Archive for the 'warbird.' Category

So French: Max Holste M.H.1521 Broussard

• October 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Fighter Pilot: Well, blow me down ……. I did not realise that I gave you a copy of this one. It was an R.A.F. publicity shot, after we had deployed from Germany to Cyprus, around August 1962. The aircraft is “my” Hunter F.6 of 14 Sqn. We took the entire 16 a/c of our “War Establishment” to Nicosia from Gutersloh in West Phalia, ostensibly for an air to air Armament Practise Camp, on the range off the South coast of Cyprus. The real reason was that our Boss knew that the Squadron was to be disbanded that winter, and he wanted us all to have a bit of a treat as thanks for a difficult job, well done. As part of the RAF Second Tactical Air Force in NATO, (2 TAF) 14 Sqn. was the last day fighter squadron in RAF Germany. Apart from the normal full training role that all squadrons play, we in Gutersloh had another special responsibility; we were tasked with maintaining the integrity of the East – West German border in the British sector, and the defence of the Air Defence Information Zone ( ADIZ ). To meet this task, we had to maintain the Day Battle Flight. This meant that, unlike all the other Hunter squadrons in the U.K., we always flew with fully armed and loaded cannon. This was the Cold War, and the Russians had a policy of shoot to kill any aircraft, Civil or Military, that crossed their “Iron Curtain” borders. They had shot down many poor sods, because they assumed that any a/c entering their airspace was hostile, or a spy plane. I always thought that idea had entered their heads because of the immense spying efforts the USSR undertook world wide 24 / 7 / 52. I reasoned that they did it, so assumed everyone else did too. So the Battle Flight’s job was to fight the sods if any of their a/c probed the ADIZ from the East, and act as traffic cops to catch any of our a/c straying close to the ADIZ from the West. In order to discharge this role, we had a full war establishment of 16 F.6s and 21 pilots. The Squadron “stood to” every morning of every year at dawn, and “stood down” after last light. We were good, but we could not fight at night. The standard day Battle Flight configuration was two a/c and two pilots at 5 mins. “Readiness” i.e. from crew room to airborne in 5 mins. and two more available in ten minutes. The Yanks and later NATO called this an ” Alert State”. Every morning, before first light, ( 5 a.m. in Summer, 7a.m. in Winter ) the two pilots rostered as the Battle Flight Pair would report to the duty sqn ops officer and then get into flying kit, take their Mae wests and helmets to the aircraft that the ground crew had already pre-flighted and positioned in the dedicated parking bays ( right outside the hangar doors ) . “Morning lads” “Morning Sir”. They would then do a walk around inspection themselves, checking that the telebrief was plugged in under the tail pipe. Then into the cockpits, complete the entire pre-start procedure up to “Press Start Button”, strap themselves in, adjust the seats and the rear view mirrors, and satisfied that all was well, call up on the telebrief and advise Wing Ops that Mission 1 Mission 2 are ready. Then, assuming the Russians are not actually coming this morning, Ops would release them to Readiness, and the chaps climb out again, perch their bone domes on the windscreen arches, and leave the Mae Wests draped somewhere handy on the a/c. Then they would wander off to their crew room, and the ground crew melt away to theirs. AT 8a.m. the rest of the squadron would arrive for morning briefing, and start a normal days work. If the sector GCI controllers had a situation building up on the radar, they might bring us up from Readiness to “StandBy”. This meant the crews dashed to the aircraft and leapt into the cockpits , strapped in and checked in and then listened to the telebrief – a hot line from the aircraft to the GCI and also Wing Ops. What happened next depended on the seriousness of the threat. If events looked like a false alarm then we would be ordered to return to readiness. Back to the crew room and yet another cup of “Standard NATO” coffee. If the situation deteriorated from Standby, the Magic Word “Scramble” would come down the telebrief line, and two fingers would hit two start buttons, chocks would be ripped away, and two F.6s would be airborne in less than two minutes. We had an East West r/way at Gutersloh, and we always took off towards the West, regardless of wind. It was much quicker to get airborne and do a screaming 180 turn for the border, than to taxi around to the other end of the r/way. In battle formation, the pair would climb on their vector, and depending on the nature of the incident, choose whether to set the guns safety switch to live or safe. As you can see, a lot of this sounds similar to the immortal Battle of Britain scenario, and that’s because it is. I loved every minute of it. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Sqn. would be towing another pair of fighters to the spots vacated by the first pair, plugging in the telebrief, and the pilots would set up these a/c to the readiness state, or maybe come straight to Standby in the cockpits, if so ordered by Ops / GCI. Occasionally the situation would call for more than one or two pairs, and then the sqn. would start to cancel the training programme, call a/c back from other sorties, and sacrifice everything else to the main task, which was one pair on 5 mins., one pair on 10 mins. Continuously , day after day, month after month, year after year. So you can see why we had a full war establishment, and so many pilots. Normal peace time sqns had 12 a/c and say 16 pilots. The first sign that there was a job on, would be two beeps on the wing ops squawk box which meant “1st pair to Standby, and talk to me.” The ground crew also heard the squawks, and for them, two beeps meant ” starter crews to the 1st standby pair”. The next step would be, as the pilots heard the order to Scramble in their headphones, Wing Ops would beep 3 times, and the pilots, the ground crew NCOs and the sqn duty ops officer would all start shouting SCRAMBLE. They would of course be completely drowned out by the scream of the starter motors in the Battle Flight Pair. There was a certain amount of stress involved in all this, as the Battle Flight pilots would be rotated every couple of hours so that the normal flying training programme could continue, and the guy taking over would check the cockpit for himself, and swap his helmet for the previous chap’s, hang his Mae West on his favourite “hook” – mine was the left side drop tank – and then return to the crew room to simply pass the time. Every time the squawk box beeped, the two Battle Flight pilots would freeze, drop their feet to the floor, the adrenaline pump would come on …. if it was only one ‘beep’ the pilots would relax again (One beep on the intercom system simply meant someone is calling you – like when a phone rings. Two beeps would call for action, as I said before. Sometimes, if a target had suddenly “popped up” on the GCI radar they would beep three times, i.e. press the scramble button from cold. That was the time when it was dangerous to be walking along the corridor or up the stairs outside the crew room, as there was every chance that you could be run down by galloping pilots. Some sort of an incident happened a couple of times a week, often on a Sunday. Sometimes the Reds would decide to test us and themselves, and the first scramble could be the start of a series of alarums and excursions that could go on for a couple of hours. We knew that the Reds were testing us, and we always fired off a Battle Flight pair in response to every prococation, until the Reds had seen enough, or themselves run out of aircraft, or it got dark. It was never us that blinked, and the Reds knew that we could call on Hunters from U.K. just one hours flight time away. Then the night fighter Javelins took over the Alert State, and we retired to the bar. Yes, stress….. blokes would react to a Standby or Scramble call, even if they were not actually on Battle Flight at that moment. A chap called Barry Tonkinson was asleep on the couch in the crew room one morning, when he suddenly leapt to his feet, and ran out of the crew room, disturbing a game of cards, only to return a minute later, and casually return to his couch. The squadron diary recorded this incident as ” Tonk’s practice scramble” …. After a couple of years of this sort of thing, it was not really surprising when, in Cyprus on “Holiday” two 14 Sqn. pilots who were waiting to be allocated aircraft for the gunnery range, heard three rapid beeps from 43 Sqn.s Ops room squawk box, – and took off out of the crew room as if the hounds of hell were after them. Much to the amusement of the laid back lads of 43. That was why the Boss wangled an APC at Cyprus for his tired but not burnt out bunch of boys. When we arrived in Cyprus we were greeted by the fabulous fighting 43rd, each of whom had a cold Carlsberg in hand, and took our bone domes from us with one hand and placed a cold can in our eager fists with the other. Then we had to put the beers away and stand there to be individually photographed by the Public relations boys, and those photos duly appeared in the local papers of each of us. The caption in the Hainault local rag said ” Flying Officer Donald Brown pictured after pushing his Hawker Hunter fighter across the Mediterranean”. I always wondered what the Essex locals thought that meant. I just thought it was a bit over the top.

• August 2, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Parked next to an exquisite Stearman is the tiny 20ft wingspan homebuilt W.A.R. 1/2 scale F4-U kit plane, is a delight to look at and very well finished, but is not a toy for a novice pilot, it is said to be quite a handful in particularly during crosswind landings.

• July 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

SIAI-Marchetti SF-260WL; F-GMRF in the colours of the Force Aérienne de Burkina Faso (FABF) which added 5 of these to its aviation inventory in 1986 but has it seems has disposed of them since, The FABF has 19 various aircraft at present. This ex-French colony gained its Independence as Upper Volta in 1960. Before 1984 the national colours were red, white and black, but have since been changed to the pan-African colours of red, yellow and green. The roundel is based on the national flag this is red over green, split horizontally, with a yellow star which can be seen here on the fin.

• July 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment