My Saturday visit didn’t quite turn out as planned. With rain showers forecast for the afternoon, which surprisingly duly arrived, and about the only flying usually taking place this early in the year is Classic Wings and their pleasure flights and visiting GA type aircraft, I had packed my tripod and set up my camera to take some photos in the hangars to try a bit of Fusion or HDR type photography.
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Pete Kynsey, the TFC Chief Pilot, arrived and after a short while proceeded out the P-47 and after a walk around duly strapped in. After a rich start and a bit of flames and smoke from the exhaust ports, the engine caught and ticked over nicely. It was then a brisk walk to the grassed area at the 24 runway hold end. After engine checks, PK taxied to the main runway undershoot, opened the throttle and at about 11.30, according to the camera exif info, the wheels of P-47 Thunderbolt ’SNAFU’ left a runway under its own power for the first time in over 20 years.
The P-47 turned to the south and climbed above the airfield for a circuit before the wheels were lowered and an approach made for a landing. It turned out to be a heavy landing as there was a problem with the flaps. After rubber smoke and a bounce, PK coaxed the airframe back into the air for another circuit and a more controlled fast landing. Another dash back down the crowd line to the parking area for its arrival. The plan had been for the Corsair to go up next but at this point the first of the showers passed through and the flight was delayed till the afternoon and the P-47 was moved back into the hangar to sort the flap problem out.
Following lunch and another passing rain front, a rather wet Corsair was made ready for a first flight in over three years. PK climbed aboard and fired up the engine and then another quick dash down to the 24 hold area. The Corsair took off without a problem but the starboard undercarriage doors would not close. A couple of lowish passes for the tower to confirm the problem and PK lowered the undercarriage and brought the aircraft in for a faultless landing.
The RV8tors, in their Vans aircraft , had flown in during the afternoon and with Alister Kay being one of the pilots speculation spread that one of the OFMC aircraft could be going flying. In glorious sunshine, the OFMC Spitfire was pushed outside for a brief spell and the P-51 ‘Ferocious Frankie’ was extracted and parked out on the airfield as it was going for a test flight later on. Unfortunately passing rain storms delayed that and it still hadn’t flown when I left on the last bus. It did fly early Sunday morning.
The photographs clearly show a broken linkage dangling below the starboard wheel. Both aircraft were to have made two flights each but alas as both test flights had highlighted problems it was back in the hangar with the corsair as well.
Despite the passing rain clouds, it was an excellent day out and I had to keep reminding my self that this was a Saturday as you only usually see this much war bird activity on a week day and it wasn’t over yet. While waiting at the 24 hold end to see if Frankie was going flying, the sound of a Merlin engine could be heard to the east and out of the darkening clouds, the ‘Grace’ two-seater Spitfire arrived with a run and break over the airfield before landing for a for a quick splash and dash. It managed to take off just as more rain hit the airfield.
As the bus drove the short distance from the M11 roundabout and down the A505 to the museum entrance, the first thing I noticed were the hangar doors to The Fighter Collection were partly open and then sitting out on the jet pan opposite the hangar was the Corsair and P-47 Thunderbolt with tractors and ground power units around them and TFC engineers in their blue overalls busily attending to the aircraft. All thoughts of Fusion photography were quickly forgotten. As I was unpacking my camera and changing the lens and all the settings, the longest lens I had with me was an 18-250mm, the Plane Sailing Catalina flew in from the north and then spent the next thirty minutes or so flying around doing circuits and bumps.