RAF Typhoons Scrambled To Intercept Russian Bombers
From: Tony Street, Buffalo, NY Subject: My Concorde Story
The article about Sally Armstrong, the Concorde stewardess in the latest OBA newsletter, brought the following to mind:
It was 1984 and I was stuck in London because of Pan Am’s PAX reservation computer crash. After the second day of not being able to get on a flight to JFK, in a garbled telephone call with my boss, I was told to, “Get back here any way you can for Friday’s meeting!”
After still being out of luck on day three (by this time I had contacted all the other airlines and found them to be chock-a-block; this was in August at the height of the tourist season), I was standing in the terminal contemplating my next move when my attention was drawn to a blue flashing light and a sign announcing “British Airways Concorde Reception now open.” Hmmm… I followed the light, moth-like.
The Concorde counter was separate from BA’s counter. It was a huge mahogany desk befitting a London barrister, replete with brass lamps and a Moroccan leather desk pad. Standing to the right, at parade ease, was a liveried butler clad in full morning coat attire. Throwing caution to the wind, I passed my Pan Am ticket, company credit and passport to the engaging English Rose behind the desk.
I asked blithely, “Will this get me on the Concorde today?” She replied in the affirmative and ran the card. I signed it, purposely blurring my eyes so as not to see the price, and was handed the receipt which I crumpled in my pocket. She then handed my passport and boarding pass to “Jeeves,” and requested he escort me to the Concorde lounge. He took my briefcase and commanded, “Follow me, Saar!” We paraded through a crowd of unwashed BA customers, passed by the plebeians in the BA First Class Lounge and into, Ta Da… The Concorde Lounge… I had arrived! (God, I love the British caste system).
The first thing I noticed was the ice sculpture champagne fountain from which I partook. Jeeves then escorted me to a seat and requested I remain there until he returned after clearing me through outbound Immigration etc. Waiting, I sat and looked about. To my left were formally clad businessmen, diplomats and men of high standing reading conservative newspapers, sipping G&Ts, Mimosas and looking down their noses at the passengers at the other end of the room.
This group was composed of Texas and Louisiana oilmen heading home for their 28 day on/28 off work cycle from Bahrain. They were drinking Jack and Coke and the finest of beer, Budweiser (both in quantity). They were clad in western shirts, jeans with huge belt buckles and, naturally, shit-kickers and cowboy hats (some had actually removed their hats in deference to the rarified atmosphere of the place). Those who weren’t playing a noisy game of poker were “reading” Playboy magazine in anticipation of things to come. (no pun intended). While waiting for our departure, I sampled the pate, caviar, lobster, smoked salmon and shrimp, washed down with much more champers.
Upon boarding, the first thing that struck be was how narrow the interior was; 2 x 2 seating with a narrow isle. The seats were not that roomy either. We all were seated, handed more bubbly and were off. The taxi out was per normal then came the takeoff. In my experience it could be equated to a 12 bottle JATO takeoff in a C130… I was aboard a space launch (which to a degree, I was!). Jammed uncomfortably back into my seat, I wondered if the last two glasses of bubbly had been a good idea.
A little tech info here: Because of the ban on supersonic flight over land, the Concorde climbed in a spiral over the UK until it reaches its cruising altitude of 56,000 feet before going supersonic. Likewise as it approached JFK it goes subsonic and spirals down for landing. Time to altitude was 11 minutes.
As we approached supersonic speed, the Captain drew our attention to the Mach meter on the forward bulkhead. We watched it waver as it hit .98, .97, .98, .96 .97, .99… 1.00! This was accompanied by a small “bump” and then complete silence… we were in another world where there was no sense of speed or location, just the incredible lightness of being!
Looking from the window, I felt privileged. I could see a shade of blue as seen by only a handful of people who have ventured to this place.
This amazing background was a palette of thousands of stars not visible from earth, indeed a special place. A place for contemplation… but wait… it’s time to eat, again. I won’t go into the menu, you’ll have the idea by now.
During the flight we were free to get up and walk around although it was difficult in the crowded quarters. We were all able however, to visit the flight deck and have the requisite pictures taken there and also beside the Mach Meter.
The small flight deck is a different place. Here we were, hurtling through the edge of space at 1,320 mph and there are no useable windows to the outside, they are covered by the raised nose heat shield; true IFR!
I felt a little uneasy, and a little claustrophobic, time to go back my window to brace for the re-entry with some more Veuve Clicquot.
The re-entry was unremarkable. I could sense slowing down and hear the gradual increase of noise as we became sub-sonic and spiraled down into JFK where we taxied to the gate like a real aircraft full of real people.
As I wended/wobbled my way in an alcoholic haze through the labyrinth of JFK, I thought to myself, “Hmmm… I could become addicted to the Van Allen Belt!”
RAAF makes final flight into Antarctica from Tasmania
A trial using the Royal Australian Air Force to deliver heavy cargo to Australian researchers in East Antarctica has been hailed a resounding success as the final flight touched down on the ice. The RAAF has flown five support missions with a C-17A Globemaster aircraft. The first left Hobart in late November. The C-17A can carry up to 70 tonnes of cargo for over 10,000 kilometres but the load is limited to 20 tonnes on Antarctic flights so the aircraft does not need to refuel. The cargo would have previously been delivered by ship in an operation taking weeks instead of days.
Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) director Dr Nick Gales said the concept flights proved the RAAF was a useful partner for the AAD."We were able to deliver a range of critical equipment to and from Antarctica including a 23 tonne tractor flown from Wilkins to Hobart for repairs with a turnaround of just over two months, compared to two years via ship," he said. "Another piece of machinery was taken south just four weeks after it returned to Australia for repairs on the Aurora Australis."
The Hagglund, a dual-cab vehicle for getting across snow and ice
View from the RAAF cargo plane approaching the Antarctic
The C-17A Globemaster is is the largest aircraft ever to land in Antarctica
The C-17A can carry up to 70 tonnes of cargo for over 10,000 kilometres
Ice vehicle being unloaded from RAAF plane
ABC reporter Linda Hunt travelled on the first AAD-RAAF bulk cargo flight to the Antarctic
A tractor unloads some of the plane's 20 tonnes of cargo
Cargo door closed on the C-17A Globemaster, and ready for take off
Inside the RAAF cargo plane on the way back to Hobart
Keen spotters would have noticed a real wtf moment from the previous picture - it's the dummy from the aeromedical evacuation simulation!
He said the flights also highlighted the importance of Tasmania's role in Antarctic operations. "That the flights to and from Wilkins Aerodrome flew return from Hobart Airport further demonstrates Tasmania's status as a leading gateway to Antarctica," he said.
RAAF director of air operations Air Commodore Joe Iervasi said the flights were also a huge success from his point of view. "Royal Australian Air Force successfully moved over 109 tonnes of machinery and cargo both in and out of Antarctica, conducted an air drop of four heliboxes from 500 feet and simulated an emergency aeromedical evacuation," he said.
"The opportunity to test the C-17A in these conditions has proven to be an invaluable experience for the Royal Australian Air Force to enhance the capability of this aircraft and Australia's logistical and scientific capabilities in Antarctica."
Despite the positive feedback from both the AAD and the RAAF, there are no commitments to make similar flights in future, but the AAD said the results from the concept flights were being given due consideration.
From: David Powell, Princes Risborough Subject: First In, Last Out - Left Behind
Len Bowen’s ‘First in Last Out’ tickled the grey cells. Except, can I ask Len to check his log books? My Gong Kedak story was 1965. And, I don’t think we reactivated the forward strip the following year. Readers of a November 2009 OBA Newsletter (OBA 112709) may recall my story about bringing back Ron Pile’s Speedboat as excess baggage on a RNZAF Bristol Freighter when I popped back down from GK for a weekend’s leave and the Summer Ball at RAF Changi where I had been posted, first tour, in 1964.
Anyway, this is my recollection of GK. During confrontation with Indonesia, Singapore, Labuan and North Borneo was flooded with reinforcements. To help spread the load, in 1964 their Air Marshallships decided to reactivate a forward strip built in the 1950s as part of the Malaya Peninsular communist ding dong. GK was little more than a runway, some hardstanding, a couple of fuel tanks, a gate and a wire fence. It was also in the opposite direction to Indonesia being just south of the Thai border in the northern state of Kelantan. In addition, the cunning plan required the deployment of a squadron of German speaking Canberra PR9s. Activation was planned for January 1965, and the final plan, transops etc. churned out early in the New Year.
The actual activation was to be undertaken by FEAF assets, including as Len recounted, FEAF MAMS, and sundry suppliers, ground techs, MT, etc. drawn from Singapore units. The tented camp, comms cabins, ATC caravan came from 224 Group, RAF Seletar, mobility stocks. These stocks were primarily held in case we had to go back to Korea.
As an aside, the stocks included a couple of snow ploughs which could be attached to a refueller. The Seletar guys would always ensure that visiting senior staff officers from London on autumn shopping visits (sorry staff inspections) would trip over said snow ploughs. Furious papers would then be produced with phrases such as ‘incompetence, stupidity’ etc. regarding need for snow ploughs in Singapore reinforcing the importance of annual shopping (sorry staff) visits. FEAF would reply with the standard annual letter (date updated) about War Plans, Korea, Air Power Reach, and importance of doing homework etc. Over at RAF Changi stores, our contribution to this annual game was a pair of highly polished, ‘can’t miss them’ ice picks. Our standard annual letter (date updated) pointed out that these were ideal tools for splicing multi-strand steel cables as used by the Marine Craft Flight. These were the days when the RAF had a Navy.
Where was I? GK activation; I was deployed from RAF Changi as the activation team supplier. With the MT on the high seas, loaded up with stuff such as heavy tentage etc., we set off with 5 Argosy and 3 Beverly loads to activate GK, looking forward to 2 weeks of camp building before handing over to RAFG and /UK refors detachment personnel. In January weather in North Malaya is usually quite nice. However, no sooner had the last aircraft departed, and with tent erection underway, the heavens opened and bucketed down for 48 hours, on and around GK. We later learnt that the local bomoh, or shaman holy man, had forecast some 6 weeks earlier (i.e. well before the plans were finalised and published) that on (whatever the day was) 3 huge birds and 5 not so big birds would fly to GK, and the airfield would re-awake. Which is why the bomoh laid on the rain just to remind us of whose patch we were on. Apart from that, the only incident of note was when I got shot at. Luckily it was only by a rather unhappy RAF Regiment gunner who, having a bit of a crisis, went into the jungle and opened up at the NAAFI tent with a machine gun. The only casualty was a few holes on the tent roof. Anyway, the refors arrived to prepare for their Canberras and we all went back home to Singapore, job done.
A couple of months fly by. The RAFG aircraft and support start to get ready to go home, and prepares to hand back to FEAF for the deactivation. At this point I should explain that GK resupply comprised a weekly R AUSTRALIAN AF Dakota with fresh food (presumably because the strip was technically an RAAF Butterworth asset), and a weekly R NEW ZEALAND AF Bristol Freighter brought up the mail, spares, the film for the outdoor cinema etc. The recovery plans are issued by HQ224 Group for the closure and the deactivation/closure team personnel, including myself as the supplier/resident mover prepare to head north for a couple of weeks away.
At the very last moment the Airmarshallships came up with another cunning plan. To fit in some urgent resurfacing work at RAF Tengah, why not delay closure by two or three weeks and deploy an RAAF Canberra Squadron and their tech support personnel to GK while the cement sets? The base personnel from Singapore to stay on for another two or three weeks to provide base support. Simples! And so it was made to happen.
The Tengah Canberra squadron duly comes and goes as do all the associated personnel leaving a just small closure crew of, from memory: a Base Commander/ATCO Sqn Ldr, a Flg Off secretary camp admin, and one Plt Off supplier/mover. My logistics wing comprised one Corporal and one Airman. Other key players included MT, General Duties lads, Cookhouse etc. about 24 all told. And, we all pitch in and start packing up RAF Gong Kedak. Very quickly or so it seems. So we re-programme, working out that we can do packing up in the mornings and then in the afternoons (unless a visiting food or film aircraft) we pile into a 3 tonner and head for the local port about 5 miles away where station morale fund hires a boat to go out to one of the nearby deserted tropical islands to swim and relax, before returning to Australian provided steaks and a film.
And so we settled into a very pleasant routine. Natural selection sorted out those with families in Singapore who needed to go home, and those who were happy to stay. Armed with detachment inventories, I had two piles of vouchers; one for the stuff we had found and packed up and one for the kit we couldn’t locate which was duly struck off for suitable operational reasons.
I can’t remember actually when, July? Or it may have been August, that we collectively agreed that it was really about time we finished wrapping up, especially as some of the bundled up tentage might be starting to get a bit mouldy. Even the bomoh, who we had got to know quite well, couldn’t give us any clues. So, as you do when you are a Pilot Officer, I took myself off to the nearest railway station at Kuala Krai and ordered a freight train. Wagons duly arrived and were loaded up with much of the domestic kit just leaving enough for the rear party, us.
Having referred to the original plan for closure, I duly sent a signal to HQFEAF asking, that unless there was some strategic reason we were unaware of, could we finish packing up and have 3 Argosies and a couple of Beverleys for the comms cabins and ATC caravan etc. next week, sometime. Oh and by the way, there is a train heading your way. That signal went on the Monday. By the Wednesday - nothing, so I sent a ‘did you get my message?’ This was countered by a flash message saying ‘don’t do anything’ closely followed by Valetta (a little twin engine communication aircraft) out of which fell half a dozen staff officers with clips boards who ran around before pronouncing ‘you want 3 Argosies and a couple of Beverleys next week”.
For the rest of the closure story, refer to Len’s notes, except I still think it was 1965
However, there are a couple of post scripts. Soon after returning to RAF Changi and Singapore I attempted to find out what was the secret strategic plan for RAF Gong Kedak remaining open? It appeared that the reality was that when the RAF Canberras left for Germany, and the April closure plan was issued by Group, HQFEAF pulled the GK pin out of the map in the main Ops Room. And, because we were being fed by the RAAF and resupplied by the RNZAF, it was only when my message arrived about the train and asking for some airlift that they realised the RAF was still there!
Oh, and then about 12 months later I got a phone call at RAF Changi from the Seletar depot audit stocktaking team. They had come across a surplus safe. When they checked back on the serial number and the paper work they discovered it had been at somewhere called RAF Gong Kedak where it had been ‘Contaminated in latrines. Certified destroyed by burning!’
Today I note from Wikipedia, that RMAF Gong Kodak is known as "The Home of the Flankers", (repeat Flankers) as the Sukhoi Su-30MKM (Flanker-G) of 11 Squadron is based there. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t organised my train? Would there be a sort of 21st Century version of the Pitcairn Islands, with its own little camp the other side of the airfield? Could make the basis of quite a good TV series; a sort of combination of MASH, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Air America and Catch 22!
Stay safe and ahead of the law
David Powell F Team UK MAMS 1967-69
Canadian Forces flights are the tenuous lifeline to Alert, the top of the world
CFS Alert, Nunavut - “Picture a curling rock on a skating rink.” Capt. Mike Strosack picks an aptly Canadian analogy to describe the challenge of landing all 220,445 kg of his CC-177 Globemaster III, a massive four-engine military transport, on the ice and snow-packed runway in Alert, an isolated outpost at the tip of Ellesmere Island.
On this day, Strosack is the aircraft commander of Canadian Forces Flight 85, a weekly resupply flight that hauls personnel and gear between the air base in Trenton, Ont., and Alert, the most northern inhabited place in the world. In the jet’s cavernous hold, passengers sit on seats along the side of the fuselage. Pallets of cargo take up the space in the middle, including skids of bottled water, construction supplies, two containers of de-icing fluid to support the flying operations, a container laden with fresh goods and a few mail bags, all of it held in place by a webbing of tightly secured tie-down straps. There’s also the curious sight of a blue minibus, which was damaged in an accident at Alert several months ago and is now being returned following repairs.
It’s early afternoon when the jet sets up for its approach to Alert but it might as well be midnight thanks to the Arctic winter, which means 24 hours of darkness. The white runway lights outline the 1,676-metre-long landing strip. It looks impossibly short for Strosack’s big bird. He will make an assault-style landing, aiming to touch down in a 150-metre zone at the start of the runway to ensure he’s got enough room to stop. “You run all calculations on the computer so the computer guarantees that if you land in that 500-foot window, you’ll stop in that (distance) available,” Strosack says. “So as long as the math says it will work, then you’ve just got to hang on for the ride,” he said.
Touchdown. Engines are pulled into full reverse thrust, brakes on and the jet slows sharply. Strosack and fellow pilot, Capt. Jason Fawcett make easy work of it. Indeed, for this flight, the landing was the easy part. Getting here was the challenge, a four-day ordeal marked by bad weather and technical woes. Icing conditions had scrubbed Tuesday’s scheduled departure from CFB Trenton. On Wednesday, more weather concerns forced an overnight stopover at the U.S. air force base in Thule, on Greenland’s northern coast. On Thursday morning, the sight of air force technicians opening panels and poking flashlights into the recesses of the right wing of the military jet suggested another change of plans.
The frustrating delays drove home the logistical challenges of supporting the Canadian presence in Alert. “This is the reality of working in the North. Things happen. You just have to roll with it,” said Lt.-Col. Cathy Blue, the logistics and engineering officer at 8 Wing Trenton, who also oversees the support of operations at Alert.
The crews at 8 Wing Trenton are responsible for the air bridge that keeps CFS Alert stocked with food and other essentials. In addition to the weekly resupply flights, there are two big flying operations each year, known as Operation Boxtop, to shuttle dry goods and fuel from a stockpile in Thule to stock the station for the winter months.
It can be dangerous, unforgiving flying and memorials near the runway in Alert pay testament to the risks. In 1991, a Hercules transport crashed into a hillside during its approach. Survivors huddled in the shattered fuselage for 36 hours in minus-23C weather awaiting rescue. Five died in the accident and there were 13 survivors. In 1950, a Lancaster aircraft crashed during a resupply flight, killing all nine crew and passengers.
On Friday, the fuel problem is fixed and the Globemaster is ready to fly. But after flying for more than an hour, the predicted good weather at Alert has turned sour, making it impossible to land. So it’s back to Thule to wait for better weather. “The challenge in the North . . . it just changes so rapidly,” Strosack says.
After lunch, the crews make another attempt to get to Alert and this time succeed - four days later than planned. It’s a quick turnaround. Cargo is unloaded, personnel disembark, replaced by new passengers headed south, all eager to see loved ones - and the sun. Alert is alone and isolated once again.
From: Allan Walker, Burnley, Lancs Subject: Lancaster Ride
Good morning Tony,
Fabulous video. Can you please include this in your next OBA.
From: Len (Woody) Wood, Pembroke, ON Subject: The Best Team
There were several great Movements teams I worked with over my Movers career, however, two stand out as being the best:
1. 1 Air Movements Unit, 8 MAMS (Namao/CFB Edmonton) during the early 80s. MAMS Sgt Wayne Shaw (Was) and MAMS MCpl Chuck Ives. Team members, to the best of my recollection, were Chuck Coutts, Tyler Henderson, Joyce Labelle, Marcel Poirier, Roy Coolen, Alain Viellieux (Pouff), Josey ? & myself. We may have had one or two more whose names escape me at the moment. We participated in several Army deployments and redeployments as well as the Exercise Maple Flags at CFB Cold Lake. There were Northern Operations in the North West Territories, normal linecrew duties in Namao and many Wet/Dry lifts to resupply CFS Alert (Operation Boxtop).
2. CANLOG UNDOF, Golan Heights Mov Con (2 man team) Dec 88 - Mar 89. I was i/c Mov Con (MCpl from BTfc Greenwood) and my staff was Cpl Gerry Poitras, BTfc Chatham - Gerry is now the RCAF CWO; one of the best Movers I had the privilege to serve with.
Our overall boss, WO Jess Sanford, was located at UNDOF HQ in Damascus, along with Sgt Carl Ross, MCpl Eric MacPherson and MCpl Ed Forestall (their tours overlapped by a couple of weeks). We were responsible for all pax/cargo movements to and from CANLOG and provided support to other UNDOF contingents as required in Israel and Syria.
Take care, Trapper.
Support, Save, Supply RAF Lyneham
A documentary made in the 1960s showing the work of RAF Lyneham
RAF Typhoons Scrambled To Intercept Russian Bombers
RAF jets have been scrambled to intercept Russian bombers heading towards British airspace.
Two supersonic Russian Tu-160 'Blackjack' aircraft were escorted south across the North Sea by UK Typhoons dispatched from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. The bombers had strayed into the UK's "area of interest," but not UK airspace.
It is believed the aircraft were with the Long Range Aviation branch of the Russian military. They have never penetrated UK airspace.
RAF jets have been scrambled more than 50 times over the last six years to intercept Russian military aircraft. The UK's airspace covers a 12-mile radius out from the coastline.
Tropical Cyclone Winston Devastates Fijian Islands - Australia and New Zealand Respond
Cyclone Winston, a Category 5 storm, with sustained winds of 230 km/h (145 mph) and a pressure of 915 hPa (mbar; 27.03 inHg), made landfall on 20 February, inflicting extensive damage on many Fijian islands and killing (at latest count) 42 people.
Communications were temporarily lost with at least six islands, with some remaining isolated for more than two days after the storm's passage.
Immediately following the cyclone, the governments of Australia and New Zealand provided logistical support and relief packages.
Tropical Cyclone Winston Devastates Fijian Islands - Australian and New Zealand Air Forces Respond
From: Keith Parker, Bowerhill, Wilts Subject: The Best Team
The best team without a doubt was Kilo Team, probably because it was the only team I was ever on. Let me explain; I did two tours on a Moblie Team both times Kilo.
I was lucky in the first instance, Don Hunter was my boss, Ivan Gervais my Flt Sgt, John Illesly my Sgt, Tony Saw my Cpl and bless him big Keith Ford my Opo. What a great team that was and we had some great times.
I don't think Don ever realised that we used to put his boots in the door on the Herc so they were freezing only returning them to below his seat just before we woke him!
Everyone got on well and many other teams liked to work with us. But I must admit I was very lucky with team bosses as I came through the ranks the two Taylors (who's first names escape me) were excellent, and Paul Higgins, bless him, a terrific team leader and still a true friend.
Cheers for now
New members who have joined us recently are:
Peter Mullins, Mareeba, QLD, Australia
Welcome to the OBA!
Martyn Turner, Havre, MT, USA
RAF SAR Disbandment
A parade marked the disbandment of the RAF Search and Rescue (SAR) Force.
Thousands of people owe their lives to this unique unit whose iconic, but ageing, yellow Sea King helicopters have plucked injured fishermen from raging seas, winched climbers from treacherous cliffs, and airlifted flood victims from the rooftops of their homes.
Since official records began on 1 January 1983, RAF SAR helicopters in the UK have responded to a total of 34,122 callouts and have given life-saving assistance to 26,916 people.
From: Syd Avery, Guardamar del Segura Subject: The Best Team
With very few nameless exceptions, and they could be counted on one hand, all the Squadron Members were the best.
Crews took their lead from the guy in the left hand seat. From my viewpoint, I would name them as C130 - Chas Finn-Kelcey and Geoff Davies, C130 and VC10 - John Wolley, and on the Belfast - Trevor Newton.
Strangely, those I flew with commercially who were ex-RAF were absolutely great in the commercial environment, but had been quite anal to Muppets [Movers] in the Service.
RCAF’s new CH-147F delivers the goods
Tactical agility combined with heavy-lift capability makes Canada's Boeing CH-147F Chinook a formidable asset. Here, the flight engineer serves as the pilot's eyes during this precision landing on a rocky ledge
Although tandem-rotor helicopters are exotic beasts, from a pilot's point of view, a Chinook is still just a helicopter
The CH-147F Chinook and the CH-146 Griffon work as a team to provide the air force's tactical helicopter capabilities
Chinooks have been in production for over five decades, but modern avionics make the RCAF's Chinooks state-of-the-art
450 Squadron personnel hook up a sling load
The crew from left to right: MCpl Mike O'Connell, Capt Brian Epp, the author Robert Erdos and MCpl Greg Bullivant
450 Squadron is the sole unit responsible for operating the Chinook
A well-dressed Chinook crew, ready for duty
Nobody seemed surprised except me. “Our gross takeoff weight will be 38,163 pounds,” declared flight engineer MCpl Greg Bullivant. He must have seen the expression on my face. He patiently explained that we were still about eight tons below maximum gross takeoff weight.
By any measure, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF’s) new Chinook helicopter is a heavy hauler, but its capabilities go well beyond brute strength. Whether the tasking is for humanitarian assistance, response to natural disasters or support to the army in the field, the brand new Boeing CH-147F is a modern, versatile tactical transport helicopter that can serve a wide variety of missions. That versatility would be in evidence during a hands-on demonstration flight with 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron at CFB Petawawa, Ont.
“Our” Chinook, CH-147312, was to lead a simulated tactical troop insertion and resupply mission, escorted by two RCAF Bell CH-146 Griffon helicopters. “Wildcat 29” was a Griffon from 438 Squadron in St. Hubert, Que. “Lion 27,” from Petawawa’s 427 Special Operations Squadron, was tasked as the photo ship.
The crew consisted of Capt Brian “Jake” Epp, who is 450 Squadron’s tactical standards officer, as aircraft commander, with myself as the somewhat wide-eyed but very lucky journalist/co-pilot. The “back end” crew consisted of flight engineer MCpl Bullivant, and loadmaster MCpl Mike O’Connell.
Epp thoroughly briefed the assembled crews on the mission objectives, radio frequencies and the navigation route, and patiently explained my presence in an otherwise tidy military formation. Interestingly, the Chinook would easily outrun its escorts, so we planned a join-up en route. We would fly a low-level tactical route “at the speed of heat,” in Epp’s terms, while the Griffons would proceed direct to a rendezvous overhead our target. We would return to base in formation. Upon return, we would perform some slinging to demonstrate the big helicopter’s external cargo airlift capability. It would be an ample demonstration of the Chinook’s repertoire.
RCAF Chinooks, then and now
The RCAF is well acquainted with the Chinook, having operated eight early-model CH-147s with 450 and 447 Squadrons from 1975 until they were retired due to cost-cutting in 1992.
Then came Afghanistan. In 2008, the Manley Report recommended to Parliament that an immediate heavy-lift helicopter capability was essential to the extension of the Canadian mission, and the government subsequently purchased six used U.S. Army CH-47Ds, an interim measure for use in Afghanistan. The need for a sustained tactical heavy lift capability was evident to the military, and in August 2009, Canada signed a contract for 15 new “F model” Chinooks.
The new CH-147Fs began to arrive in Petawawa in June 2013. An impressive 538,000-square-foot (50,000-square-meter) hangar / workshop / training facility awaited the new machines upon their arrival. 450 Squadron has some of the most modern facilities in the RCAF.
450 Squadron is the sole unit responsible for operating the Chinook. It now has its full complement of 15 machines on strength, plus three specialized simulators: a full-motion high-fidelity training simulator, a fixed-base tactical flight training device, and a field-deployable crew training simulator. It speaks to the complexity of both the machine and the mission that air force crews can deploy with their simulator. And, yes, the simulator is painted camouflage green.
There is also a maintenance training facility - which looks a lot like a partly disassembled Chinook surrounded by scaffolding - and an “integrated gunnery trainer,” which is a simulator for teaching aircrew how to fire weapons from a moving platform. Given the scope of its responsibilities, 450 Squadron is a big unit, with approximately 400 personnel.
Epp explained that the Chinooks currently operate under a “provisional operational airworthiness clearance,” which is arcane air force terminology that means they are still working out how to best employ their complex new beast. Epp described the squadron’s approach as “walk, then run,” explaining that many operational capabilities of the Chinook are yet to be fully implemented. It’s not that the Chinook itself is lacking, but rather that the learning curve is steep in implementing a new machine, and it will take time for all of the Chinook aircrew to train to full operational capability. Safety is on everyone’s mind during times of transition.
It was time to go flying, but first Epp offered a guided tour of the cockpit, which is dominated by five 6x8-inch color liquid crystal displays, each of which is surrounded by software-configured “hot keys.” Each pilot had a control display unit (CDU) on the center console, which served as his interface to the mission computer. Epp spent a few minutes entering our fuel and cargo load, following which the computer continuously updated weight and balance and performance data. Our flight plan was loaded from a data card.
The presentation on the primary flight displays seemed cluttered to my eyes, although that was likely the result of the busy tactical data presentations that are not common to civil flight displays. I poked some buttons to familiarize myself with the interface, but quickly realized that some adult supervision would be required. The menu structure seemed complex and deep.
Like many modern flying machines, I expect that “proficiency” in the Chinook is more a matter of familiarity with software syntax than mechanical flying skills. Working the instrument panel is its own skill.
Start-up of the Chinook took about 15 minutes, although my unqualified presence was something of an impediment. Two qualified pilots could negotiate the checklist a lot faster. We taxied to the helipad, and without fanfare or explanation, Epp directed me to lift the Chinook into the hover. I looked at him. It’s that easy? It is. Almost. Sitting on the ground, application of thrust causes the helicopter to roll forward, so a stationary lift into the hover required application of the brakes, a small amount of aft cyclic, and a gentle pull on the collective - Chinook pilots call it a “thrust lever.” Epp offered me a few minutes to familiarize myself with its handling.
Tandem rotor helicopters are exotic beasts; quite unlike conventional helicopters. The cockpit controls consist of the familiar cyclic, collective and pedals, but the controls are mechanized differently. Left or right cyclic tilts both rotor heads laterally to control roll. Longitudinal cyclic creates pitch changes through differential collective control of the forward and aft rotor heads. Pedal inputs induce heading changes by differential lateral tilt of the forward and aft heads. If it all seems a bit complicated, it is! Nevertheless, from the pilot’s point of view, it’s still just a helicopter. A big helicopter.
Notwithstanding the complexity of the machine, my first impression was that the Chinook made it easy. The hover was rock solid. The digital automatic flight control system (DAFCS) augments stability and seamlessly blends modes between flight regimes. The DAFCS logic is complex, but below 40 knots the cyclic commands attitude and the pedals command yaw rate. This makes hand-flying the Chinook almost trivially easy.
Certainly, none of the frenetic stick handling that typifies, for example, a JetRanger, is evident in the Chinook. You nearly only need move the stick when you want to move the helicopter. If that were too much effort, the higher order DAFCS modes make it even easier. A four-way switch on the thrust lever grip controlled the additional features. Selecting the switch forward toggled between barometric altitude and radar altitude height hold modes. A left selection engaged position hold. Selection of these two modes resulted in a hands-off hover so stable that the helicopter seemed welded in place. An adjacent switch can select either a 200-foot-per-minute climb or descent, or nudge the altitude up or down in one-foot increments. The yaw axis provides heading hold. For dynamic maneuvers, a right selection on the “magic switch” activated an attitude command-velocity hold mode. These features make the Chinook literally a push-button helicopter.
We had a mission to accomplish, and being on-time and on-target is everything in tactical aviation. We briefed a specific time-on-target, and the Chinook made it easy. A large-scale color terrain chart scrolled across the multi-function display, indicating our progress along our track. The computer knew our route and distance remaining, and obligingly displayed both our current and our required groundspeed.
I flew manually, although the autopilot could have done it. Given the airspeed hold function of the DAFCS in forward flight, and the seemingly infinite thrust in my left hand, tactical flying was reduced to following the terrain with the thrust lever. The Chinook made it feel like I was flying in a straight line and using our downwash to blow the earth out of the way.
Being back in a green helicopter elicited waves of tactical nostalgia, and I elected to follow the contours to enhance terrain masking. I found the Chinook surprisingly agile. Not Ferrari agile, but not Massey Ferguson, either. At Epp’s encouragement, and in the interest of tactical realism, I flew low. Bemused by my novice efforts, Epp took control. He flew lower. 450 Squadron crews are approved to fly down to 25 feet by day. We arrived at our landing spot within seconds of our planned time. The Griffons passed overhead as we landed. We took the enemy completely by surprise. The air force is good at that stuff.
The return flight to base was initially in formation with the Griffons at 105 knots. Nearing base, Epp hauled on the thrust lever and we bid adieu to the Griffons. The Chinook achieved a 146-knot maximum indicated airspeed, pulling 74 percent torque and burning 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms) per hour. For the record, we were cruising at 1,200 feet and it was a +30C day. There was still a considerable reserve of power, but cruising speeds are constrained by a cruise guide indicator (CGI) on the primary flight display, which shows maximum allowable speed in terms of aerodynamic and structural limitations. The ride quality could best be described as “agricultural.” I felt respect for the crews that spend long days in the Chinook. I found the cockpit hot and distressingly loud.
One more task awaited us on return to base: sling loads; a task at which the Chinook excels. 450 Squadron personnel had prepared three roughly 4,000-pound (1,815-kilograms) training loads; a hefty load indeed, so I imagined three lifts. Not the Chinook. We lifted all three of them at once! The three cargo hooks are approved for combined loads of up to 26,000 pounds (11,793 kilograms), although the extensive mission equipment reduces the practical load to “only” 17,000 to 18,000 pounds (7,710 to 8,165 kilograms). Epp again let me try my hand at it. We quickly briefed our expected dual- and single-engine power required, as displayed on the mission computer. Our flight engineer provided voice guidance to situate us over the load, then performed some upside down gymnastics with a shepherd’s hook to grab the lanyards and secure them to our cargo hooks. I flew manually during the hook-up and lift, and the Chinook again made it easy. Our out-of-ground-effect (OGE) power was only 81 percent, with 4,100 pounds (1,860 kilograms) of fuel remaining - and 11,500 pounds (5,215 kilograms) on the hook! Even this didn’t approach the edges of the Chinook’s capability.
Admittedly, in the event of an engine failure, we couldn’t have sustained the OGE hover without dropping the loads, but on departure we were within a safe single-engine regime upon passing through 45 knots. Under sea level, standard conditions, a Chinook will sustain a single-engine OGE hover up to a 36,000-pound (16,330-kilogram) operating weight. In-ground-effect (IGE) hovering on a single-engine is possible up to 40,000 pounds (18,145 kilograms). For reference, the average empty weight of 450 Squadron’s Chinooks is 28,500 pounds (12,925 kilograms). That’s a lot of lift!
The Chinook is impressive not only for its size and performance, but for the range of missions that it can accomplish. Our brief exposure to the Chinook demonstrated a versatile helicopter capable of moving people or equipment under any conditions.
The newest Canadian Chinooks are poised to provide years of able service to the country’s military both at home and abroad.
Robert Erdos, VerticalMag.com
From: Peter Orton, Camberley, Surrey Subject: The Best Team
Difficult to select a 'Best Team.' I have proud memories of Muharaq, TAMS Lyneham, NEAF and UK MAMS. Team work and selfless effort has always been the ethos.
That said, I learned so much from my first MAMS tour in Akrotiri. Chiefy Hank, Sgt Pete, Cpls Sammy and Klute, SACs Pete and me (Pete). Formaly known as Blue team. Our leader was MAMS own "Alan Sugar / Arthur Daley", Frankie. His virtuoso "Variations on a 6663" was the single most important skill I was able to take into my later career in civil aviation.
We had many interesting tasks and operations throughout the Middle East, but it was a task in Nairobi that epitomised MAMS of the 70s. All departures were planned for 1430 local from a high hot runway. Amazingly at conclusion of the airlift 50% of the Royal A.....n 's kit was left on the Pan. The recovery plan was to divert a VC-10 twice a week and for us to remain on site to top up on availability. To keep us out of dodgy bars, it was arranged for the Army to loan us a Land Rover, for Nav and Field craft training. To stay in contact in the pre-mobile days we were forced to night stop at Block Hotels luxurious Safari lodges . 5 day epic Safari to Mombasa on Rate 1's, golden days or what?
The Icing on the cake, we managed to arrange a mutually advantageous currency exchange for the transiting aircrew. Muppets Rule !
Thanks Tony for keeping us all in touch , especially those of us who only managed to fit in 12 years.
Why did the half plane half helicopter not work?
The first helicopter flew 80 years ago, although it's never caught on as a mass mode of transport. But there was one brave British attempt. Was it a helicopter? Was it a plane?
The Fairey Rotodyne was a really odd sight, appearing to blur the boundaries of aviation.
Developed during the 1950s and early 1960s, the infancy of the helicopter, the UK government hoped it would become a form of mass transport.
Taking off vertically using helicopter rotors with jets at their tips but powered forward by turboprops on the wing, it was to allow quick travel between cities and towns in the UK and around Europe. But the project died through a combination of lack of funding and concerns over noise.
"The idea was ahead of its time," says Michael Oakey, managing editor of The Aviation Historian magazine. "But it never really got going properly. Orders were hard to come by and interest faded."
The project began in 1953 when state-owned British European Airways (BEA) asked the aviation firm Fairey to design a helicopter-type aircraft for commercial passenger use. This was only 17 years after German engineer Henrich Focke had created the Focke-Wulf Fw61, widely regarded as the world's first practical helicopter.
BEA, which had started small-scale passenger helicopter services in 1950, wanted a craft that could take off easily in an urban area and was large enough to fly more than 50 people quickly to another. Landing in a tight inner-city space, it was to capitalise on the growing European business travel market.
So Fairey came up with the Rotodyne, classed as a composite helicopter - essentially half-plane, half-helicopter. The Ministry of Supply backed the project with funding for technical development.
The Rotodyne featured a rotor spanning 89ft (27m). A 40-seater prototype made its first flight on 6 November 1957. Modifications occurred and on 5 January 1959 the first public demonstration took place, over a course from White Waltham, in Berkshire, to Hungerford, just over 100km (62 miles) away at the western end of the same county. During the journey it reached a new rotorcraft speed record of 307km/h (191mph).
The Rotodyne had a range of 700km (435 miles), easily enough to get from London to Glasgow, Paris or Amsterdam.
On 16 June 1959 it flew abroad for the first time, to Paris from Heathrow, via Dover and Brussels. It took one hour and 36 minutes to get to Brussels and 58 minutes to get from Brussels to Paris - far quicker than by ferry and train, or by plane and car.
The next month, the Rotodyne demonstrated potential beyond the passenger market by carrying a 103ft (31m) section of bridge 5km (3.1 miles) from White Waltham to the Thames.
BEA had stoked excitement, running a series of press advertisements in 1958. One described the Rotodyne as "neither aeroplane nor helicopter, but something of both, and is the world's first vertical take-off airliner".
Another proclaimed: "This service will fly families out (and in) for holidays, take businessmen on business trips, and increase the self-sufficiency of every busy provincial centre by providing the swift, direct communication nowadays so essential to the development of trade. Ever since helicopters were invented, there has been talk of rotary-wing services between city centres."
But the talk never resulted in a regular service. Fairey was taken over by Westland in 1960 and continued the research, but there was a problem with noise from the jet tips on the rotor blades, which made it less practical to operate the Rotodyne in built-up areas.
Government monitors worked out that noise levels within 500ft from the pad during take-off and landing were "intolerable" and that those within 1,000ft (305m) of the Rotodyne in mid-flight were "unpleasantly noisy" - the same as hearing a raised voice from 2ft (60cm) away.
In 1958, Canadian company Okanagan Helicopters put in an order, but the Rotodyne was too loud for trips between Vancouver and the city of Victoria, 100km (62 miles) apart, and the service never started.
There were concerns that the helipad at Battersea, south London, which the Rotodyne was to use, was too far from the city centre. In March 1961, the New Scientist quoted one man as having taken less than half an hour to fly there by helicopter from Shoreham, West Sussex, but having taken another 35 minutes to get to his office in Regent Street by taxi.
Helipads could not be placed nearer business centres "for noise reasons or because of the high cost of land", the magazine said.
In February 1962, UK aviation minister Peter Thorneycroft announced the Rotodyne project was being discontinued, saying development costs had reached £11m.
He had said the previous December that the Royal Air Force was considering an order, but this too was to be dropped. Thorneycroft said BEA had told him it couldn't go on with the project because the commercial prospects were uncertain.
"It was a good idea but if modern materials, such as carbon fibre, had been around to make it lighter, it could have been a fantastic success," and less noisy, says Oakey.
From: David Powell, Princes Risborough Subject: The Best Team
No surprises from me. It has to be F Team UK MAMS 1967-69. They were not just my best team, they were my only UK MAMS Team. For most of my time at RAF Abingdon, the team comprised the brains: Flt Sgt Les Mather, and Sgt Eric Batty; the brawn: SAC Taff Price; the clerical king: SAC ‘where do you want the C of G?’ trim sheet maestro Jack Murray, and the source of all other needs, (just don’t ask where it came from) Cpl Bob Turner, vehicle manipulator extraordinaire. There was also the essential 7th member of the team, our faithful and much loved Landrover.
This received extra special attention from Bob and the MT section. I am not saying it was actually modified but it was certainly tuned.
You probably remember the two fuel tank under the front seats? In case of a V Force fast reaction deployment, in the absence of Motorways (this was 1968) one tank contained a special brew of go faster MT fuel and AVGAS!
I seem to remember one occasion heading home down the dual carriageway outside Oxford, with trailer; Eric was driving at a steady 65 mph indicated and overtaking a dawdling Triumph Spitfire, driven by a young lady who gave us a filthy look as we sailed by. Eric tapped the speedo and it promptly jumped to 85 mph!
This team not only kept me safe, they saved my life (see previous ramblings on mistaking CTC for lemonade) and on task. And a belief that you present it - we’ll move it. Highlight was probably the 3 helicopters (2 x Wessex and a Wasp) in one Belfast from Boscombe Down to Canada. At one time I believe we held the record for a VC 10 engine running offload, full troops, bags and weapons: 11 minutes doors open, doors close and 25 minutes from touch-down to wheels up at GAF Base Hohne in Germany. We had been deployed there to handle one VC 10 every seven hours for a week. The Team also picked up a reputation for being one of the ‘go-to’ teams for trials loads and ‘outside the book’ tasks.’ But, best of all they were a great bunch to be part of.
The team also kept me out of trouble; most of the time. Although I did pick up my mandatory junior officer severe rep and a £50 fine, also at Hohne. This was when our two ancient Storno Radios were nicked from inside the guarded station ops room. The Euro guard was most helpful in describing the British para who had removed them. I was blamed for not properly securing the radios in the locked team pack-up box. As I was the duty officer, in fact the only officer and in bed at the time, I accepted responsibility of dereliction of duty by a quickly constituted 38 Group field unit inquiry, re the two knackered talking house bricks. Well I couldn’t admit that the pack up box was already securing two demi-johns of best Navy Rum!
Prior to deploying forward by Andover to Hohne from Skrydstrup, where we had been in sub-zero night temperatures for three weeks, the Exercise doc had been authorising a nightly tot - purely for medical reasons. Not everyone was into rum, so F team recycled/collected the unwanted portions for when we went forward into the great unknown, aka GAF Hohne.
About 4 months after arriving at my next posting, MoD Harrogate, the wheels of staff work had ground away and I was duly summoned to appear in front of my station commander, the Officer Commanding RAF Uxbridge (who was responsible for all the MoD bits and pieces including Harrogate) Group Captain P C Penny. I duly entered the office of my old OC Admin Wing at RAF Changi, who greeted me with ‘Hello David - consider yourself severely reprimanded. Come and have a coffee and tell me what you’ve been up to!” Oh, and in addition to a free railway trip, a night stop in London, with allowances, I claimed for and got back the £50 fine on my kit insurance!
Looking back on an interesting life (as well as forward to a lot more I hope!) that time on UKMAMS Abingdon really was the best, and it was F Team which was responsible for that.
David Powell F Team UKMAMS 1967-69
The green eye of the little yellow god
I recall, back in the day, of hearing bits and pieces of a tale about the green eye of the little yellow god to the north of Kathmandu. It was usually relayed by the old-timers and I never did hear the whole thing. Just recently I came across a wonderful rendition of this tale and would like to take this opportunity to share with you. You'll be sure to have a few chuckles!
From: David Stevens, Bangor Subject: The Best Team
I stumbled across the attached photo while clearing out the attic - as one does. This was 3 or 4 weeks ago. Then I get your next OBA newsletter as addressed.
Thinks, perfect timing - I will scan the photo, send the photo and add a few lines. Problem - no idea where I had seen the photo, never mind where I put it! Does Alzheimer's come to mind? Searched and searched. Today, I have been out all day and when I got home, poured myself a wee dram, sipping it, as one does, and looked at your email again. BINGO It came to me suddenly - the small red photo album... I was right!
It is 4 members of 'E' team in Barbados in November 1964. On the left is one Charlie Cormack and the handsome, distinguished fella on the right c'est moi. The two SACs in the middle I really am not sure, but I think SAC Yeoman is nearest to me and I simply cannot remember the name of the other lad. Charlie will almost certainly remember. The two SNCOs are missing - Sgt Mooney and Sgt Wade - I think! Again Charlie will help me out.
The best team - quite impossible to state because it was often a case of mix and match personnel for one reason or another but E team was a good team to be a part of. My SNCOs included Sgts O'Reagan (RIP), Close, Mooney, Mitchell, Rowland, Snell, Leach, Kehoe and it is to all of them (and others I might have forgotten), that I owe my 'development' as a MAMS team leader.
From: Len Bowen, Chisholm, ACT Subject: The Best Team
Jeeze Tony, you really know how to put somebody on the spot!
What ever I say will p*ss of somebody from my old or even older mobs, but here goes. After due consideration - and several glasses of Aussie red wine - I have to say that my MATU ALT1 Team was the best of the lot. Over the years I've worked with and for some great Movers, but my boys at Richmond in 1980/81 would have to be the best.
Now before anybody from my FEAF MAMS team from RAF Seletar jumps out of the undergrowth and does me a grave mischief with his Zimmer Frame, I must justify my statement. The MAMS Team which I took over - or rather which took me over - in August 1966 were already well established, widely experienced - and most importantly knew what the MAMS concept, ethos and, should I say -tradition - was all about. Together we worked in Singapore, Malaya, Borneo, Thailand, South Vietnam, Hong Kong, India, Nepal, Mauritius and Reunion, on every sort of task from the biggest 'jolly' to the toughest possible, and they never let me - or each other - down once. We were a great team in the old MAMS tradiution.
MATU ALT1, however, were all new to the mobile air movements game. Previously in the RAAF, when a small 'team' was needed on a task or an exercise, the hierarchy had just grabbed a handful of people from Air Movements Flights all round the country, throw them together on a deployment and then wonder why it didn't go real well, because nobody knew each other, had seldom if ever worked with each other before, and certainly did not know each others' strengths ... and weaknesses ... and we all know how well THAT works for a difficult task in a remote location ... NOT!
When I took over as Team Leader in January 1980, they had barely been formed for 20 months, and while all of them were experienced 'movers', each consummately skilled in his own way, the self-contained immediately-deployable MAMS/MATU concept was still in shake-down mode. In the next 18 months we worked tasks in every State and Territory of Australia, in New Zealand, and in Indonesia - from cosmopolitan Yogyakarta, to Biak and Ambon in the remote eastern provinces. We were on the first Hercs into Harare (Zimbawe) on the morning it ceased to be Salisbury (Rhodesia), then we drank our way back to Australia via Jo'berg, Mauritius and the Cocos Islands with our Fijian and Kiwi passengers.
Along the way we rubbed the edges off each other, and I don't mind saying that it took Lloyd Bradshaw and I a couple of major deployments - and a couple of major blues - to sort out the Team Leader/Team SNCO roles to both our satisfactions. Throughout this, however, the Team worked. and worked well, and it says everything for them that shortly after I left the Team Leader job, on promotion to Senior Movements Officer at RAAF Richmond, they went on to win the 'Best Air Movements Team' trophy at the 'Volant Rodeo' air mobility championships in the USA. From being the real New Boys in the MAMS /MATU game, in less than five years they had become THE best mobile air movements team in open competition against all their peers. The Best Team I've Ever Worked With? QED!
It is with great sadness that I notify you that a dear friend, Graham (Geordie) Flanagan (RAF), passed away earlier this month after a long illness.
At the time of writing, the final arrangements had not been made. I will let you know just as soon as the details become available.