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Visit to RAF Coningsby

Saturday 15th June saw a small group of six cars - two Alpines (mine and Nigel Masters’) and four Tigers - head across the Fens and into Lincolnshire. Our destination was RAF Coningsby, just north of Boston and over 115 miles away from home. Our visit had been organised by Tomas Carr on behalf of RGEA (Rootes Group East Anglia) which is our local group that gathers once a month to celebrate all things Rootes.

Coningsby is a fully operational airbase active in the role of national defence. It is home to two frontline, combat-ready squadrons of Typhoons and specialises in Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) - meaning that it ‘scrambles’ aircraft when a threat to UK airspace is detected. It is also home to BBMF (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight) which consists of six Spitfires, two Hurricanes, a Douglas C-47 Dakota, a Lancaster (one of only two aircraft remaining in airworthy condition) and two de Havilland Canada Chipmunks.

In a packed day we learned about the base’s current operations and got up close and personal with the cockpit of a Typhoon (with the electronic systems engaged) to be given a quick lesson in how it flew and the armaments it carried. In fact the aircraft is so complex that it is not ‘flown’ in the analogue sense, with computers constantly tuning the flight for stability and automatically defending plane with chaff etc. should it be attacked - making it the world’s leading in combat fighter.

Sitting in the open hanger here was a photo-opportunity not to be missed. So using the Typhoon emerging from the hanger as the backdrop we assembled the cars in a ‘V’ formation in front of the plane. I’m not sure we’d qualify for the aerobatics team but we made a good job of creating a symmetrical pattern with the patriotically Red, White and Blue cars.

On the historic front were treated to an Avro Lancaster warming up its four engines getting ready for take-off before it swept directly overhead. We were also treated to a short display by one of the Spitfires before it flew off to a show that day, with several fly-pasts as it banked dramatically and swept around the airfield showing off the manoeuvrability of the aircraft.

Later we visited the Aviation Heritage Centre which traces the evolution of the aircraft operating from the base - from the Lancaster (including the famous 617 Squadron known as the Dambusters) to the Vulcan bombers and Phantom jets, the Tornado and the modern day Typhoon.

We then returned to the huge BBMF hanger where the historic aircraft are stored and maintained. It was a garage that would have made any enthusiast’s dreams come true. We were given a talk on both the Spitfires and Hurricanes lined up along the sides of the hanger and walked around the planes in for routine maintenance and repair.

It was hard to leave but we were running out of time, so after a quick BBQ we were just in time to see the Lancaster buzz the airfield and land on its return. We thanked our hosts, said our farewells and were escorted off the airbase.

A final thanks to Tom for organising the day and to Commander, Group Captain Mark Flewin for his hospitality and the time he spent with us. We all enjoyed ourselves immensely and learned a lot about the bases modern operations as well as being lucky to get up close to some fantastic historical aircraft.

Martin Brazill