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RAE Thurleigh

Old 25th Oct 2008, 03:22
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Thurleigh

we lived in the 'Officers Mess' at Thurleigh in the late 60's early 70's. I went to school at Pilgrim in Bedford, and learnt to fly at Cranfield..The most interesting aircart were the VSTOL 'flying bedstead', the Trident, Canbera and 111 'blind landing and ILS aircraft' - comet, also, I recall - with nose extention full of electronics; a couple of Shackletons; the STOL Harrier test facility, with the 'carrier ski-jump' set up, and the runway / carrier hook/wire set up.. Every morning an RAF Heron or Dove would arrive carrying who knows what/who. Phantoms would beat up the runway going afterburner / wertical at midpoint. But the Flying bedstead was the most unique... I used to ride to the fence near the approach or the hangers and breath in the amazing sights - wish I'd had a camera then, too..
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Old 25th Oct 2008, 03:30
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Thurleigh

Almost forgot the Concorde wing test bed on a delta winged.....(forgot the type..!!) also the Olympus testbed Vulcan that was a very regular visitor. I often asked for a 'touch and go' when out from Cranfield - never got past ATC. I think the ATC boss knew we were all after his daughter...!!!!
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Old 25th Oct 2008, 06:42
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Charles; the 'Heron or Dove' was most probably the 'Bedford Ferry' Devon from Farnborough. It usually ran for the 'boffins' twice a day morning and evening, with a lunchtime one added when required. There were 4 Devons on strength at Farnborough and they also served the other RAEs at Aberporth, Llanbedr and West Freugh.
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Old 25th Oct 2008, 21:47
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Thurleigh

Chevvron, thanks for the Devon correction. I also made an error on the 'flying bedstead' - I meant the VSTOL prototype the Shorst SC1 (I think) - an amazing aircraft that looked like a bumblebee with a very long probe on it's nose. The test pilots were very regular habitants of the officers mess. I also enjoyed the boac 747 crew familiarization 'touch and go' flights, and the VC10 RB test bed, there were also a number of Hunter test aircraft, but not sure of the project, etc. I met a retired BA Captain many years later who flew the 1-11 test aircraft from Thurleigh, and who, as a training Captain, made 747 familiarization flights to the field....
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Old 26th Oct 2008, 08:01
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Back in the 70s Thurleigh was considered as a 3rd London Airport.....along with Foulness. Alas we got Stansted.

H49
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Old 26th Oct 2008, 09:00
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Chevvron

Quite right about the Devons. and they were far superior (from a passenger point of view) to the Chieftains that replaced them. The Dak was occasionlly used as well for the ferry - got it all to myself one day to Farnborough!
 
Old 26th Oct 2008, 10:40
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and they were far superior (from a passenger point of view) to the Chieftains that replaced them.
Especially when the Chieftains undercart refused to retract, which seemed to happen with amazing regularity.
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Old 26th Oct 2008, 13:00
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The Transport Flight pilots who flew the Devons (and later the Dakota and Navajos - we NEVER called them Chieftains) were characters in themselves although they weren't TPs.
The was 'Denny' Dennison for instance. If he was flying the morning Bedford, we expected the altitude readout on his transponder to fail about 2 miles south west of Halton, and miraculously re-appear about 2 miles north east of Halton!! Talking to an SNCO at Halton one day, he told me he'd been taxying a Jet Provost on the airfield demonstrating to apprentices how to taxy aircraft, and close to the edge of runway 02, he'd looked up to see a Devon on short final, gear and flaps down!!
One day I did the Bedford - Staverton ferry with Denny. They served Staverton for boffins to/from the radar establishment at Malvern. Midway between the two airfields, the aircraft suddenly went into an almost 90 deg bank. Avoiding action? No, I could see Gaydon directly beneath!

Last edited by chevvron; 26th Oct 2008 at 14:07.
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Old 26th Oct 2008, 17:45
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How time flies and things change.

When I started commuting to Bedford from Farnborough on the 'Ferry' in 1954 it was a Rapide or if you were unlucky an Anson (unlucky because you could be asked to wind the gear up and down).
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Old 26th Oct 2008, 19:02
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Or if you were VERY unlucky it was the Miles Marathon in winter (no cabin heating!!)
I understand the ferry also used to drop in at Westcott too. The Flying Order Book still had details of procedures for landing at Twinwoods Farm when I first started at Farnborough.
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Old 27th Oct 2008, 14:37
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Thurleigh

John, forgive my 'newness' to PPRuNe, but do I recall that you flew the Shorts SC1 at Thurleigh as TP ( my memory raclls it as 'SC1' - but I might be a little off there. Did you TP the Harrier 'ski jump' etc..?
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Old 27th Oct 2008, 16:47
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What IS the true story of the proposed 'long' runway at Bedford? One source told me it was to be built between Thurleigh and Twinwoods Farm, hence the reason a public road south of Thurleigh had a cutting built for it (so it could go under the runway) whilst another source told me it was to be built between Thurleigh and Little Staughton to the east. Or are both stories true?
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Old 27th Oct 2008, 19:08
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The original proposal was that a 5 mile long runway was to be built between Thurleigh and Little Staughton. The cutting was built as there was to be a taxi track between the airfield and the Tunnel Site, which was built along side Twinwood airfield.
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Old 28th Oct 2008, 18:59
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CharlesMO7

Yes to both queries. The SC1 64-67 time as an RAF tp on Aero Flight while the Ski-jump was 77-78 as a civilian tp for Hawkers.

JF
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Old 29th Oct 2008, 22:27
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As a nipper, one lived briefly in a village called Sharnbrook. One of my very earliest aviation memories-maybe the first- is of the HP.115 flying over my house. Quite a unique shape to look up at. Another is of some helo beating up the school playground.

Might have been 1967?
 
Old 29th Oct 2008, 23:14
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Twin Wood Farm

Spent a happy year or so gliding there with the RAE boffins. Very relaxed and spoiled me for joining an ordinary gliding club when I moved away. Landing a Tiger on the short runway in a crosswind was fun as there was a barbed wire fence down one side.

I seem to remember some good parties there as well.
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Old 30th Oct 2008, 11:40
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My office window has a nice view of the Tunnel Site.

Happy memories of working with the Radar Research Squadron in the 1980s (I still have my personalised Squadron mug). The father of one of my colleagues was a pilot there.

Also enjoyed seeing the exotic aircraft that visited there - Concorde and the TR-1 to name but two, as well as the research fleet. I never saw a 747 there but BA DC-10s were regular visitors for crew training. Plus, of course, Cranfield Radar (of hallowed memory) operated from a console in the Thurleigh approach room.
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Old 30th Oct 2008, 12:33
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I served my "time" there as a airframe/eng fitter during the early eighties. If you would have even suggested to me then that the place would close I would have not believed it. I loved working on so many different types of aircraft and gained experience there that would not be possible elsewhere. Many "characters" worked there, the crew room resembled the bar in the first Star Wars movie. Still miss it.
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Old 30th Oct 2008, 15:58
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Talking of a 747, I remember one landing heavily and bursting a tyre, it was parked between the hangars and waited for a crew to come up and change the tyres. While it was there many of us went onboard and had a look around. Sat in the cockpit, thinking this is 'massive'. Maybe 1973 ish?

Fastener, I agree about closing, and now a carpark.
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Old 31st Oct 2008, 12:11
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Thurleigh

JF- Many thanks for the reply and confirmation, I now recall the HP 115, as well. Did that model, or the SC1, survive as a museum piece? Last question.... did the Concorde sim survive at Bristol?
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