What ever sacrifices were made to appease the rain gods that Thursday evening, they certainly worked. There was a passing shower about an hour before the event started and as we were leaving at the end of the night shoot at 22.00hrs, the heavens opened up for about 10 minutes with a heavy downpour. Between then the sun put in an all to brief appearance before it slowly disappeared below the horizon but most of the time is was cloudy, bright and a bit cool.

RAF Northolt Night Shoot XI ~ 12th April 2012

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Photographs are in the order they were taken.

Unfortunately there were cancellations in the line up with the advertised pair of Belgian Alpha Jets not arriving and the Sea King having GPS problems and the Army Gazelle was operating late at its home base to be able to arrive at Northolt in time.  To partly make up for the absentees was a Dutch Royal Flight Fokker 70(PH-KBX) that was parked up at the back of the hard standing and added to the photo shoot. After an initial wander along the flight line, to photograph the aircraft in the setting sun and twilight conditions,  there was a bit of a pause for about half an hour while waiting for it to get dark enough for the artificial lighting to take effect. During this time a 32 Squadron BAE 146 arrived back at its home base and was parked on the pan at an angle and hooked up to a generator so all the lights could be on. This was closely followed by a black and yellow Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit Eurocopter EC145 helicopter which was parked right at the other end of the pan necessitating a rather long, brisk walk.  

Once it got really dark, the French helicopter crew were first to provide the evenings entertainment. They fired up the Turbomeca Arriel 2B Turboshaft engine of their Eurocopter Fennec and following pre-flight checks, proceeded to lift off and hover above their parking spot. I swear I could hear the multitude of camera mirrors slapping away above the sound the helicopter was making. Not to be outdone, the ground crew of the Irish Air Corps Agusta Westland AW139 prepared their helicopter and then the flight crew powered up the pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67C turbo shaft engines. The rotors turned but alas the wheels of the AW139 stayed firmly stuck to the ground for this run.

While waiting for the ‘Copper Chopper’ to depart at around 21.15, I believe that one of the French crews of one of the Alpha Jets did a bit of posing in front of their aircraft with their flying kit on and canopies open. The Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 turbo shaft engines of the EC145 powered up and then the police pilot hovered his helicopter just above head height before doing above his parking slot a 720 degree turn for the gathered photographers before departing into the darkness and back to base at Lippits Hill, Laughton. With the departure of the police helicopter and flying ceasing for the night, the pan was opened up to the photographers that were still about.

The Techie Bit


For the last Northolt Night Shoot, I used the ‘Hand Held Twilight Mode’ on my Sony A580 which being a camera function, I had no control over the camera settings. This time I was using my Sony SLT-A35, a mirror less camera, with the ‘High ISO Noise Reduction’ facility in which you have full control over the shutter/aperture/ISO settings. This works on the same principle as the Twilight Mode in that it takes a series of six rapid shots, which in the electronic view finder you can actually see moving around, and uses Image Averaging to reduce the picture noise level and colour artifacts at the same time micro-shuffling them so they line up.


Sony SLT-A35 Camera + Sony 16-105mm f3.5-5.6 Lens  

Aircraft in Attendance:


Eurocopter AS555 Fennec - Armée de l’ Air

Eurocopter EC145 - Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit, Lippits Hill, Laughton

Agusta-Westland AW139 - Irish Air Corps  

2 x Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet - ET 01.008 ‘Saintonge’, Cazaux. Armée de l’ Air

Fokker F70 - Royal Dutch Flight.

BAE 146 CC2 - 32 Squadron, Northolt

Augusta-Westland  AW109E - 32 Squadron, Northolt.