RAF Northolt Nightshoot X Report

Thursday 6th October 2011

At last! After literally years of trying, Northolt Nightshoot organiser Phil Dawe finally achieved his ambition to host a French Sécurité Civile Conair Turbo Firecat (a Grumman S-2 Tracker modified for aerial fire-fighting). Previous attempts have usually been thwarted by bad weather (particularly forecast icing en-route), but no such trouble this time as once again good weather prevailed for a Northolt event.

Nick Challoner was one many photographers present for Northolt's tenth floodlit photoshoot. Additional photos from Adam Duffield, Jonathan Warner & Ian Haskell.

The format was the same as previous Northolt Nightshoots: a small but high quality selection of aircraft well arranged for photography, lit by powerful white apron lights, with many of them powering up with rotors running or propellers turning. A great way to spend an autumn evening.

The Firecat was undoubtedly the star of the show, however there were other interesting participants too, particularly an Army Air Corps Bell 212HP AH1 and a French Air Force AS555 Fénnec. The Bell 212 was effectively there due to a request from members of the UK Airshow Review forum - Phil seemingly relishing the challenge and gaining a commitment to attend within a couple of days of asking. Such devotion to duty, and willingness to engage with enthusiasts is to be applauded!

Completing the line-up were two Northolt Nightshoot regulars: a French Air Force Alpha Jet E, and an RAF Sea King in RAF SAR 70th anniversary markings. The home team (in the shape of 32 (The Royal) Squadron) were also on display in the hangars, with Phil having organised for one of the 125 CC3s to display markings celebrating the 95th anniversary of 32 Squadron, something that was scheduled to be removed by the time these words were written.

Attendance was the highest so far for a Northolt Nightshoot, but as always, everybody seemed very polite and considerate of others’ requirements. This included frequent repositioning as different aircraft started up for their ground runs, of which all but the Alpha Jet did. The Sea King fired up first, followed by the Fénnec, with a touch of flame-throwing. The Bell 212 was parked a little distant, but made up for it by flying a circuit (for the crew’s night currency) and then hovering at different angles. The distinctive thudding Huey sound was enjoyed by all at close quarters. Finally the Firecat ran both engines, including at high power for a while, and also operating its bomb-bay doors.

So, congratulations once again to Phil, Lee and everybody else involved for yet another fantastic nightshoot. As ever, keep watching our forum for details of future events. Finally, it should be remembered that all proceeds from these events goes towards the restoration of the historic sector ops building at Northolt, effectively the prototype for the sector ops rooms that played such an important role in the Battle of Britain.

"I was particularly pleased with the event for a number of reasons. Firstly, to finally get a Tracker to attend after being thwarted so many times before. Secondly, to be able to pull together a number of Search and Rescue assets to help celebrate the Royal Air Force's SAR70. Thirdly, because we attracted more guest photographers than ever before for a nightshoot and, last but not least, we raised a record sum to assist in the restoration of the Northolt Sector Operations Building (Building 27)."

Philip Dawe,
Event Organiser