire
Even though the weather did its level best to ruin the latest LLA Members Day and we now finally have to admit that the 2019 Airshow season is all but over, I did still manage to spend an enjoyable few hours in the company of the magnificent aircraft of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and realizing that I am most definitely not alone in my affection for these beautiful old aeroplanes.
I would like to extend my thanks to officials of the Lincolnshire Lancaster Association for their continued drive and determination in making it an absolute pleasure to be a member of this group and for again arranging this always enjoyable event. I am sure I also speak for a great many people in also thanking every member of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight for the work they do in maintaining these priceless old aeroplanes and allowing us all to experience them at numerous events up and down the country each year. Let’s hope that the 2020 LLA Members Day benefits from slightly better weather than this year’s event and that the gathered faithful manage to see a flying display from the aircraft they all love so much.
I am afraid that is all we have for you in this latest edition of Aerodrome, but we will be back as usual in two weeks’ time with more aviation related content for your enjoyment. As always, if you have any ideas for a future edition of Aerodrome, or if you would like to supply a feature of your own which will be of interest to our worldwide aviation readership, please send your suggestions to our regular contact e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org, where we will be delighted to hear from you.
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