Photocall RAF Northolt,

11 June 2006



From time to time, RAF stations open their gates to aviation photographers and enthousiasts who are than enabled after having donated a fee to a selected charity to photograph a collection of aircraft displayed at the base. RAF Northolt, located on the outskirts of west London but within the M25 motorway encircling the city, hosted a Families Day on 10 June. The base kindly opened it's gates again the following day but now for the benefit of aviation enthousiasts. 


10 June proved to be a glorious summer day, an excellent opportunity to review the RAF's VIP squadron as well as some guest aircraft, both from the UK as well as from abroad. Above, one of the three new Agusta A.109 Power helicopters can be seen. This type recently replaced the hitherto used Twin Squirrels. The Agustas have been acquired under a similar leasing arrangement. The BAe.125 CC.3 to the left has been in service for considerably longer, however.

Unfortunately, the promised Irish Air Corps Alouette III had to be withdrawn from the list of planned visitors to the Families Day, as was the PC.9. Nevertheless, this Learjet 45 from 102 sq was a welcome sight. It is the only one of it's type in service.

The remainder of the aircraft on display were non-VIP types, as examplified by 

this British Army Air Corps BN.2A Islander. It is part of No. 1 flt, 5 Rgt Army Air Corps and is based at Aldergrove, Northern Island. The Islander serves in a general light transport role within the Province and is one of five active with this unit.

The Beagle Bassett CC.1 was once procured to ferry V-bomber crews between bases were their Valiant, Vulcan and Victor bombers were being kept. Nowadays, only one flying example survives. XS743 flies with QINETIQ/ETPS (Empire Test Pilots School) at Boscombe Down. 

This Beech 200 made an appearance at RAF Northolt after having been assigned it's military identity ZK452/L. The RAF acquired seven of these business transports as replacements for elderly Scottish Aviation Jetstream T.1's. Like their predecessors, they are flown by No.45(R) sq from RAF Cranwell.

Leasing aircraft and have them operated by civilian firms is the norm nowadays, this scheme working best for training types. This Grob Tutor T.1 is active with the Cambridge UAS as a grading aircraft and primary trainer. This sort of job was done until rather recently of course using Scottish Aviation Bulldogs. 

" Lewis & Harris Fighter"  is the text applied to this 1 FTS Tucano T.1 from RAF Linton-on-Ouse. The exact meaning of this text is not entirely clear to this scribe. However, Lewis & Harris is an area in the Outer Hebrides to the north-west of Scotland, so it may have to do with the origin of it's assigned pilot.

Continuing the theme of RAF training aircraft on show at Northolt, this Hawk from No.19(R) sq made the trek from RAF Valley in north western Wales. 


No less than five Tornados were to be seen at RAF Northolt. This No. 9 sq machine was one of the three GR.4 ground attack versions on display, the other two being from No.31 sq and No.15(R) sq. 

The remaining pair of Tornados were of the F.3 type. Soon to be a rarity, as it is to be replaced with the Eurofighter Typhoon. ZH555/PT is on the strength of 111 sq at RAF Leuchars, another long flight to Northolt.

This 33 sq Puma HC.1 from RAF Benson resides somewhat closer to London. Serialled ZJ954, it is one of four ex South African Air Force Pumas to have been taken over by the RAF. There is a general shortage of light transport helicopters and these former SAAF Pumas fitted the bill. Note the 90th anniversary colour scheme applied to this helicopter.

Two of the no less than four helicopters from Germany can be seen in this view. At the front is one of three Bo.105P's from Fritzlar's Kampfhubschrauberregiment 36. This anti-tank unit is to receive the new EC.665 Tiger, but will have to do with the Bolkows for the time being.

Perhaps surprisingly, Martin Baker, the ejection seat manufacturer from Chalgrove, still uses this Gloster Meteor T.7mod as a test bench for it's products. This Meteor is a bit of a hybrid, note the two seat cockpit from a T.7 and the fin from an F.8.

British Photocalls are always a guarantee for good photo opportunities. RAF Northolt didn't disappoint in this respect. Thanks should therefore go to those involved in making the photocall a succesful event.

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink