Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

The last Vulcan display at Prestwick also had a hint of drama

I couldn’t make it to the display at Ayr, but it seems the real action took place at Prestwick, as I just learnt from this video I spotted.

The following description of events is quoted from the video owner:

On the 5th of September I went across to Prestwick to watch the Scottish Airshow 2015. Primarily I wanted to see the Vulcan one last time before she’s retired in the next month or so.
Having arrived at the airport we waited for the Vulcan XH558 with great anticipation.
Once we saw him over Ayr my excitement grew even more.
He called up Prestwick tower to do a flyover the airfield , then make a right hand turn to then land on runway 30.
However after he made that turn things seemed to go wrong. Rather than report final he then did a second flyover , and started entering orbits to the north of the airfield.
After it became clear he was having a nosewheel gear issue , a Spitfire of the BBMF called up and asked if there was anyway he could help by giving the vulcan an inspection from underneath the aircraft.
Once they had determined the Vulcans speed the spitfire confirmed that his nosewheel was not extended fully and that there was nothing blocking it from locking into place.
Following this the Vulcan entered into some very aggressive yawing , both left and right in an attempt to free whatever was holding the nosewheel back from extending and locking.
After some time they were successful and initiated a landing.
We were all waiting with bated breath, not knowing whether or not it had indeed fully locked into place.
Thankfully the landing went well, and as you can hear at the end of the video was great relief that everything had gone so well.
Praise must also go to the Spitfire pilot for taking the initiative in helping the crew of the Vulcan resolve the issue.

That brings back memories of the Prestwick Air Show (at the airport then) which had the drama of a World War II aircraft suffering a similar stuck undercarriage, which refused to be bumped loose, and eventually had to be ditched and lost in the sea off Turnberry, which was chosen as the beat way to ensure no other damage, and safe recovery of the pilot.

Thank goodness the Vulcan trip to Scotland did not end in similar fashion – although I suspect they might have ultimately dumped fuel and done a belly landing with the larger aircraft. This is the procedure I’ve seen in the past, on American aircraft of the same size in recent years.

It seems the crew would have been aware of the problem before arriving back at the airport.

Looking at this recording of the full display, it includes views of the usual lowering and raising of the undercarriage for some of the passes, and while I can’t be categoric of the full sequence having been captured, it is clear that the nosewheel is not fully forward in any of the shots:

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Aviation, Cold War, military | , , | 2 Comments

2015 Prestwick air show will be last chance to see the Vulcan fly

Britain’s last remaining flying V bomber, the Avro Vulcan, will be making it’s farewell visit to Scotland at the 2015 Scottish Airshow on 5th and 6th September.

As seen last year (2014):

For those not aware, XH558 returned to the air a few years ago, but was always on borrowed time as its components were nearing the end of their rated lives, and once reached, there were no new parts or spares left that would be airworthy, so the aircraft’s flying days were always numbered.

September 5th and 6th really are the last days to ever see this aircraft in Scottish skies.

The organisers of the Scottish Airshow have secured this unique aircraft and it will fly at beach front Ayr on Saturday 5th September then land at Glasgow Prestwick Airport. It will be the highlight of the Sunday Aircraft Exhibition where members of the public will be able to see it for one last time and even get up close to take photographs or talk to the flight crew.

Check here for any updates or changes closer to the event:

Scottish Airshow – Prestwick/Ayr 5th & 6th September 2015 | The Scottish Airshow – Prestwick International Airport

See also the Vulcan’s own web site for other opportunities if you are travelling around the country:

Displays / Tours – Vulcan To The Sky

Click on the image below to see a gallery of Vulcan images from over the years, assembled by those nice people at Gizmodo:

Vulcan Farewell

Vulcan Farewell from Gizmodo

July 7, 2015 Posted by | Aviation, Cold War | , , , | Leave a comment

7th Annual Space Auction includes MacBean Scottish connection

While reviewing the list of items on offer in the 7th Bonhams Space History Sale (and coming to the conclusion that I would not be bidding – even a washer that made it into space was not going to meet my budget, at an estimated £470-610), I was intrigued to see that Scottish heritage was being claimed by one of the astronauts, with an artefact from the Apollo 11 mission:

CLAN MACBEAN ARRIVES ON THE MOON
TARTAN CLOTH FLOWN ON INTREPID TO THE LUNAR SURFACE
FLOWN Cloth, woolen MacBean tartan, 8 x 5 inches. With an Autograph Letter Signed by ALAN BEAN on his personal illustrated letterhead.

INSCRIBED and SIGNED “ALAN L. BEAN / Flown to the Moon / Nov ’69“.

ALAN BEAN’s handwritten provenance letter reads: “I hereby certify that the accompanying MacBean tartan cloth travelled with me to the moon in our command module, Yankee Clipper. I then transferred the tartan to our lunar module Intrepid for descent to the lunar surface. The tartan remained in the lunar module during our 33 hour stay on the Ocean of Storms and was then returned to Earth.

The Macbeans are a 700 year old clan. According to family lore, one of Alan Bean’s ancestors, John MacBean, was exiled to New England in 1652 following his support for the Scottish King Charles II against Cromwell.

My apologies in advance for any spelling errors in the clan name, but I have, as always, quoted the source material as given, and it includes two variants, so I cannot tell which one is the intended correct version in this instance.

I would assume MacBean, but cannot be sure.

Clan MacBean Tartan

Credit: Bonhams – Clan MacBean Tartan

April 15, 2015 Posted by | Aviation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drama as helicopter lifts casualty from Wallace Monument

I’m always a sucker for a good helicopter story, so today’s incident at Stirling’s Wallace Monument can’t pass without mention.

Oddly, the Wallace Monument is one of those places I’ve passed hundreds of times, yet never stopped to visit – even when passing the entrance road at the bottom of the hill.

In this case, it’s reported that a teenager was four steps from the top, 67 m up and at the end of 246 steps, when a dislocated knee ended the climb, and made the return trip by the same route… unlikely.

An RAF Sea King rescue helicopter based at Lossiemouth was called in to winch the victim off the 1869 tower, and to hospital.

Helicopter rescue on Wallace Monument after person dislocates knee | Stirling & Central | News

Teenager airlifted from Wallace Monument near Stirling – BBC News

The BBC News article carried this pic credited to Les Calderwood:

Wallace Monument Helicopter Rescue

Wallace Monument Helicopter Rescue

March 15, 2015 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Photo surprises still appear

While I was never fully attracted into the world of film photography (too much fiddling with chemicals and fear of poisoning myself, no matter how careful), I was always impressed with what could be done in the darkroom (by someone who knew better), and the sort of surprises that could be pulled out of shots, from areas where there was apparently nothing to be seen – to the untrained eye at least.

I tend to think this no longer applies in the world of digital, not because it can’t be done, but because it can be seen as ordinary and needing little effort. Studying Photo

shop (or rather its various and more reasonably priced clones) can provide a handy reminder that knowledge of appropriate techniques, and the application of appropriate filter layers, can achieve much the same as a ‘wet’ darkroom, and with a lot more safety (ok, this is maybe only important to me.)

I was running a series of long exposure trials during some nice evening light, after spotting a clear dusk sky with some contrails crossing below a bright Moon. The real reason was to see how the extended exposure affected the sharpness of the final result when the ISO was fixed at 100 ASA (which is of no interest here), but was interrupted when a low flying jet passed through one of the shots.

At first glance, the shot didn’t appear to have seen the aircraft, which was no great surprise, but more intriguing was the apparent absence of the aircraft’s lights or strobes, which I expect the long exposure to have caught, if not as light trails, then at least as light spots.

The untouched capture is shown below (not the original though – this one is reduced for the blog), and while it took a moment or two, I did eventually spot the aircraft lights – they can just be spotted in the upper right quadrant of the image (but they are just splodges in this blog version of the original). A star is more noticeable, below and to the right of the Moon – but then again, it’s not moving, so delivers more light to the spot.

Moon and contrails

Moon and contrails

Curious about what was recorded of the aircraft, or its lighting, I tried some extreme post-processing just to find out what might have been caught, and was intrigued to find not only the strobes, but also the coloured marker or navigation lights could be seen.

The push-processing might make for  horrible image (I’ve spared you the whole scene, and just clipped out the section with the lights), but it does show that even digital image sensors – which some people like to criticise as having no sensitivity – do catch detail that can be recovered. And if need be, rendered useful if enough time is spent fettling them. But that’s not justified in this case, which was just to satisfy a little curiosity.

Plane track

Plane track

March 24, 2014 Posted by | Aviation, photography | , | Leave a comment

Glenrothes Aeromodelling Club static event at Kingdom Shopping Centre

Aircraft plan view

A static exhibition is planned by the Glenrothes Aeromodelling Club for Saturday, March 15, 2014, at at Lyon Square in the town’s Kingdom Shopping Centre.

Club members will be joined by friends from other clubs in the area, including Dunfermline, Balbedie, and Kinross, and will be displaying their model aircraft at the special event in the Centre.

The Glenrothes Club was formed in 1960, and has consistently had a healthy membership within the town.

Currently they have more than 60 regular members who attend events across the region.

The Glenrothes club is highly respected amongst the aeromodelling fraternity, and boasts a wealth of facilities including its own clubhouse and five-acre flying site with runway.

Via Glenrothes models take to the skies! – Fife Today

Fife Today might have been just a little over enthusiastic with their headline, since this is a static display.

It seems this is first time this sort of display has been organised for some years.

Although it’s years since I was last there, I was at the club site and enjoyed the flying displays they put on at the fairly numerous events held there.

Find out more on their own web site:

Home – Glenrothes Aeromodelling Club

March 8, 2014 Posted by | Aviation | , , | Leave a comment

Last Nimrod named after the Duke of Edinburgh

After following the demise of the Nimrod replacement project, and then the withdrawal of the last operational Nimrod aircraft from their base in the north of Scotland, I thought all had been scrapped or disposed of in some less than desirable way.

I was, therefore, pleased to read that the last surviving Nimrod aircraft from RAF Kinloss – saved from the scrapheap after the fleet was withdrawn from service – had been formally named ‘Duke of Edinburgh’.

The XV244, which had flown out of the Scottish base since 1970 before the reconnaissance planes were disbanded in 2010, was purchased by a charitable organisation called Morayvia, set up to establish an aerospace centre in the north of Scotland.

A naming ceremony was hosted at Kinloss Barracks today and will now preserve a Royal connection to Moray’s aviation history.

Prince Philip, a supporter of a Scottish aviation museum, agreed to allow his name and heraldic standard to be displayed on the aircraft that Morayvia hopes will become the showpiece attraction in a future visitor centre.

The XV24 has a long and distinguished flying career, entering service with the RAF on November 6, 1970, as the eighth Nimrod to be delivered to the base. It was involved in numerous rescue operations, including the Piper Alpha disaster, and flew thousands of hours during its service.

Morayvia formed in July 2011 to save the last Nimrod in Moray from being scrapped when the Kinloss base was shut by the Ministry of Defence in 2010.

Granted charitable status by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator in January 2012, the group

purchased XV244 from the Disposal Servces Agency in February.

Funds were raised from donations made by BAE Systems, Thales, Ultra, Rolls-Royce, and The Maritime Air Trust, as well as from individual Morayvia members.

The group also secured the front 40ft of Nimrod XV240, the former gate guardian, with a view to it forming a mobile exhibit to generate interest and income for its centre.

In 2013, the group were loaned 2 further cockpits, a Jet Provost T4 and Vampire T11, also on trailers and again attended a number of events to raise funds and awareness, venturing as far afield as RAF Waddington.

Via Last RAF Kinloss Nimrod named ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ – The Scotsman

The Nimrod was Britain’s maritime reconnaissance aircraft for some 40 years, but the aircraft flew for the last time almost four years ago, then plans to replace the type were scrapped under the UK Government’s strategic defence review, as were the aircraft being developed.

The Morayvia project is now hoping XV244 will take pride of place in its plans for a museum of flight in Moray. A temporary site has been leased from the council on the grounds of an old school, but the groups aim to secure a permanent site.

Morayvia charity given royal seal of approval in Nimrod ceremony | Aberdeen & North | News | STV

See also:

Homepage | morayvia.org.uk – Moray’s Aerospace Experience

I had a hunt for a royalty/copyright free image of the original, but came up empty, so this is an MR2 captured at Duxford in 2004. I have a liking for aircraft with their engines hidden in the wing root (as opposed to the more convenient pylon), and this version has more attractive inlets than the later MR4 variant, being elliptical rather than round.

January 15, 2014 Posted by | Aviation, Cold War, military, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Quiet Clutha

It’s been a week since events saw a total of nine fatalities and more than thirty injured result from the crash of a helicopter on the roof of a Glasgow pub – the dead included all three on board the helicopter.

While there has been praise for those involved, it’s sad to note that one individual has been fined for comments made online after the event (and others may be pending), and one media commentator apologised after making a joke which referred to the crash.

The end of the week also saw a visit to the site by Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay,  who also went on to meet some of the survivors nearby.

I didn’t know about this visit until later that day, as I had decided to take a trip in to see the site for myself. While I’ve not been there for a while, the area used be one I visited frequently. As an aside, ever since the advent of practical radio-controlled model helicopters (I don’t mean the toys we’ve seen arrive in past few years, or quadrotor drones), I’ve never lost interest in them, as the models follow the full-size so closely in design and operation.

The area was notably quiet, almost silent, which was eerie, since it usually very busy with traffic and people hurrying about their business. Temporarily, all streets are cordoned off to traffic, and few people were walking along them, although only the street running past the Clutha was closed to pedestrians.

I collected a few pics to mark the event, but in reality, with the police cordon around the Clutha, and the fact that this was an event that took place on a roof, there wasn’t really that much for someone without access to see. The only notable feature was a temporary structure place over the hole in the roof.

Clutha crash site

Clutha crash site

Notably, the area that had once been the car park for the RNVR Carrick had been set aside for those who wished to leave a floral tribute.

Clutha tributes

Clutha tributes

December 6, 2013 Posted by | Aviation, Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quiet sky

It’s been a little odd for past couple of days/night, as the sky over the east end of Glasgow has become rather quiet and empty.

Today, Sunday, the full effects of the past day’s events are coming to light as the victims are named:

Glasgow helicopter crash: Victims named

You’ll find much more coverage online, as this became a major incident, with prime coverage around the world. I actually first learned of it while watching Russia Today, when it flashed up on the screen shortly after the event, and this morning, the story was injected in a stream of ‘Old Time Radio’ which I often listen to online, and that’s not even current content, being radio plays from as far back as the 1920s.

The site of this incident is a place I have stood at on many occasions, but never at that time of night.

Just as I started writing, I heard the sound of a helicopter approaching, and went for a look. Not one I recall seeing before, it appeared to be completely white, but moving away meant its details could not be seen. However, its passing and served to highlight the absence of the police helicopter.

It’s often only when something you have become used to disappears that you tend to notice it, and the sight and sound of the police helicopter was pretty much constant over the east end. I was used to it, sometimes quite close, but never close enough for a good pic. It was always moving away by the time I collected a suitable camera and lens.

At night, my wanderings to the shops also meant seeing its lights in the air, as the round trip means a walk of up 2 hours, during which it was often a regular sight.

Seen a few weeks ago, passing over the east end:

Police Helicopter Glasgow

Police Helicopter G-SPAO Glasgow

December 1, 2013 Posted by | Aviation, Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wing Commander Ken Wallis has quietly passed away, aged 97

It was with some sadness that I misunderstood a recent headline along the lines of Autogyro legend Ken Wallis hangs up wings at 97, and took the wording to be literal, and thought it merely meant that at 97, he had given up flying.

However, this was not the case as I read on, and realised I was reading his obituary.

I can’t help but feel that he will have passed away with at least some disappointment, as the autogyro has never become widely accepted or become anything more than a novelty in modern aviation.

Despite its simplicity and reliability, and – for something that flies and carries passengers – and relative safety, it has been sidelined by more attractive and costly alternatives. Even when things do go wrong, the resultant prangs are often less severe than would be the case with a conventional aircraft, a fact attested to by Wallis’s own record, as he did manage to make unplanned flights into the ground, and as I recall, blamed his own abilities rather than any failure on the part of his aircraft.

I wonder if the little autogyro has been a victim of its own simplicity – of no interest to large companies and corporations, or those chasing military budgets and funding – simply because any developments based on the device would not attract millions, or billions, of handouts, funding, and investment.

Wing Commander Ken Wallis, who soared to international fame at the controls of James Bond’s Little Nellie, has died at the age of 97.

A former RAF Wellington bomber pilot, he set the 3 km speed record for autogyros (207.7 kmh), and probably became best known to the general public as the pilot of Little Nellie, 007’s autogyro in You Only Live Twice, of which he commented  “I think it was a good film. People say it must have been fun to film but it was 85 flights and 46 hours in the air to make seven minutes on screen.” Yes, it’s true, neither James Bond nor Sean Connery was at the controls for those memorable scenes where the brave little autogyro took down Blofeld’s big bad helicopters as they tried to kill our hero.

Born on April 16, 1916 in Ely, Cambridgeshire. By age 11, he started building his first motorbike in the garden shed, then graduated to a homebuilt Flying Flea. He started RAF duties at the controls of the Westland Lysander, and moved on to the Vickers Wellington. During the Cold War he was seconded to the US Air Force for two years, where he flew nuclear-armed Convair B-36 Peacemakers. However, it seems it was his interest in the Fairey RotoDyne and Bensen B-7 “Gyro-Glider” ultimately led him to design an autogyro rotor head that allowed accurate blade pitch control without the risk of the aircraft cutting off its own tail.

That design is probably why I see a number of stories that wrongly credit Wallis as the inventor of the autogyro, but even at 97, he’s still not old enough to carry off that distinction. That belongs to Juan de la Cierva y Codorníu, 1st Count of De La Cierva (born September 21,1895). A Spanish civil engineer, pilot, and aeronautical engineer who came up with his single rotor Autogiro 1920, although he had to develop the articulated rotor before it really worked properly, which resulted in the world’s first successful flight of a stable rotary-wing aircraft, his C.4 prototype, in 1923.

The world is a slightly emptier place with his passing, as I consider him to be one of the last true celebrities (unlike the disposable rubbish promoted on TV on a weekly basis.)

Wing Commander Kenneth Horatio Wallis MBE, DEng, CEng, FRAeS, FSETP, PhD, RAF (Ret’d) died peacefully in his sleep on September 1 2013.

This was him two years ago, still getting into the air at 95 – and he still can’t resist showing how the thing ‘flies itself’ as he takes both his hand and feet off the controls:

He wasn’t just clever with autogyros:

No, I’m not leaving this out:

September 8, 2013 Posted by | Aviation | , , | Leave a comment

UAV flights in Scotland 2003-2013

I received an odd nudge to go look at Hansard for July 18, 2013, “You might see something interesting.”

Being a glutton for punishment, I duly trawled through a number of pages, fought off the urge to fall asleep, then came across a question on UAVs, which I guess was where I was supposed to look.

The question was asked of the UK, but this includes Scotland, so we got our little bit of info from the same pot:

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Gillingham and Rainham of 15 May 2013, Official Report, column 221W, on unmanned aerial vehicles, on how many occasions flights of unmanned aerial vehicles have taken place in each of his Department’s reserved airspace areas within the UK in each of the last 10 years; what the purpose of each such flight was; and what type of unmanned aerial vehicle was flown on each such occasion. [R] [166283]

The reply was fairly comprehensive, as follows (I’ve highlighted the relevant line):

Mr Robathan: Available information on the number and location of flights of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), either on the military register or operating under a military flight test permit, in each of the last 10 years, is provided in the following table:

UAV type Number of flights Location Purpose
2003-06 Phoenix (1) (1) (1)
2004 Buster (2) Larkhill Trials
2006 Scan Eagle 22 Hebrides Range Capability Demonstration
2009 Desert Hawk III 126 Salisbury Plain Trials and Training
2010 Desert Hawk III 184 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training and conversion to Role
Watchkeeper 11 West Wales Airport Trials
2011 Desert Hawk III 564 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training
Watchkeeper 83 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Tarantula-Hawk 3 Thorney Island Training
2012 Desert Hawk III 1,180 Salisbury Plain Training
Watchkeeper 129 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Tarantula-Hawk 11 Thorney Island Training
Scan Eagle 5 South Coast Exercise Area Trials
2013 Desert Hawk III 555 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training
Watchkeeper 6 West Wales Airport French Army Training
Watchkeeper 77 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Black Hornet (3)n/a Lydd Camp, Lossiemouth, Salisbury Plain(4) Training

(1) The Phoenix Unmanned Air System, which retired from service in 2006, was flown in UK airspace. Records of the number, location and purpose of Phoenix sorties are no longer centrally available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. (2) Records of the number of Buster sorties are no longer centrally available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. (3) Because of the way Black Hornet is used the number of sorties and flying hours are not recorded. (4) The locations identified are the primary areas in which Black Hornet has been operated. Because of the weight and size of the air vehicle and the height at which it operates, under Military Aviation Authority regulations there is no requirement to limit flights to segregated airspace.

Via House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 18 July 2013 (pt 0007)

Of 2,948 recorded flights (certain types were not recorded) , only 22 took place on the Hebrides Range, and those were class as Capability Demonstration flights.

ScanEagle

The UAV type is given as the Boeing ScanEagle (there is no space in the name, incorrectly shown in the Hansard table). The Royal Navy received its first unmanned ‘eye in the sky’ in a £30 million contract with Boeing to supply the ScanEagle reconnaissance aircraft. Built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing Defence UK Limited, the ScanEagle is the first maritime-specific unmanned air system capability to be delivered in support of naval operations. The pilotless plane has been used by the US Navy over the past decade and has been trialled by the Royal Navy, aboard frigate HMS Sutherland back in 2006.

ScanEagle has a wingspan of just over 3 metres (10 ft), a weight of 22 kg (48 lb), and is launched from a pneumatic catapult.

ScanEagle Launch

ScanEagle Launch – Boeing image via MoD web site

The UAV flies at about 60 knots and is piloted by a specialist team on board the ship who plan its missions, control its flights, and monitor and analyse the information it gathers using its sensors, which includes a video or infra-red camera. Data is transmitted to the team, including real-time high-resolution images, via a satellite link.

ScanEagle

ScanEagle – Boeing image via MoD web site

It can remain airborne some 15 to 18 hours at distances of more than 70 miles from the mother ship. Boeing information on their web site indicates that later designs will substantially increase these figures.

ScanEagle

ScanEagle – Boeing image via MoD web site

Once the mission has been completed, the UAV returns to the ship where it is captured by being flown into a cable hung vertically from an extendible arm, and is caught by hooks located at the end of each wing. It is then grappled by a recovery device and lifted on board.

ScanEagle Recovery

ScanEagle Recovery – Boeing image via MoD web site

September 6, 2013 Posted by | Aviation, military, Naval, Surveillance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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