UK Roadtrip 1.0 

We have planned a short trip through England with visiting several airports and airbases. Initially our plan was to visit the Cobra Warrior exercise which should see participants from the Indian Air Force, but due to the situation in Ukraine that was cancelled. Tickets were already booked however, so we decided to make the most of this trip and enjoy the beautiful variety of the English countryside. Besides, there is a special aircraft flying around in the south of England, which we really want to fly: Aurigny’s Dornier Do228NG!

Monday 14 March 2022 – RAF Museum and the C-53 Skymaster

This trip starts from Luton Airport (LTN/EGGW) where we arrived with EasyJet from Amsterdam. We pick up our rental car (which happens to be a luxurious BMW). Our first stop is the Royal Air Force Museum in the north of London. It is a good museum with a varied collection of aircraft with several highlights such as the Shorts Sunderland, the Panavia Tornado ADV and even a Junkers Ju-87 Stuka! They have an impressive collection of fighters (Spitfire, F-4M Phantom II and English Electric Lightning F.6). All in all a pretty good museum which could get us occupied for a couple of hours.

After saying goodbye to the RAF Museum, we drive northbound towards a small regional aerodrome called North Weald Airfield. This open airfield allows you to drive your vehicle on the active taxiways, so we had to be careful with a couple of Cessnas in our mirror. However, we came here on this aerodrome to pay a visit to a very special plane: a Douglas C-54 Skymaster, the military variant of the DC-4. This plane is under restoration by a group of enthusiastic volunteers who set the goal to get the plane airworthy again. We get greeted by two gentlemen: Garry and Graham, who made time to show us around their aircraft. The plane is a real beauty to see, as she is almost entirely polished. The Skymaster 56498, built in 1945, is a true veteran having served in World War II as a flying hospital carrying medical goods to the Pacific front, and evacuating wounded soldiers back to safety. She served also as a cargo and troop transport aircraft in the Korean War. Her history as medical evacuation aircraft is still visible in the cabin. Garry and Graham take us through every detail of the plane and her fascinating history. If you want to learn more about this project, visit the website www.savetheskymaster.org.

After about one hour spending around the Skymaster, we have to say goodbye to Garry and Graham as they have other business to attend. We take a short drive over the airfield, shooting some of the various flying legends parked at North Weald. After leaving the aerodrome behind, we set sail to Stansted Airport to see what’s parked on the apron and wait for a Qatar Emiri Flight Airbus A340-200 to arrive for maintenance. There was not much going on at the field. The Boeing 737 Max-8 BBJ is a nice catch, as well as the “usual” Titan stuff, but that is about it. We leave Stansted and head for our first Travelodge near RAF Mildenhall.

Tuesday 15 March 2022 – Tankers and triholers!

The next morning we make our way to the spotting locations around RAF Mildenhall. This is a USAF base with tankers and reconnaissance aircraft such as the KC-135R and the RC-135W.  When we arrive, we just missed the departing RC-135W Rivet Joint "Jake11", but we knew we would see it coming back in later that day. We see the morning wave departing from the adjacent air base RAF Lakenheath, where USAF F-15 and F-35 aircraft are based. Some F-16s are also present. At Mildenhall, there also is an old WC-135 Constant Phoenix with old engines, so we hope that one is about to fly as well! The first aircraft departing from Mildenhall is a KC-135R, followed by another one. The sun is shining and we have a clear view on the ramp, but not much is happening unfortunately.

 

After a couple of hours we see the start up of one of the KC-10 Extenders, so that is nice! The aircraft taxis towards us only to backtrack the runway and taking off again towards us. It is alwas nice seeing a good triholer taking off in this light! After that, we decide to go to the other side of the airport for landing traffic. Here we have a good view of the parked Ospreys and even a C-5M Super Galaxy. A nice suprise is the departure of a KC-46 Pegasus. Not long after that, Jake11 makes his way back home followed by a KC-135. Unfortunately, just before an Osprey was taking off, we decided to leave Mildenhall and drive back to Stansted. No Constant Phoenix in action, no flying C-5, no Ospreys, but....

After a fairly short drive we arrive at Stansted. Just in time for the arrival of M-STAR, one of the world's most beautiful Boeing 727's still in service. Just before sunset she arrives and after we ran our lungs out of our bodies, we see M-STAR taxiing in as well. What a plane! And what a difference in present aircraft compared to yesterday! We see two Dubai Air Wing Boeing 747s, an Oman Royal Flight Boeing 767-400 and many more special planes. M-STAR parks right in front of the 767 and a 747. What an incredible line up we have here, really special.  Conclusion of the day: the best looking planes have 3 or 4 engines. ;) 

That night, we drive northbound for almost three hours for our next hotel..

Wednesday 16 March 2022 – The grey and rainy day

Thursday 17 March 2022 – A nice suprise!

Friday 18 March 2022 – Fog in, sun out

Saturday 19 March 2022 – Aurigny to Alderney

Sunday 20 March 2022 – Back from Gatwick