October saw the second RAF Northolt Night Photoshoot of the year supporting the restoration of Building 27, the historic pre-war Sector Operations Building. This was the 29th photoshoot and saw an impressive line-up of military and civilian aircraft from across Europe lined-up on the southern apron of London’s military airport.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
Spring and Autumn now see a multitude of evening photography events for aviation enthusiasts. RAF Northolt however is home to perhaps the best-known photography events thanks to the dedication of Phil Dawe and his team who bring together some really enticing participation for their events. The service personnel at Northolt also lend superb support to event making each edition run so smoothly.
With their operational tempo support military and government tasks, 32 Squadron are not always able to support the photoshoots. However, this time there were able to participate with their AgustaWestland AW109SP GrandNew GZ100. It has been hoped they would also be able to showcase their newest type, the Dassault Envoy IV CC1. However, though an Envoy did land at Northolt during the evening bringing back the Prime Minister to London, it couldn’t be made available to join the photoshoot. The evening also marked the return of a Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 to RAF Northolt. The aircraft appeared in the squadron markings of 41 Squadron but was tasked from 3(F) Squadron. Just to confuse matters further the pilot was from 29(R) Squadron!
Further UK military support came from the Army Air Corps with a pair of AgustaWestland WAH-64D Apache AH1 from 656 Squadron, 4 Regiment based at Wattisham. With the introduction of the updated AH-64E Apache AH2, the days of the Army’s original Apaches are numbered and this may well have been the last Northolt appearance by the AH1 version.
The London Air Ambulance added to the rotary line-up with its pair of MD Helicopters MD900 Explorers. Further civilian participation came from a pair of historic aircraft. A welcome first-time participant was the Cessna L-19A Bird Dog G-VNAM. Restored by Shona Bowman and Laurie Gregoire, it is a stunning example of the American aerial obvervation and forward air control aircraft. It starred in an episode of Channel 4’s document ‘Warbird Workshop” and won the Freddie March Spirit of Aviation award at the Goodwood Revival, It was just a shame it was parked somewhat awkwardly and conducted its engine run just prior to the departure of the Apaches. The second historic aircraft was a welcome returnee to Northolt, the Hawker Hurricane IR4118 of Hurricane Heritage. Ahead of the Second World War in 1937 111 Squadron received the RAF’s first Hawker Hurricanes at Northolt. During the Battle of Britain Northolt was home to No 1 Squadron RCAF, 229 Squadron, 303 (Polish) Squadron and 504 Squadron all flying the Hurricane.
The International military contingent for the Nightshoot was impressive. A Royal Canadian Air Force Lockheed Martin CC-130J Hercules II from 436 Squadron made a third successive visit to a Northolt Photoshoot. The aircraft came from the Operation Reassurance detachment at Prestwick in Scotland which supports RCAF missions in Europe and the Middle East.
Another returning unit was École de L’Aviation de Chasse (EAC) 00.315 from Cognac-Châteaubernard with a pair of Pilatus PC-21 training aircraft. They previously attended the March photoshoot with their striking aircraft but this time were able to run their engines for the photographers for some more dynamic photographs.
In their centenary year, the Italian Air Force were very welcome participants with a Piaggio P180 Avanti from 71° Gruppo, 14° Stormo based at Pratica di Mare. Rather that the familiar blue and white scheme, this particular Avanti wore a very attractive scheme with green and red cheat lines down the side of the fuselage and large squadron insignia on the tail. 71° Gruppo perform a variety of tasks with their P180s including liaison, aero-photogrammetry and radio calibration tasks.
As ever, Northolt laid on a superb and very enjoyable evening event for a large group of photographers. Thanks go to Phil Dawe, the volunteers and the personnel of RAF Northolt to all their hard work and we look forward to seeing what they bring in 2024.