The airshow season maybe over but there are plenty of events around the UK for aviation enthusiasts during the “off-season”. Amongst the most popular are the RAF Northolt Nightshoots and the station hosted its 23rd such event in mid-October. Held on the main southern apron at RAF Northolt under the lights of the new hangar complex, the Northolt events attract rare military and the occasional civilian aircraft from around Europe as well as the UK.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
RAF Northolt is London’s military airport and is also a popular discreet terminal for business aviation. It is home to 32 Squadron which operates a mixture of BAe 146 CC2/3 fixed wing aircraft and a Leonardo AW109SP helicopter in the transport and liaison roles. Both the station and squadron have illustrious histories in the RAF, not least due to their roles in the Battle of Britain. The station also has strong ties to Poland as Northolt was one of the main bases for the Free Polish RAF Squadrons during the Second World War.
The Nightshoots help raised funds towards to preservation of that history and in particular, the restoration of Building 27 which is the former Battle of Britain operations room. This Nightshoot raised £4,700 for the restoration funds bringing the total raised by various different events to £150,000.
The great attraction of the Northolt Nightshoots is always the variety and rarity of the aircraft that Phillip Dawe works tirelessly to bring together. He’s had some superb coups over the years too bringing in aircraft that you just would not see at a public airshow. The visiting aircraft are posed under the powerful floodlighting of Northolt’s hangars and many of the propeller or rotor driven aircraft perform engines runs
For Nightshoot XXIII, the star of the evening was the Westland Lynx AH9A from the Army Air Corps. The AH9 variant of the Lynx is the last of the type still in service with the UK armed forces as the Wildcat slowly takes over. The AH9 was different to other variants of the Army Air Corps Lynx fleet being fitted with a wheeled undercarriage. The AH9A standard brought in uprated LHTEC CTS800-4N engines which gave better performance in hot and high conditions. The example on show at Northolt also had a .50 calibre gun fitted to the side-door. It was a very well-timed appearance by the Lynx AH9A as the type will be retired from service very early in 2018 so this was probably the last public appearance by an in-service UK military Lynx! Further Army Air Corps participation came from a AgustaWestland WAH-64D Apache AH1 which made from a very menacing sight under the lighting as it prepared to depart.
Another very rare rotary visitor was the MD Helicopters MD520N from the Belgian Police’s Air Support Unit. The Belgian Police have two examples of the MD520N in service which replaced the Alouette II in service. Compared to the ASU’s newer MD900 Explorers, the MD520N is rarely seen at public events even in its home country.
Sadly 32 Squadron was unable to exhibit any of its own aircraft due to tasked, but Royal Air Force fast jet training was well represented with a 72(R) Squadron Shorts Tucano T1 and a IV(R) Squadron BAE Systems Hawk T2.
The French have long been superb supporters of Northolt events and they were biggest contributors to Nightshoot XXIII. It was great to see a Dassault Alpha Jet E back under the Northolt lights. The aircraft was from EAC 00.314, Ecole De L’aviation de Chasse at Tours and was one of two Alphja Jets adorned with special tail art for 2017 and the return of the Alpha Jet Solo Display,
Joining the Alpha Jet were a pair of Embraer EMB-121AA Xingus from Avord. Operated by Ecole de l’Aviation de Transport (EAT), the Brazilian twin-turboprop aircraft is used a multi-engine trainer and utility aircraft and the French Air Force is the largest operator of the type. The EAT crews brought Xingus in two different liveries to Northolt. One wore the standard dark grey scheme worn by many AdlA transport aircraft while the other wore an attractive gloss white and grey scheme.
As always Phillip Dawe and everyone at RAF Northolt laid on an enjoyable evening photo event with some great aircraft, even if the check-in process was a little over-complicated! We look forward to seeing what happens next year during the RAF 100th Anniversary.