The Buccaneer Aviation Group (TBAG) together with Threshold.Aero hosted an evening photoshoot of their two live Blackburn Buccaneer S2Bs on the 4th March. TBAG have recently moved to Cotswold Airport (formally RAF Kemble) which for much of the early 2000s was a hub for UK classic jet operations. TBAG are the only group devoted to the preservation of the Buccaneer and often support other restoration projects.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.

The Blackburn Buccaneer entered service with the Royal Navy in 1962 as a low flying strike aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Following the cancellation of the TSR2 it subsequently entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1969. The type only found one export customer, the South African Air Force.

The Royal Air Force operated the type until 1994 when the Buccaneer was eventually replaced completely by the Panavia Tornado GR1. However, on the eve of retirement, the Buccaneer flew combat missions during the 1991 Gulf War. These missions saw the Buccaneer loaded with Pave Spike laser designation pods illuminating targets for the early generation of precision guided bombs carried by RAF Tornado GR1s.

The Buccaneer Aviation Group (TBAG) were initially based at Bruntingthorpe Proving Grounds in Leicester. Their mission was to preserve two Buccaneers is ground-taxying condition to honour the history of the aircraft and the people who operated them. However, in August 2020, the group made the herculean effort to move their operation to Cotswold Airport (formally RAF Kemble) in Gloucestershire due to changing circumstances at Bruntingthorpe. Cotswold Airport was once a hub for the UK classic jet scene in the early 2000s with Delta Jets operating their fleet of Hawker Hunters, Folland Gnat and Jet Provost from the airfield. Today TBAG occupy one of the ramps previous used Delta Jets.

As well as the travelling cockpit section of XW550, TBAG are custodians of two live Buccaneer S.2Bs, XX894 and XW544. Both aircraft were on display for the Nightshoot with ‘544 performing an ‘anti-det’ engine run as well as unfolding its wings, moving of the control surfaces and rotating the b0mb-bay in the last throws of daylight.  Following a debrief and a cooling down period, ‘544 was presented to the photographers with the nose cone removed and some of the panels removed to showcase the aircraft internal systems.

XX894 took on the starring role as the light began to fade performing a number of winging folding operations. These really came into their own as it got dark presenting some spectacular opportunities for the photographer under the floodlights.

While often it is the flying classic jets that steal the limelight, it is always important to mark the efforts of groups like TBAG who keep aviation and military heritage alive for future generations. It is money from events such as this that means they are able to keep their efforts going. Thanks must go to both TBAG and Threshold.Aero for hosting such a successful event. For more information on TBAG, please visit their website.