Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets Open Day 2005 Review
Sunday 28th August
'Cold War Warriors', 'Classic Jets', call them what you will, these wonderful machines from the golden age of jet aircraft, from the peak of British aerial power, will always hold a special place in the heart's of every aviation enthusiast from this island. Once our protectors against overwhelming military might, but now battling the elements and old age, the day had come for Bruntingthorpe's residents to welcome us for a now much too rare chance to worship before the tunes of Avons and Conways.
reports from a sunny Bruntingthorpe. All photos by the author.
Opened as an RAF bomber base in 1942, Bruntingthorpe airfield, near Leicester, owes it's massive 3,000 metre runway to the USAF who moved in with their B47 Stratojets in 1959, but is now inextricably linked to the wonderful collection of 1960s beauties that are lovingly looked after by various groups and individuals who have saved them from the axe, or worse - being used as a garden gnome by Jeremy Clarkson or as a kitsch objet d'art for some trendy wine bar!
An early arrival on the 28th August allowed us to spend some time looking over the non-runners, with the huge Super Guppy dominating the scene and having it's insides available for inspection by the paying public, as were a number of the other, though smaller, cockpits. The aircraft here are in various conditions, and include a number of Jet Provosts, Canberra, Buccaneers, Mystere IVA, Sea Vixen, and a Jaguar, as well as cockpit sections. Buccaneers XX894 (in RN colours) and XW544 are both being returned to taxiing condition - with '894 being the most advanced. Assorted stalls and displays added to a very pleasant morning wandering around in the gratefully received sunny weather, as did a couple of visitors arriving by air including a very smart looking silver Auster.
The sound of the Buccaneer's air start firing up was the clarion call for all to make their way to the crowd line fence, which is positioned very pleasingly close to the runway. Rather embarrassingly for the Bucc's crew she failed to start, due, we are told, to an electrical fault. XX900 was therefore towed with her tail between her legs back to join the other two of her kind in the 'static' area. A sadly inauspicious start to the day's action - but luckily a singular failing. Out came the day's interval entertainment in the shape of model jet aircraft - flown very skilfully in the face of a quite stiff blustery wind.
There was no knowing in what order the 'acts' were going to appear, but the sight of the ex DTEO and A&AEE de Havilland Comet 4C G-CPDA 'Canopus' wending her way around the far taxiways to back-track towards us (and the model jets!) down the runway was all the build up required to her part in the day's proceedings. Looking in very fine fettle despite eight years out in the open she pirouetted in front of her admiring audience before lifting her skirts and using her four Avons to full effect to fill the air with very unladylike thunderous - but glorious - jet noise, and accelerating away, closely followed by many admiring remarks and broad grins.
The Comet airframe genes are destined to continue for many years to come in the form of her grand-daughter, the Nimrod MRA4, but the end of the line is nigh for the family our next performer, Canberra B (I) 8 WT333. Restricted to a slow speed stroll, the 'berra's party trick was it's cartridge start - which appeared to use a coal product looking at the amount of black smoke produced! Meantime, eyes had wandered to the unmistakable shape of the hemp coloured, high tailed, and totally unique and outrageous shape of the Victor which had made it's way around to the runway and had to pass behind '333 to get to the hold area where she shut down to await her 'slot' later in the day. She made a most delightful backdrop for the intervening acts.
Immaculate Hunter F-58 J-4091 was followed by two re-heated jet cars - one of which produced an incredible acceleration and disappeared up the (visible) far end of the Bruntingthorpe tarmac at amazing speed - whilst the little TS-11 Iskra 1018 and Jet Provost XN584 illustrated the smaller end of the scale for ex military hardware. Then the sound of an Artouste announced that Handley Page's finest was ready to play it's part. One by one the Conways were fired up and the old nuclear bomber came to life. Teasin' Tina teased us no more and gave all of us present a display of raw power for an all too brief run before trailing the 'chute and turning to return back to her previous parking spot for a surprise second run at the end of the day.
One English Electric product is still in RAF service after half a decade and can sometimes be seen gracing the display circuit. Another of their products would most definitely appear in the top level of a display wish list if such a thing were to be compiled, and it certainly vied with the Victor as top billing for the show. Strap an Avon atop another and mould a svelte yet brutish body around them, it's (probably grinning) pilot and a lacking in size fuel tank, and you have a thirty odd thousand pounds thrust Mach 2 interceptor designed to take out high level intruders and to set hearts aflutter.
The Lightning Preservation Group has two of the beasts in their care and had XS904 ready for our delectation. After a very short start up procedure 'BQ' was on the move and first gave us a good look around her before lining up for it's run. Then the engines spooled up, both rings of re-heat cut in, ears split and people on the banking behind blown away, brakes were released and one of the great aviation spectacles tried it's damnedest to slow the Earth's rotation before overcoming inertia and speeding off with two beautiful long licks of flame disappearing into the distance. As ever it was over far too quickly and we were all left imagining what it would be like if the stick could be pulled back and the nose pointed towards the stratosphere. Maybe one day...
A second stint by the jet cars was followed by a race between the Hunter and a sports car - with the Hunter producing a home win - and then later that aforementioned encore by the Victor which iced the cake by lifting it's nose well clear of the black stuff whilst shimmering in it's self produced heat haze. Delicious.
Teasin' Tina wended her way around the taxiways thankfully taking long enough to give us time to walk over to her parking area before she got there, and offered us the chance of some nice head-on photographs. The JP and Iskra did their best to distract us with further runs but I'm afraid we were lost amongst the more 'sexy' metalwork basking in the lowering sun, at the end of a most unique day, at a unique location which really must hold more events next year. The atmosphere is like no other event, and the display items cannot be beaten - unless, of course, if they could move the needle into the positive on the vertical speed gauge!