Elvington Victor Nightshoot 2009 Review
Saturday 21st March
The popularity of the night photoshoot has increased considerably in recent times, with dark winter nights cutting short the daylight hours available for use. Events at Northolt, Coventry, Bruntingthorpe and East Kirkby have proved there is a market both for organisers and enthusiasts alike, allowing the opportunity to capture more 'creative' images. For organisers they are a welcome method of raising extra funds, be it for charitable purposes or for much needed revenue to maintain privately owned aircraft. With that in mind Elvington stepped into the fray with a night shoot of Victor K.2 XL231, also known affectionately as 'Lusty Lindy'.
reports for UK Airshow Review. All photography by the author.
Lindy has prospered in taxiing condition for several years now since the end of her operational life with the RAF in 1993. Her finest RAF hour was during the Gulf War in 1991 as part of Operation Granby when on the books of 55 Squadron. Her previous life since entry into service in 1961 included serving with 139 Squadron as part of the V Bomber force (alongside Vulcan and Valiant). After 139 was disbanded in 1968 a period of storage followed before various modifications were carried out as the K.2 development aircraft for the air refuelling role. Over a period of two years she served as a development aircraft including work for A&AEE at Boscombe Down. Indeed her squadron service life did not resume until 1977 on 57 Squadron at RAF Marham. During the Falklands conflict she was involved in the refuelling of flights to and from the war zone until she transferred once again to 55 Squadron. She lived longer than many of her counterparts and is now owned by Andre Tempest and kept resplendent by the team at Elvington.
The aircraft has often appeared at the Elvington Airshow and other 'Thunder' Days, often deploying her trademark white braking chute at the end of a fast taxi run. The idea behind the night shoot was two-fold. Classic warbirds are of course expensive to maintain in such condition and even more so in the current tough economic climate. Funds raised from the event should go towards fuel that will hopefully enable Lindy to appear during Elvington events during the forthcoming year. The event also gave the team at Elvington the chance turn over the systems on the aircraft including the HDU (Hose Drum Unit), Navigation, Flying Instruments and Radar. Indeed the Elvington team have to do this as part of their regular maintenance schedule of the aircraft, as stipulated by the RAF on her retirement. It is also important to enable fuel to spread throughout the aircraft and ensure the tanks are kept 'wet' and in good condition. The team have a policy to keep the aircraft in 100% operating condition and are very dedicated in this respect.
The weather of the 21st March was unseasonably mild and welcoming. This provided a pleasant afternoon to shoot both the Victor and Buccaneer at close quarters plus other residents of the museum on site. A trial run the night before had enabled the team to be ready for the main event on the Saturday and as dusk fell the event got underway. The Victor was trailing the HDU and had the signalling lights switched to showcase the view a receiving aircraft would have in an air-to-air refuelling situation. The lights were alternated from the "Stand Off" to the "Fuel Flowing" signal. All other external lights were also switched on and landing lights also activated for a short period. Flaps were also manoeuvred. A full two hours was available to shoot the aircraft from a number of different angles. The event had a very relaxed and layed back feel with the staff on duty always available to answer questions and attend to the photographer's need. The cockpit of the aircraft was also available to view during the afternoon and evening of the event.
After the nightshoot ended ex-Victor Captain, Wing Commander Barry Neal gave a talk on Victor Operations and the infamous Black Buck mission during the Falklands War. Also in attendance was ex-Vulcan Captain Martin Withers. Plans are already emerging of a follow up event in October which should again feature the Victor and potentially Tony Agar's resident Mosquito, which would be quite a sight if it were to happen. Whilst the future of the Victor is currently relatively safe, the support of the public is of course essential to the aircraft and indeed the whole museum. The next Thunder Day is scheduled for the 2nd August and should feature runs from both the Victor and Buccaneer.