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RAE Thurleigh

Old 12th Nov 2008, 10:29
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Actually Farnborough's tonka but permanently (it seemed) detached to Bedford.
Bedford was what the yanks called a 'COB' or Combined Operating Base for Alconbury, and I believe there was an almost permanent detachment of 'handlers' ie guys in a high powered car and some sets of outriggers in order to handle TR1's/U2R's.
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Old 12th Nov 2008, 11:48
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Actually Farnborough's tonka
Indeed it initially flew with a 'Nugget' call sign but changed over to a 'Blackbox' one later, when, I assume it became Bedford's.
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Old 12th Nov 2008, 12:59
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If I remember correctly, that Tonka never did work as advertised. I left not long after it arrived at Bedford. The Puma was a developement batch a/c and one of the first built. (s/n 006?)
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Old 12th Nov 2008, 15:49
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RAF Alconbury
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Old 13th Nov 2008, 07:40
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Vulcan XA899 was used for Concorde take off work and was adorned with dayglo on the rudder and leading edges. Can anyone confirm if the undersides in the engine bay areas were white or dayglo ? The rest of the airframe was silver . Would make a nice different colour scheme for a model.
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Old 14th Nov 2008, 19:51
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The Puma was DB08 - I'm not sure if that meant it was 'development batch no. 8' or not. Seems logical. Became rather non-standard, especially regards the blades. Remained metal to the end. Good for fitting pressure sensors and strain gauges.

241 was actually a world-class piece of kit, and as an experimental vehicle for basic research, well ahead of its time even towards the end of its working life. It had the usual range of aerodynamic and inertial sensors, plus with each blade hinge instrumented to record flap, lag and feather. Research blades measured pressure and strain. There was even an instrumented tail rotor blade.

Fabulous stuff. Never really warmed to the Lynx that replaced it (ZD559)
 
Old 15th Nov 2008, 12:16
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That Seaking

As this string started with a Seaking with a radar bulb on the nose, I can give an update on what it was used for. I was a Spec Nav at Bedford 1978-81 as Nav Leader and then OC Radar Research Sqn (RRS), which had moved fm Pershore in early 78.

RRS had 15 aircrew (pilots, navs & an air eng) and over 20 ac - 10 Canberra (Mks 2, 3, 4, 6, 6-7 hybrid, 7 & 9), 2 Buccs, 1 Hunter 8, 1 Meteor 14, 1 Nimrod, 1 Varsity, 2 Viscounts, 1 Comet 4, 1 Seaking, 2 Wessex & 1 Puma. I can give ser nos and what each was used for if anyone is interested.

Seaking XV651 had the Naval Lynx 'Seaspray' radar in the nose for basic development work and mating to the 'Sea Skua' sea-skimming missile, which it guided. A Sea Skua radar head was held captive in the nose of one of our Canberras - B6 XH568. A typical sortie saw the Seaking hover over the sea just off Aberporth at 275 ft; the Canberra would fly beneath it at 50 ft, simulating having just been fired from the heli. The Canberra would follow the missile head whilst the naval target tried to decoy it.

Flying at 50 ft was interesting - the pilot did not look inside and the nav gave a continuous patter of height and speed, whilst the 3rd-seat boffin would give steering info from the missile. Each sortie started with 50 ft runs over Thurleigh runway to get the pilot/nav patter working.

'Have more info and a few pics fm Thurleigh - was certainly the best flying in my RAF time.

David B
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Old 27th Nov 2008, 15:03
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I grew up just down the road from RAE Thurleigh and from my very earliest days (B747 in about 76)can remember many, many types of aircraft in the overhead at low level. Many local people were employed at the airfield and tunnel site and my uncle flew as a boffin / observer on some of the test flights in the Canberra, Meteor, Javelin, Comet, etc.

It was an unbelievabley busy place and to think that there was not a single major crash incident, was quite an achievment for the standards of the day. We half expected it to happen at any moment with all the stuff whizzing about.

The tempo seemed to keep up right until the last flying days in the mid 90's when the airfield closed. I know there is no chance of reactivation, but I'm still hoping!
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Old 27th Nov 2008, 16:09
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Interesting projects.......

When I was a vac student at Farnborough in 1979 the section I was with (Acoustics) had a project involving experimental work at Thurleigh. Long story short - microphone(s) mounted in a 6ft dia polystyrene sphere, suspended from a Wessex, under which flew a BA Tristar. I think the idea was to measure engine noise shielding afforded by the wings.

Boffins, eh?
 
Old 27th Nov 2008, 18:27
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It was an unbelievabley busy place and to think that there was not a single major crash incident
Apart from the Hawk in early 1982.
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Old 27th Nov 2008, 19:21
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India Mike

Sounds like a continuation of the noise trials being conducted in `73/`74. Airfield was festooned with microphones while various aircraft were flown overhead in a number of configurations. I believe they were going to do something of the sort you mentioned with Court Lines providing the Tristar, but they went bust before it could be done.
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Old 27th Nov 2008, 20:59
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Ah, the noise trials. I had great fun doing the temp/humidity ascents for atmospheric corrections in an instrumented Slingsby T61 (main role meteorological research). The best bit was returning down the approach at Vne to stay ahead of BA 747s or Concorde doing practice ILS approaches.
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Old 28th Nov 2008, 06:21
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The T61 had a climb speed of 60kt, a cruise speed of 60kt and usually flew final at 60kt so what was Vne?
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Old 28th Nov 2008, 07:07
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As I recall (not having the POH to hand - it was over 30 years ago) at full throttle a 3 degree approach could be done at around 100kts. One then 'flared' and speed slowly bled off until arriving at the secondary runway intersection turned 30 degrees left, throttled back and touched down 2/3 of the way down to taxi in to the hangar. Seemed to cause mild amusement in the tower.
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Old 28th Nov 2008, 11:40
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[quote]
Apart from the Hawk in early 1982

Apologies GG - Was not aware of that incident. Info for this can be found here:

bristol britannia | 1984 | 0205 | Flight Archive
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Old 29th Nov 2008, 10:25
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Of course there was also the earlier non-fatal accident(mid sixties?). Comet (Mk 3?) backtracking runway 27 prior to departure (no full length taxiway) and a BEA Trident doing circuits was apparently cleared to 'land over' it but didn't, taking off its fin (the Comet's that is).
I first heard about this when arriving at Halton for gliding; one of the parked Comets there was minus its fin which had been pinched to repair the one at Bedford!
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Old 29th Nov 2008, 13:05
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Thought it was Bedford's VC10 and a BOAC 707 which was cleared for an overshoot not below 500' and got caught in a wind shear situation, but I could well be wrong.
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Old 29th Nov 2008, 14:15
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That could have happened as well, but it would have been late '70s or early '80s 'cos I remember the VC10 visiting Farnborough after I arrived in '74 and a few years later we were told it was grounded indefinitely with a 'broken back'(?) It was parked at Bedford for many years after that (you could see it from Santa Pod Raceway about 5 miles west) and I suppose it was broken up when the airfield was closed.
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Old 29th Nov 2008, 16:08
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The Comet incident was in 1971

report is here

ASN Aircraft accident de Havilland DH-106 Comet 3B XP915 Bedford-Thurleigh Airport
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Old 29th Nov 2008, 21:08
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IIRC the VC 10 was grounded and prepared for sale, but with little interest as it was ‘non standard’. One viewer from ‘Africa’ seeking a source of spares commented that the aircraft was in better condition than his that were still flying!
Didn’t the Bedford’ fin end up on the test VC10 tanker after a crack was discovered?
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