RAF Northolt hosted its 28th Night Photoshoot in mid-March. Once again, the evening presented a varied selection of civilian and military aircraft under the lights of the southern hangar complex. It was an international affair with military aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force and L’Armee de l’Air et de l’Espace joining a small collection of aircraft based closer to home.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
Night Photoshoot XXVIII was the first springtime running of the event since 2019 and brought together a small, but very interesting selection of military and civilian aircraft. In the run up to the night, the weather forecasts looked very unsettled. However, luck was very much on side for the organisers and photographers with the rain just arriving towards the very end of the evening.
Aviation can be an unpredictable world and taskings took away 32 Squadron’s Dassault Envoy from the event. Also missing from the advertised line-up were an Irish Air Corp PC-12 Spectre, a French Army PC-6 Turbo Porter and nearly all of the invited civilian operated historic aircraft. A great shame for organisers and photographers alike but there was still plenty of aircraft lined up under the floodlights.
However, the classic shape of a Westland Scout AH1 did grace the 32 Squadron apron. This example, XR595, is operated by Dragonfly Aviation which is led by Mark Cowley. Dragonfly operate multiple examples of both the Scout AH1 and Wasp HAS1 and offer experience flights and type rating courses on their historic aircraft. The Scout performed two ground runs under the light with the second producing a rather fiery start-up!
Alongside the Scout were the two MD Helicopters MD900 Explorers of the London Air Ambulance which is based at Northolt. Often seen within the hangars during Northolt’s photoshoots, it was very welcome to seen them side-by-side out on the apron with a different backdrop.
RAF Northolt has been a popular stop-off for training flights conducted by the L’Armee de l’Air et de l’Espace for many years. That tradition recently restarted recently with Pilatus PC-21s from École de L’Aviation de Chasse (EAC) using RAF Northolt in early 2023. These aircraft are slowly starting to replace the Alpha Jet E in advanced training role having already replaced the SOCATA TB-30 Epsilon in the basic training role. Two PC-21 aircraft from BA709 Cognac-Châteaubernard returned for the Nightshoot and looked superb under the floodlights. .
After their visit in October for Nightshoot XXVIIa, the Royal Canadian Air Force were welcome returnees to Northolt with a Lockheed Martin CC-130J Super Hercules. The aircraft was from 436 Squadron which is part of 8 Wing based at Trenton on Ontario. However, they currently maintain an Air Task Force (ATF) detachment, Operation Reassurance, at Glasgow-Prestwick Airport in support of operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The deployment has now grown to 55 personnel and three aircraft flying around 10 operations a week. Like their previous appearance they arrived just before the event got underway and then departed at the end of the evening allowing photographers to capture their aircraft with lights-on and props spinning.
Thanks again go to Phillip Dawe and all the personnel at RAF Northolt for laying on another superb photoshoot that was well supported by enthusiast. Proceeds from the event are used to support the restoration of RAF Northolt’s Operations Room which is being return to how it was in June 1940 just before It was closed.