Popham Fly-in and UK Tour 2006

Amanda and I arrived at Popham on Saturday lunchtime to find Dave Bland with the cowlings off, investigating the illusive oil leak that has plagued LZ since its rebuild. As we sat down to lunch, Colin Watt, deputy CFI at Lasham, fell to earth in an LS6 and I split my only pair of trousers leaping over the new safety fence to pull him off the runway! Soaring conditions not so good! Next, Adrian Hatton arrived, and a phone call from Brian Morgan confirmed that he and Eric des Gayets were about to leave Caen in their RF4’s to cross from the Cherberg Peninsula via the Isle of Wight – rather brave with single ignition, I thought.

Dave and Adrian took off on an interception sortie, but the wily Brian got clearance through the Southampton zone with the consummate ease of a 747 captain and avoided being splashed (RAF slang for 'shot down'). Meanwhile, John and Sue Rogers arrived in RK and news came through of 9 Fourniers, 3 Grob 109’s, a Katana and a Taifun massing at Calais. At 1730, I recognised the voices of Michel LeBlanc and Patrick Faucheron over the RT and soon a great armada came into view - fourteen aircraft in line astern - a wonderful sight! Soon Popham’s fly-in parking area was completely full with Fourniers and honorary Fourniers stretching into the distance.


Twenty Fourniers in a line at Popham.

Tents were pitched and I began a rather frantic hunt for accommodation for those who needed it. The numerous hotels and Travelodges around Basingstoke were all fully booked but finally, with considerable help from Irv Lee, a Popham instructor, we succeeded - Thanks Irv. Meanwhile, there being no bar at Popham, thirsty pilots were consuming the beers that I had secured at the local Sainsbury’s with the help of Dick Richardson, the airfield manager, without whose help we would all have been very thirsty! Sixty beers lasted all of an hour, by which time we were tucking into a tasty meal prepared by Tracy and Richard, the Popham caterers. Fortunately, an early reconnaissance by John and Sue had established that the petrol station inconveniently placed in line with Popham’s 26 threshold had large supplies of the necessary. Maybe runway obstructions can have their uses after all! Another beer sortie kept the party going in full swing.


Some beer was consumed.


Later, the promised rain and traffic on the nearby A303 lead to a not entirely peaceful night for the campers. Good reports were received next morning from the bed and breakfasters, however, by which time the campers had made short work of a full English breakfast.

The morning activities were somewhat dampened by drizzle and low cloud, which prevented any more UK Fourniers from arriving. After lunch, Adrian had to head up north to Husbands Bosworth to get the evening’s bar-b-que under way, so we decided to accompany him, taking off at 1415. Unfortunately, Al Jury had made a heroic struggle against a stiff south westerly and arrived at Popham in his RF5B, G-RFSB, half an hour later, by which time lunch had finished. To add insult to injury, by the time he asked for fuel, none was available, Cranfield closed as he approached and he only just made it back to Sibson. We must applaud Al’s effort and improve our jungle telegraph so that fellow pilots who wish to join en route can establish our movements.

The growing armada, which included 9 German, 4 French, 2 Italian, 1 Dutch and 4 British aircraft, made it’s way north, smoking the Standard Nationals at Bicester en route, where the gliders had all been packed into their boxes for the night.

As we approached Hus Bos, Dave’s engine, which had been steadily covering the canopy with oil, started to run rough as well, so we gave him landing priority, which lead to some commotion in the circuit. However, we all arrived safely and soon the bar-b-que was under way, a first class meal had been organised by Adrian and Mike Fox. The loan of Adrian's car enabled me to restore my precarious trouser situation before Tesco's closed, and Andrew Clymo joined us for the evening, flying in with RF-4, G-AWEL. It was the German vs. Italy World Cup semi-final and things went a little quiet in the bar as half the pilots disappeared. But they certainly livened up afterwards, with entertainment from ‘Banjo Man’ Helmut Dielmann, who had been provided with a suitable instrument.

 

Helmut entertains.


The photo looks as if it was taken after the match, judging by the smiles on the faces of Fausto and Diego, who, with Paolo, indulged in some serious celebrating!

Next morning, Patrick and the German group had to return, and with the weather looking uncertain on Tuesday over France, Michel and the French group also decided not to come north with us. Paolo, Diego and Fausto sportingly decided to stay and Mike Fox wrested WG from Adrian Hatton to join us. We were also joined by Giles Herbert and Peter in an Emeraude from Croft Farm (Defford) where we had attended a very busy fly-in in June. We departed from Hus Bos under relatively cloudy skies, but north of Nottingham, the sun came out and it remained pleasant throughout the day.


As we flew north, the clouds broke up.

I had recently renewed contact with Harry Orme, an old friend from RAFGSA days at Lossiemouth, north Scotland, in the 1970’s. To my great pleasure, Harry was able to join up with us overhead Syreston in RF-4 GAWBJ, and so it was a 7 ship formation that arrived over Elvington (York). I had understood that we would be able to use part of the 3000m runway, but when we arrived, Steve, the manager, told us over the radio that the main runway was fully occupied with motorcycle speed trials (record breaking 160mph wheelies!) and offered us the apron, a large concrete rectangle, instead. We mulled this over and Steve thought the length of the apron was about 370m, a bit marginal, particularly with some fuel bowsers at the upwind end! Then up chirped Foxy – ‘I’ve landed there before, should be no problem’. ‘After you, mate!’ I said and down he went and got in OK, taxiing over what I took to be a large coil of black cable that turned out to be skid marks from high performance cars! I went in next without incident, using the short field technique and finally we were all down OK, although the touchdown of the Emeraude looked rather interesting!

The Yorkshire Air Museum turned out to be very good, with several well laid out displays with different themes in different buildings. There were interesting aircraft under cover in two hangers, including a Waco Hadrian troop carrying glider, a Halifax bomber, a Mosquito and an Aerbourne Early Warning carrier based Gannet of 849 Squadron ‘B’ (Bee) Flight that operated from Lossiemouth, while not embarked, when I was there flying Shackletons. Amanda seems to be attracted to anything avian, and keeps bees, so could not resist a photo of the logo on the Gannet.


Gannet - late of B Flight, 849 Squadron Lossiemouth.


Outside were a number of military aircraft including a DC-3 Dakota and various jets, including Hawker Hunters, Harrier, Tornados and XL233, a Handley Page Victor K2 tanker I have flown many times. It is in excellent condition, unlike the rather sad example I saw at Duxford, two years ago. It has fully operating engines and is capable of taxiing.

The CFI group inspect the Dakota at Elvington.


There was really not enough time to do justice to this museum in two or three hours, but after lunch in the restaurant we took off, on the main runway this time, for the 5 minute flight to Breighton, a pleasant airstrip with fuel and no landing fees. The Old Flying Machine Company, operated by ‘Taff’ Smith, has numerous mouth watering airworthy vintage and classic types, including an immaculate Mustang, Hawker Hurricane, ME109, several Bucker Jungmeisters and Alex Henshaw’s Croydon to Capetown record breaking Percival Mew Gull, also in beautifully restored condition. If you want to read a really riveting book, beg, steal or borrow ‘Flight of the Mew Gull’ by Alex Henshaw.

 

Alex Henshaw’s Mew Gull at Breighton.


Hiding in a locked hanger somewhere was Chris Riley’s RF-4, which we were unable to see. However, shortly after we arrived, Norman fisher introduced himself to us. He operates an RF5B, G-SSWV at Camphill, Derbyshire. Norman was not on our list of contacts and only found the website the day before, so drove to Breighton to meet us. Welcome to CFI, Norman. We hope you will join us at future events.

So we returned to Hus Bos in the late afternoon, flying towards greyer skies and taking the opportunity for some close formation practice and a flypast of Adrian's farm.


Formation practice on the return to Hus Bos.

 

A few spots of rain welcomed us back to Hus Bos, but it came to nothing and we enjoyed a pleasant evening meal at The Wharf Inn - 5 minutes from Hus Bos and next to a canal, where narrow boats were moored next to the car park. Paolo, Diedo and Fausto were very taken with these and I think a ‘fly-sail holiday into Hus Bos is being planned for next year! Come to think of it, a CFI narrow boat trip might be a novel experience.

And so, on Tuesday morning, the Italians took their leave of us, having a good trip back to Italy. Fausto, with the furthest to go, took over 11 hours with two refuelling stops – quite a trip! That only left Dave and us, so we abandoned Duxford and headed for Saltby, indulging in some more formation practice on the way. Amanda is getting far too good at close formation! Not quite as close as Dave though.


Dave gets in close.


Altogether a very enjoyable experience. It was good to get so many CFI members from the continent, particularly Italy, where crossing the Alps can be impossible if the weather is uncooperative. We hope to repeat the tour next year, and perhaps to finally achieve the Scillies. And for us in the United Kingdom, there are some exciting trips being organised in foreign parts.

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