#twitterVforce Goes Lightning Fast!
The sun was shining, the birds were singing and the ominous looking black clouds overhead were not dropping their cargo all over Bruntingthorpe. All was right with the world.
As we merrily bowled along the country roads of South Leicestershire, I quietly reflected on the treats in store for the day. At least, I tried to quietly reflect. My husband on the other hand was waging a one man war on the left hand suspension of my long suffering car. Excitedly explaining the details of what we were to see that day, I do believe he would have left a cranium shaped dent in the car roof, had he not been strapped in. His bouncing has only ever been eclipsed by that of our illustrious leader @ROD558 on our journey to RAF Cosford.
Now. To give a bit of background. Some months ago, m’lovely husband informed me that the Lightning Preservation Group, based at Bruntingthorpe airfield would be staging their yearly QRA. This year, however, would be special as not one, but TWO Lightnings would be pounding down the runway.
‘Book our tickets now!’ I cried.
‘Have you booked them yet?’ I enquired five minutes later.
‘Have we got our tickets now?’ I nagged, five minutes after that, giving m’lovely husband that LOOK… (the one that all partners are aware of and basically means….do it what I tell you NOW!!)
Tickets secured, I then settled down to a mere three month wait for the day.
So! Back to the shining sun and wittering birds etc…having parked up, my attention was immediately drawn to the ice cream van parked next to the stalls selling all manner of aviation paraphernalia (the stalls, not the ice cream van…although, I think someone is missing a trick somewhere here…Vulcan ice lollies anyone?). Having extracted a promise that ice cream would be forthcoming AFTER I had satisfactorily shown willing to eat the whole of my lunch, I then became further distracted by many many shiny things.
O so many shiny things. I love visiting Bruntingthorpe and consider myself a very lucky girl that I live within reasonably easy reach of such a fantastic place. Looking around I found I was, once again, spoilt for choice. Where to go first? The tail fin and folded wing of a Buccaneer could be seen in the distance, with ‘Teasin Tina’ not far away. The Super Guppy dominated the skyline – a giant of a plane. Off to the left, I spied a Gloster Meteor….choices choices!
As I looked back, I realised an easy decision had been made for me however, when I found m’lovely husband disappearing in the direction of the Lightning’s QRA shed, leaving me stood gawping in a not overly attractive manner at the many aviation stars around me.
During the late 1980’s, the Lightnings were reaching the end of their operational careers. As with so many of our iconic aircraft, their future was uncertain. Assuredly, some would end their days at various museums up and down the country. But what of working examples? Would there be any? Would the Lightnings forever be silenced and remain as stark, static reminders of how closely our country was protected by these amazing machines?
Luckily for us, the Lightning Preservation Group were on hand to put in a bid, win and take delivery of XR728 from RAF Binbrook in 1988. Five years later, in 1993, XS904 arrived to take up residence at Bruntingthorpe – a home kindly given to the Lightnings and many other jets by the Walton family.
In 1994, a QRA shed was purchased to give the Lightnings a more permanent shelter from the rather unreliable South Leicestershire weather.
So in a way, the Cold War Lightning exhibit at Bruntingthorpe is complete…a fitting memorial to a beautiful aircraft.
And they continue to survive in such amazing condition thanks to the Lightning Preservation Group whose ambitions have mostly been realised on this day.
So, when a group of people have gone way above and beyond to save and maintain two such beautiful aircraft for the nation, they deserve to have avgeekophiles like myself gaze in glazed admiration!
Several photos later and me being me, I noticed the wee display/shop/office sat next to the hangar and so wandered off to have a nosey…one mug, two badges, one keyring, a print and a quick chat with the very nice man manning the merchandise later, I decided it was a good idea to gather up m’lovely husband and go and have a wander round the static displays.
Now, I have waxed lyrical about a previous visit to Brunty on a Cold War Jets Day and being a ‘veteran’ of these (ie I have been to more than one), a wander round the statics was like visiting some old friends. I shan’t go into detail as that would spoil it for anyone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure…
At around one o’clock, more people began drifting towards the netting thoughtfully provided to stop too many people falling under the wheels of fast moving jets. The doors of the QRA shed were now tightly closed in anticipation of the recreation. The tannoy belted out commentary advising people to move towards the barriers and keep watch…didn’t need to tell me twice!
All was quiet…sort of…all was quiet if you ignored the clicking of cameras and quizzing of parents by small children who weren’t altogether sure of what was going on…the anticipation was growing by the minute…then it began…
Some background information given over the tannoy, the build up of radio alerts.
And then… The magic words…
‘SCRAMBLE, SCRAMBLE, SCRAMBLE.’
Ground crew and air crew alike came pouring out of the wee shed I mentioned earlier…heavy doors where pulled aside, air crew climbed into their seats and WHOOSH!!! the engines were started. Foliage and trees waved wildly behind the Lightings, the all clear was given and one started to move out of the shed and onto the taxiway…off she moved, past the crowd and up towards the runway. The sun glinted off the gorgeously shiny bodywork, the insignia and badges catching the light.
Have you ever ‘felt’ a noise. Like a vibration that your body picks up through your feet and booms in your chest, taking your breath away for a brief moment? That’s the same feeling you get when a Lightning screams past you on a runway at full pelt! And to top it off, on this day we got it twice!
And as if that wasn’t enough, the organisers had very kindly got out some of the other wonderful jets to show them off in a series of taxy runs…
O so lovely…the Hawker Hunter
So beautiful! The Blackburn Buccaneer.
Then back to the Lightnings…doing what they do best…deafening avid avgeeks clustered together at the edge of orange fencing, hearts pounding, fingers pressing buttons on phones, SLR’s and video cameras, all united in a love of Lightnings and all things Cold War Jet. Smiles and grins all round, not even marginally dampened by the gently falling rain…
So, Thank you to the Lightning Preservation Group from #twitterVforce
And yes, I did get an ice cream. With a flake.