More about B-29s in the CBI

I had a very interesting email at the weekend about B-29 operations in the China / Burma / India theater (aka the CBI) which also tied into the case of a very specific B-29 (B-29-15-BW 42-6358 Ding How of the 794 BS / 468th Bomb Group) which I had blogged about previously.

B-29-15-BW 42-6358 “Ding How"

B-29-15-BW 42-6358 “Ding How” of the 794 BS / 468th Bomb Group, while still in service with the USAAF in China. This photograph taken before November 21, 1944 when the aircraft failed to return from a raid and force-landed in Vladivostok, USSR.

Andrea Ding-Kemp emailed me and said that her husband’s grandfather, James E. Kemp, flew B-29s in China in the 1940s and used to say “Ding Hao” a lot when he was alive.  Was he in some way associated with the B-29 called Ding How ?

Andrea sent me a couple of pictures including James E. Kemp’s USAAF aircrew ID card and a picture of a piece of enemy metal which apparently hit his seat during combat operations.  She also told me that he was part of the crew of two B-29s, named Lucky Seven and The Craig Comet.

It only took a couple of minutes searching on Google to find that 1st Lieutenant James E Kemp was in fact assigned to the 794 Bomb Squadron, 468th Bomb Group. Their pilot was Capt. Harold Estey, so they were known as the Estey crew.

42-6407 Lucky Seven was one of the very early build Superfortresses, a B-29-20-BW built by Boeing in Wichita, KS.  She was assigned to the to the 795th Bomb Squadron, but was re-assigned to the 794th when the former squadron was deactivated in October 1944 due to shortages in equipment.  Lucky Seven was declared “war weary” (not able to continue war operations) on January 11th, 1945 and returned to the Zone of the Interior (United States).    I looked up her serial number on Joe Baugher’s website http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/usafserials.html and found one additional piece of information.  Lucky Seven was scrapped on December 21st, 1949 at Pyote Air Force Base, Texas.

42-63445 The Craig Comet was a B-29-15-BA built by Bell in Atlanta, GA.  I was amazed to find that a photo of the aircraft and the Estey crew appears in the Wikipedia page for the 468th Bomb Group.

 B-29

Captain Harold Estey and crew of B-29 “The Craig Comet” of the 794th Bomb Squadron,  468th Bomb Group. Co-Pilot James E. Kemp is in the back row on the left of this group. (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Estey crew flew from Kharagpur Airfield in India (they were the first crew to arrive there) and also flew from the prosaically named Field A-7 at Pengshan, (Szechwan Province) China.    Click here for a list of missions flown by the 58th Bomb Wing (which included the 468th Bomb Group).    When flying operationally from Pengshan,  itself 1200 miles from Kharagpur, the first task of the B-29s was to haul their own operational fuel supplies, bombs, ammunition, and other necessities over the Himalayas (the ‘Hump’).   ‘Hump’ missions were symbolized by a camel painted on the nose of each aircraft that carried them out. Two such camels are visible on the nose of The Craig Comet at the time this picture was taken, as well as 11 bomb symbols indicating 11 operational missions for the aircraft.

The 468th Bomb Group website (http://www.468thbombgroup.org) contains a potted history of the Estey crew, which it seems was supplied by James E. Kemp himself in 2007. Estey’s crew did not transfer to Tinian when the 58th Bomb Wing moved en masse to the Marianas in the Spring of 1945. A commentator on the 468th site speculates that the crew had amassed more “hump” and combat hours  than any other crew and so they were rotated home from India in May 1945.  The Craig Comet soldiered on briefly in her new home.  She was badly damaged in a raid on May 1945 and crashed on landing at West Field, Tinian.

There is little doubt in my mind that James E. Kemp  knew, or knew of the B-29 named Ding How in the 794th Bomb Squadron. I am sure he would have been aware of its loss and forced landing in the Soviet Union since he was operational in the same squadron at the same time.

I must mention also that James E. Kemp’s USAAF ID card listed his birth date as being at the end of August 1918, so it seems fitting that my first blog post of August 2018 should in some way connect with and honor the centenary year of the late veteran.  James Edward Kemp, a Pearl Harbor veteran,  served in the USAAF and later USAF from 1940 to 1962, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

 

 

 

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Joyce Green – A Passing Shadow

“To use this waterlogged field for testing every now and then was reasonable and to take advantage of it as an emergency landing ground for Home Defence forces was credible, but to employ it as a flying training station was folly and as a Camel training station was lunacy.”
(Arthur S. Gould Lee,  Open Cockpit: A Pilot of the Royal Flying Corps. London: Jerrolds, 1969).

RAF Joyce Green Aerodrome 1917

Aerial view of RAF Joyce Green Aerodrome (6th Wing) taken on 31 Aug 1917. IWM Catalogue number Q 111411 By NASH A T (FLYING OFFICER) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m always known as a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles, and especially when researching the snippets that make up this blog.  While researching another forthcoming article I saw a reference to RFC Joyce Green, near Dartford, Kent

When I was writing the piece about the Barnwell brothers (https://airbornerambler.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/connections/)  I noted that that Harold Barnwell was killed at Joyce Green flying the prototype Vickers Vampire night fighter in August 1917.   Vickers’ association with Joyce Green goes back to 1910 when they unsuccessfully attempted a test flight of a machine built in Crayford in association with Hiram Maxim.    Maxim left  the enterprise, but Vickers established an Aviation Department at Joyce Green in 1911, testing aircraft built in their Bexleyheath, Crayford, Erith, and Dartford factories.

Vickers FB.5 Gunbus flying replica

Vickers FB.5 Gunbus flying replica G-ATVP, painted as 2345 of the Royal Flying Corps, at Yeovilton in 1966 RuthAS (Own work) CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

After the outbreak of war in 1914, Joyce Green assumed a role in the air defense of London from bombing raids by Zeppelins. The airfield’s first occupants under No. 6 Wing were No. 10 (Reserve) Squadron, using a mixed bag of aircraft including Farmans, Vickers FB5s and FB9s, DH2s and FE8s. The role of this unit was to receive pupils from preliminary training schools for final training for their wings. Each course consisted of about 20 pupils and lasted two or three weeks. This included time spent at Lydd where aerial gunnery was practiced at the Hythe range. On gaining their wings the young pilots would get a 48-hour pass before being posted to the Front.

On Christmas Day 1914, 2nd Lt M. R. Chidson, Royal Garrison Artillery, (Pilot) and Corporal Martin (Gunner) in an FB.5 flying from Joyce Green pursued a German Friedrichshafen FF.29 seaplane of the Imperial German Navy based at Zeebrugge in Belgium. Unfortunately the FB.5s gun jammed over Purfleet, leaving the German free to drop two bombs on Cliffe railway station in Kent. Other ‘Gunbus’ sorties were mounted from Joyce Green following the Zeppelin roads of January 1915.

In October 1915  the station put up five aircraft against Zeppelins L13, L14, L15, and L16; two would land safely after the action.  2nd Lt Claude Ridley took off from Joyce Green in a BE2c and spotted the airship for a brief moment in searchlights. He fired off 20 rounds at extreme range but then lost sight of the airship.

One noteworthy arrival at Joyce Green was James Thomas Byford McCudden VC DSO (and Bar), MC (and Bar), Croix de Guerre, who came in March 1917 to take up the appointment of Wing Fighting Instructor, to instruct advanced students (including a certain M. Mannock) on combat techniques.  McCudden’s view of Joyce Green was that it was:

“a quiet spot near Dartford, and the aerodrome is considered a good one, although it is below the level of the Thames which flows past the aerodrome, and the ground is a little spongy”
(Flying Fury, Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps, 1930)

Although the field was used operationally, it had many factors weighing against it. Arthur S Gould Lee went on to say:

“A pupil taking off with a choked or failing engine had to choose, according to wind direction, between drowning in the Thames (half a mile wide at this point), or crashing into the Vickers TNT works, or hitting one of their several high chimney stacks, or sinking into a vast sewage farm, or killing himself and numerous patients in a large isolation hospital, or being electrocuted in an electrical substation with acres of pylons and cables; or trying to turn and get back to the aerodrome. Unfortunately, many pupils confronted with disaster tried the last course and span to their deaths”
(Open Cockpit: A Pilot of the Royal Flying Corps)

McCudden’s mild opinion notwithstanding, the reputation of the field as a dangerous place for flying caused the RFC to search for other airfields south of London. Their search led them to a farmer’s field close to the village of Biggin Hill, and all flying was moved to the new Biggin Hill station by 1917.

RFC wireless testing was carried out at Joyce Green from 1915, following a lingering demarcation dispute between the Royal Engineers and the RFC  caused by the latter’s takeover of the Marconi facilities at Brooklands (Surrey) in 1914.  Wireless testing for the RFC had previously been under the authority of the Royal Engineers. It was deemed necessary to separate the staff of the two organizations, the Engineers being sent to Woolwich while the RFC relocated to Joyce Green.

Interestingly the airfield hosted some of the earliest elements of the US Army Air Service to arrive in Europe. Three flights of the 8th Aero Squadron arrived at the end of 1917 and were dispersed. It seems that pilots were attached to British units for further training.  Ground crews were attached to British training units to learn maintenance procedures. Ground crews from the 149th Aero Squadron were apparently at Joyce Green in May 1918.

Vickers continued test flying from Joyce Green. The prototype FB.27 “Vimy” was built at Crayford , taken by road and re-assembled at Joyce Green for test flying.

A dismantled Vickers Vimy on its way to Joyce Green

A dismantled Vickers FB.27 “Vimy” on its way to Joyce Green for reassembly and test flying, photographed outside “The Bear and Ragged Staff” Public House, London Road, Crayford.  Date unknown, circa 1917.  Readers may be interested to know that the pub still exists as of July 2018.  (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The map below gives some idea of the general topography and salient features of the area around Joyce Green. The location of the airfield is (I assume) at the top of the dark green stripe in this Google image.  the former Joyce Green Hospital (demolished in 2000) is at the right-hand edge of the dark green strip on the banks of the Thames, (sadly) close to the sewage treatment works mentioned by Arthur Gould Lee.

Area Surrounding RFC Joyce Green

Area Surrounding Site of RFC Joyce Green, screen grab from Google Map

I never was much of a local historian until now, and since I’m 4500 miles away there’s only so much I can do, but the locality is full of history and the story of the airfield is given in a little more detail at its Wikipedia page.  As with most little things which piques my interest there is a lot more to the story once you start digging.  At this point it seems the sensible thing to do is to show my enthusiasm and let yours (my handful of readers) take it from there.   It is interesting to think that without Joyce Green, there may have been no Biggin Hill, which may have caused a small change in British military aviation history as we know it.

Scale

I’m doing a little bit of pictorial research for a forthcoming article, and riffling through Wikimedia Commons I found this. I think we have all seen the pictures of Stirlings towering over crews as they walk out to them, but this picture of a 149 Squadron Stirling brings home the sheer size of the RAF’s first four-engined bomber.  The serial is partially obscured,  but I think this is Austin-built W7462 being pushed out for service at (probably) RAF Lakenheath, The picture metadata gives the date as 31st December 1941. There is evidence of censorship on the image (under the belly of the aircraft,  in front of and above the crew members pushing on the port main wheel) so as to obscure any buildings in the background which might identify the base.

Short Stirling

Royal Air Force ground staff pushing a 149 Squadron Stirling Mk.I  W7462 “OJ-T” out for overhaul. (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

I searched the squadron codes and serial number, and found a little bit more information.  It would appear that W7462 met its end approximately a month after the picture was taken, probably in the early hours of 30th January 1942. The aircraft was returning to Lossiemouth, Scotland from an operational flight to Ofotfjord, Norway. On landing at Lossiemouth, the aircraft skidded on the icy runway and ran into a ditch, resulting the the collapse of the undercarriage. The aircraft was not repaired and is listed as a loss. There were, happily no fatalities.

The pilot of W7462 on this occasion was Flight Lieutenant R. W. .A Turtle, and the crew consisted of Pilot Officer D. L. Atkinson, Sergeant Collins, Sergeant Bowman, Sergeant J. D. Burnley, Sergeant Hanna, and Sergeant Smith.

Just Watch

Since I’ve been gathering a bit more information for the ‘Joplin Jalopy’ blog I was idly image searching this afternoon.  I just found out about the Convair Model 39/104/R2Y “Liberator Liner”  and was just looking at some PB4Y-2 Privateer things when I saw some footage of a Privateer performing at Chino  in 2017.   Then I found some footage of the same Privateer (It’s the world’s only airworthy PB4Y-2 in any case)  at Chino a couple of weeks ago on May 5.  I pressed the “play” button and let my jaw drop.   I saw things flying past I never dreamed I’d see. So I had to share the video with you – it’s at the bottom of this post.

I was looking for this, having seen some YouTube footage of it being displayed in 2017:

PB4Y-2 Privateer

PB4Y-2 Privateer BuNo66302 N2871G By FlugKerl2 (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons

I didn’t expect to see this, mostly because I didn’t know it even existed, much less was airworthy

Seversky AT-12 Guardsman

Seversky AT-12 Guardsman ‘NX55539’ (41-17529) c/n 483-38. Saw service with the El Salvadorian Air Force as ‘YS-114’. This is the sole surviving AT-12. It is maintained in airworthy condition and occasionally flown. Seen on display in the Maloney hangar at the Planes of Fame Museum, Chino, California, USA. Feb 2016 (Photo by Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK – CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

And neither did I expect to see it flying in formation with this:

Boeing P-26A Peashooter

Boeing P-26A Peashooter ’33-123 / 23’ (NX3378G) c/n 1899. Saw service with the Guatemalan Air Force as ‘FAG-43’. This is the only airworthy example of the type and is on display in the Maloney hangar at the Planes of Fame Museum, Chino, California, USA. Feb 2016. (Photo by Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Well, enough of this teasing. There is a lot more in the video.  I may have a few more things to say later.   Personally I wasn’t keen on the music for the slo-mo sequences which start about half way through, but that’s an issue of personal taste and my own hearing.

CFM-56 – Politics, Exports and More.

I was wondering whether to blog anything about the CFM-56 engine following its recent appearance in the news headlines.  The media coverage following the in-flight failure of an engine on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 on April 17, 2018 dredged up several stories going back through the years, one of which piqued my attention and made me want to fill in some of the gaps in the narrative.   I have no doubt my teaching inclination influences my thinking, but the back story of one of the more common jet engines is a lot more interesting than I had imagined.

The CFM-56 is also known by its military designation F108 (I had no idea about this – I need to look at the F101 and F110 too to clarify which is which) and is joint project of Safran (formerly Snecma) and GE Aviation under the name CFMI (CFM International).  According to its Wikipedia page, the CFM-56 one of the most common turbofan engines in the world, with 30,000 units built by July 2016.

The project might have met an early (one might say premature) demise which was not of its own making. The first example ran in June 1974,  but for the next five years there were no orders for the engine. Two things saved the CFM-56. Firstly,  a contract with several American operators of the DC-8 to re-engine their aircraft, and secondly the decision by the US Air Force to re-engine the KC-135 fleet.

The origins of the CFM-56 are truly mundane and can be traced to two men meeting in Paris.  Gerhard Neumann from General Electric (GE) and René Ravaud from Snecma introduced themselves to each other at the 1971 Paris Air Show. In the 1970s GE and Snecma saw some potential in collaboration to rival Pratt & Whitney, and a partnership was born. I didn’t know this, but Snecma (Société nationale d’études et de construction de moteurs d’aviation) is the result of the nationalization of the Gnome & Rhône aero engine company in 1945.  Snecma and Sagem SA merged in 2005 to create the Safran Group, but I’m getting ahead of the narrative

US President Nixon and French President George Pompidou

Lobbying at the highest level.  US President Richard Nixon and French President Georges Pompidou prior to the U.S – French summit conference in Reykjavik, Iceland on 31 May – 1 June  1973, at which the production and export of the CFM-56 was discussed.  (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The politics behind the partnership and the marketing of the engine may be one of the reasons why no-one ordered any of them in the first few years. GE’s application for an export license was denied on national security grounds by Henry Kissinger in 1972. Lobbying continued at the very highest level,  and the matter appeared on the agenda of the US-French summit between Richard Nixon and Georges Pompidou in Reykjavik on May 31 – June 1 1973.  Chronologically this is a rather fascinating time in the former US president’s career.  A month previously, on April 30, Nixon had announced the resignations of H.R Haldemann, John Ehrlichmann and Richard Kleindienst, and the firing of John Dean. By the end of June 1973 a Gallup Poll found that 98 percent of Americans had “heard about” Watergate.

It would appear that the diplomacy involved with “French-made” engines involved GE sending engine cores from its plant in Ohio to the Snecma plant in France, at which point American GE technicians would mount the French components to the cores, and would release the engine for finishing. I assume that nothing as convoluted as this happened with American engines assembled in Ohio. The strict controls were related to the fact that the engine core for the CFM-56 was also being used in the development of the B-1 and thus was a fairly sensitive national security issue for the United States.

Orders for the CFM-56 started to come when aggressive marketing resulted in the contract to re-engine the DC-8 for three US Airlines (Delta, United and Flying Tiger). Boeing was prepared to offer a CFM-56 powered 707 named the 707-700, but no civilian orders were forthcoming. The research on the 707-700 project (and the prototype itself)  did however convince the US Air Force of the viability of the CFM-56.  The USAF promptly ditched the allegedly dirty and inefficient Pratt and Whitney J57 from the KC-135 fleet and replaced it with the CFM-56, calling the new type the KC-135R.

Boeing later announced that a CFM-56 would power the 737-300 series airliner.  Some re-design work  was necessary to accommodate such a large engine on an aircraft with a low wing and minimal ground clearance.  The CFM-56-3 for the 737  has a characteristic flat-bottomed engine nacelle which many of us have noticed on our travels around the world.

CFM56-3 engine

CFM56-3 engine, with its recognizable non-circular “hamster pouch” inlet, installed on a Boeing 737-400 . (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In a gesture of European solidarity,  Airbus have also joined the CFM-56 user community for large and small Airbus products.

The full list of applications for the CFM-56 according to its Wikipedia article is as follows.

Airbus  – A320 family, A318, A340.
Boeing  – 707-700 (prototype only), KC-135R Stratotanker, E-3D Sentry, E-6 Mercury, RC-135,  737 Classic, 737 Next Generation, 737 AEW&C, C-40 Clipper, P-8 Poseidon, Business Jet.
Douglas – DC-8 Super 70.

CFM-56 installation on a NASA DC-8

Never seen this before. CFM-56 installation on a NASA DC-8 (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Sadly,  the CFM-56 has had its share of bad publicity.  The most notable failure (notable to me, anyway) occurred in the UK in January 1989. A fairly new British Midland 737-400 on a flight from London to Belfast crashed at Kegworth while trying to make an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport, following a fan blade failure in a CFM-56-3.   Two other fan blade failures occurred in British 737-400s shortly afterwards, resulting in the type being grounded world wide while modifications were carried out to the engines.  The recent failures on Southwest Airlines 737s (Flight 3472 from New Orleans to Orlando in August 2016, and Flight 1380 from New York LaGuardia to San Francisco in April, 2018) indicate that fan blade fatigue is an ongoing issue.

There have been incidents of CFM-56 engines flaming out in heavy rain or hail.  The most dramatic incident  involved  TACA Flight 110 from Belize to New Orleans in May 1988. Both engines on the 737-300 flamed out while passing through hail and heavy rain, and the crew was forced to carry out a deadstick landing on a grassy levee adjacent to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans near the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.  Only one minor injury was sustained among the the 38 passengers and seven crew.

The story of TACA 110 is pretty amazing as this YouTube clip may show.  The hail damage on the nose cone of the 737 is visible in the thumbnail below and is indicative of the strength of the storm through which the aircraft inadvertently passed.

As a result of this and other flameout instances,  CFMI made modifications to improve the way in which the engine handles hail ingestion. The pilots of TACA 110 selected continuous ignition for the engines as their training advised in the weather they experienced. CFMI have added a sensor to the CFM-56 to start continuous combustion automatically in conditions of heavy hail or rain.

I was tempted to give some click-bait title to this blog entry and play up the Watergate connection, but that would be a little dishonest.   However it is interesting that a turbofan engine which we find so commonplace today has its roots in a meeting of two executives the early 1970s, and featured on the international summit agenda of a US President who was, to say the least, looking a little beleaguered politically by this time.

No, they’re not kidding

I received the May 2018 issue of FlyPast the other day, and saw several things which delighted me. One of these was Spitfire XIVe NH799, which I remember had crashed in New Zealand some years ago,  [1996]  injuring Sir Tim Wallis fairly seriously.  It apparently flew again in 2015, and the FlyPast  article  included a couple of lovely air-to-air shots of NH799 in its new (to me) SEAC paint scheme.

Being thus inspired,  I found that there are a several YouTube clips featuring NH799 which include some very nice Rolls-Royce Griffon sounds – here are a couple.

It amazes me to see how many heavily damaged warbirds have been painstakingly restored after serious post-restoration accidents. NH799 is one such example.  Another which springs to mind is Spitfire TR.9 PV202 which, many years ago, [2000] was involved in a fatal flip-over landing accident, sadly killing both occupants.  The aircraft remains were sold and slowly rebuilt.  PV202 is now very active on the scene in the UK, having  undergone a couple of very distinct scheme changes (at one stage reverting to its old Irish Air Corps identity) during its second or third life.

I don’t want to appear prurient or ghoulish but I wonder sometimes what has happened to the remains of Spitfire XIV RM689 / G-ALGT, formerly  owned by Rolls-Royce, which was involved in a fatal crash at an airshow in 1992. I remember watching a video clip of the accident at Woodford, and not unnaturally everything went very quiet. It seemed tasteless at the time to ask what happened to the wreckage.   A rapid google would tend to suggest RM689 is receiving attention somewhere, so I expect that in time it will emerge from someone’s restoration shop and fly once more.  To paraphrase a  commentator on a bulletin board , it seems that once the supply of ‘found’ restorable airframes dries up,  we will find that a few of the recent crash wrecks will become viable for rebuild once again.  Some of the wrecks that were pulled out of the former Soviet Union in the early 90s will no doubt find their way back into the air.

Of course what’s original and what’s a new about something as complex as a Spitfire is something that many people like to argue about on the bulletin boards.  At least one Spitfire restoration to my knowledge is based on nothing more than eight feet of nose, a solid engine block,  and a firewall, but since there was a manufacturer’s data plate, it became a restoration, not a reproduction.  However,  I’m carping.  The efforts that have been made are staggering and I for once will continue to be impressed, since I love to see these machines and remember the personal contributions of everyone who has been involved with them in their past.

But wait

What really grabbed my attention in FlyPast was the news that a group down in Uckfield, Sussex (I used to drive through there frequently on my way to and from Brighton) are trying to restore a Hawker Typhoon 1b to airworthy condition. What? Wow! This is RB396 formerly of “XP-W” of 174 Squadron. Major components survived a forced landing in Holland in April 1945. The group’s biggest boost was apparently the recent acquisition of a potentially restorable Napier Sabre engine. Looking at the photos of the Sabre, I am awestruck with the sheer size of the block and anything with 24 cylinders in an “H” configuration.   I think the block in the picture is a sectioned example which was used for educational purposes somewhere, not engine they are using for the restoration.  If you’re like me and had no idea what an H-24 configuration is, it’s apparently two horizontally-opposed 12-cylinder engines one on top of the other.   I was trying to imagine six Volkswagen “Beetle” engines, but that’s not helping much.

The Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group are most certainly not kidding, look at their website https://hawkertyphoon.com/

Hawker Typhoon RB396

Hawker Typhoon RB396 will be restored and aims to fly in 2024 (Warbirds news)

Who knows? In a few years we may see a sight like this (below) again. According to the Flypast article, no Typhoon has flown since 1947. The restoration crew of RB 396 seem to be determined to alter that.

Hawker Typhoon Mk IB RB402

A production line neighbor of RB396,  Hawker Typhoon Mk IB RB402, “5V-P” of No. 439 Squadron RCAF, landing at Goch, Germany, 1945. (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Farewell Then, Tornado

Not right now, but in about 11 months, at the end of March 2019, the Panavia Tornado will retire from service with the RAF. With a front line service record that spans 36 years and something like four decades of service in the RAF, it’s a pretty staggering thought. The Tornado pretty much symbolizes the RAF of the eighties, nineties, oughts and teens.

A while ago I was looking for images of the Tornado marked with the 40th anniversary livery and haven’t found anything suitable (i.e. something that I can post with a clear conscience) yet. But I did run across this YouTube video (“Tonka Tails take to the Skies”) published by the RAF which shows five Tornadoes in September 2015 – apparently four from Marham and one from Lossiemouth – wearing commemorative schemes of their operators. I think I can see IX, 12, XV, and 31 squadrons represented, with the addition of the type 40th anniversary commemorative machine.

It’s a very short video, but nice to see, if a little poignant. Enjoy