Just before mid-day on the 2nd May 2012, the first of four Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4’s from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire touch down at the former historic Battle of Britain airfield of RAF Northolt to become the first jet fighter aircraft to be operationally based at the west London airfield. With one aircraft from No 3 Squadron and the others from No 11 Squadron, they had arrived to take part in ‘Olympic Guardian‘, an eight-day exercise to test the logistics and tactics to be used by the three military services to defend UK land and airspace from possible terrorist attacks during the London Olympic and Paralympic Games that would be held during July through to September 2012.
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As it turned out, the torrential rain turned into a couple of light passing showers and the steady rain didn’t set in till about an hour before the end of the nigh shoot, but nothing torrential. With it being dry to start with it was a question of getting stock and record shots, especially of ZJ936/QO-C the 3 Sqn. Anniversary Typhoon, just in case the weather did go pear shaped later on. The doors to 4 hangar had been left open in case shelter was needed from the elements.
The weather was going to have a major effect on this photo shoot as the forecast predicted torrential rain setting in from late afternoon and remaining for most of the night. I was going to use my tripod and long exposure shots but instead decided to go hand held and use the High ISO Noise Reduction function on my Sony SLT-A35 as it would be easier to help keep the camera dry and be able to move around freely in the wet conditions.
At rest, the canards of the Typhoon droop and don’t look natural and due to some sensitivity towards the configuration of the engine intakes on the Typhoon, the red covers stayed on. Towards the end of the evening though the Typhoon ground crews moved out to the aircraft and straightened the canards and removed the covers although no one was allowed to take any photos from the front. Despite the rain, the canopy of ZJ824/DD was opened and the lights switched on which reflected nicely off the wet concrete.
Then came the point in the proceedings where everything seems to go flat photography wise. There’s not enough natural light to cast shadows and not dark enough for the artificial lighting to take effect. Time for a bacon butty or burger break with food and hot drinks provided, for a small financial outlay of course, by the catering staff in the Operations Building. After a toilet break and suitably fed and watered it was back out onto the ASP.
Philip Dawe, organiser of the Northolt Night Shoots, managed to pull off a bit of a coup when the exercise was completed in having three of the Typhoon’s, including the recently painted 3 Squadron 100th Anniversary aircraft, lined up on the aircraft servicing pan for a night photo shoot with a record number of 200+ aviation photographers in attendance. Our hosts for the evening, No 32 Squadron, had a pair of their Agusta 109 helicopters outside for what could be their last appearance at a night shoot before they are retired, along with one of their BAE 125‘s. Later on a Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit EC135 helicopter flew in for a short visit. Unfortunately the predicted wet weather forced the cancellation of the planned appearance of the BBMF Spitfire as well as a couple of Army helicopters from Middle Wallop.
Gp Cpt Tim O’Brien - Station Commander RAF Northolt, Phillip Dawe - Night Shoot Organiser, Flt Lt Matt Brown - Project Officer, Lee Barton + his helpers and the rest of the volunteers and staff at RAF Northolt, Service Personnel of No.3 & 11 Squadron’s, RAF Coningsby.
Sony Alpha SLT-A35 camera & Sony 16-105mm F3.5/5.6mm Lens.