Blog > Travel Blogs > 2022
UK Roadtrip: Flying the Do228
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
After a short night we wake up near RAF Waddington, hoping for some E-3D or RC-135 action. The weather had turned grey and there was a bit of a drizzle. Not the greatest conditions, but we were happy with the big suprise from yesterday, so we are eager to see what today could bring. After a couple of hours waiting at the Waddington viewing area with nothing more to see than some covered up heavies and one King Air coming in, we decide to move and pay a visit to the nearby Newark Air Museum at former RAF Winthorpe. They have a nice collection of cold war jets, especially lots of Canberra variants. All in all a nice way to spend our rainy day.
As the rain intensifies we leave the Newark Air Museum behind and head for Nottingham East Midlands airport. EMA is one of the bigger cargo/air mail hubs in the UK, and one of the few places to see the BAe ATP in action. However, we did see two ATPs, only to land in complete darkness. We decide to call it a day and go for some food and a good night sleep at the local Travelodge.
Thursday 17 March 2022 – A nice suprise!
The day starts with some desperate attempts to shoot another ATP at EMA, which departs in the early morning. After these attempts have failed successfully, we go back to the Costa for some well deserved breakfast baps and a good warm cuppa tea before continueing our journey southbound. The first stop of the day is the Midland Air Museum at Coventry Airport. This museum is themed after Sir Frank Whittle, the inventor of the British jet engine and the Gloster Meteor. The musuem has a stunning collection of scale models and the outside aircraft display is impressive with some great highlights such as an Argossy and a Saudi Air Force BAC Lighting. All in all a neat little museum with a good amount of volunteers who are willing to tell you all about the collection. We even got a private tour of the Electra cockpit section! Great start of the day.
We leave the museum behind and opt for discovering the rest of Coventry Airport. It is said that there is a public cafe inside an old DC-6, so we would love to give that a try! We drive onto the airport premises and follow the signs to the Light Apron cafe. Unfortunately, it appearsthe DC-6 was recently sold and the cafe was placed in some containers. However, the staff is more than happy to show us around and they even call someone to take us to some hidden gems in the hangars. First, we stop by the AVRO Shackleton and the BAe Nimrod which are still capable of doing engine runs. These aircraft are in such neat condition, it is really stunning to see. Then, our host takes us through the hangars which house some privately owned to-be-sold DC-3 Dakotas and two historic jets. We were baffled by all the beauty hidden from the public here, and we feel honoured to have seen these great looking planes. After a small drink at the Light Apron, we get back to our lovely Bimmer and continue our trip southbound towards RAF Fairford with a short stop at Jeremy Clarksons Diddly Squat Farm Shop!
At RAF Fairford, four B-52 Stratofortress bombers are stationed and are told to be flying almost each weekday. Unfortunately when we arrive they are all on ground getting some TLC by the maintenance crew. This also is the first time whitnessing an engine change on a B-52! Local spotters tell us that a Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady spyplane was returning to Fairford in a short amount of time, so we wait for that one to come in. Not that much of action today, but still we are happy with our results, especially the U-2! Let's get back tomorrow for some sunrise shots of the B-52s!
Friday 18 March 2022 – Fog in, sun out
The next day. No sunrise shoot for us, as a thick layer of fog covers the Cotswolds today. It is so thick that even from the fences we are not able to see the bombers. As we wait for the fog to fog off, we hear two U-2's taking off, with only the second one barely visible. We wait for hours and hours for the fog to go, and slowly but surely visibility gets better. The bad news is, it also becomes clear that all four bombers are completely covered up and show no sign of imminent action. We plow our way across the fields to shoot some final photos before we give up on the B-52s and take our losses. We head for Kemble Airfield to discover that aerodrome and boneyard. As the weather improves, Kemble does not disappoint either.
After having seen all that Kemble had to offer, we set sail for the south of England via the scenic routes. We have the most beautiful views of the most awfully maintained roads we've ever seen. On our route towards Boscombe Down Salisbury we even get so see a quite popular bunch of rocks at the roadside. But what is the meaning of that giant granite birthday cake? We still do not know. Anywayz, we drive and stop by the airfield where, as if they are waiting for us, within ten minutes three ETPS aircraft come in to land. With our faces smug by this happy coincedence, we drive further south towards Bournemouth Airport to see what is parked over there. As there is not much happening, and the sun is already setting again, we take the fastest road to Southampton for our night at the Premier Inn. Goodnight!
Saturday 19 March 2022 – Aurigny to Alderney
We wake up bright and early to check out of the hotel and move our car, as the Premier Inn does not offer the option to park your car after your standard check out time. Such a bummer, so we park our bimmer at the regular airport parking. Today we will leave the main land of England and fly towards one of the smaller Channel Islands. And back. We make a short two-hour stop at the island of Alderney, only to fly with a small propellor powered aircraft: the Dornier Do-228NG which flies for Aurigny. The check-in is simple yet effective, and at the gate we get the school-class style video safety briefing. The dispatcher notices that we are avgeeks and we booked this flight for the plane, so he tells us that we are allowed to wander around the plane before the other passengers get to board. So nice of the crew at Southampton! We take our chances and shoot all we can before taking our seats at row 1, just behind the flight deck. After boarding is completed, it does not take long for the engines to be fired up and we taxi out to the runway. Even though the take off is quite gusty due to the sea winds, the views are great! We fly directly over the Isle of Wight and continue our way south towards Alderney. The approach at Alderney is simply spectacular to say the least. First, we pass a big rock covered with a massive gannett colony. Then, we see the cliffs and shortly after we touch down. After the landing, the ground crew at Alderney also arranged us the opportunity to wander around the Do-228 to shoot her in her natural habitat. Thanks guys! You are the best! Now let's get off the small airfield and spend 2,5 hours at this tiny island which could be very a tropical island. Our plane is being prepared to leave again, it will fly a short hop to the island of Guernsey and will be back soon.
We opt to go to see the gannetts and wander towards the cliffs. What a beautiful sight this is! As the island was used in World War II as a prison by the Germans, there are remnants of bunkers, towers, defense systems and nazi structures all across the place. Really impressive and baffling to walk here, knowing what has happened here on this now so peacefull island. We take a moment to admire the sheer beauty of the cliffs and the rocks before walking back to the airport. Let's fly back to Southampton. Back at the airport, we are invited by the airport staff to see the arrival of our aircraft from the control tower. Such a nice gesture again, so we defeat the strong sea breeze and enjoy the unique perspecive of our little Dornier coming back in. We quickly make our way back downstairs and pass the tiny security check before getting the TV safety briefing again. We board the plane and enjoy our beautiful flight back to "mainland England". After landing we get back to our car and watch the Dornier taking off again from the parking. Thanks little girl! You were doing great! And a massive thankyou to all the staff at Southampton, Alderney and the staff and crew from Aurigny for this amazing flying experience! We drive towards London Gatwick, stopping at some little airfields and a small museum to shoot some more static planes. That night we sleep in the Bloc Hotel at Gatwick. We are exhausted, but stoked about today. What a day!
Sunday 20 March 2022 – Back from Gatwick
The view from the Bloc Hotel did not disappoint, however it would have been nice if the south terminal was in use. It was not, because of the pandemic still. Little bummer, but there was still plenty to see and the room is great. After checkout it is time to get to our own Easyjet flight back to Amsterdam. But not without a little terminal spotting from Gatwicks famous bridge! Looking back at this trip, it was full of things that did not go to plan. But who cares with catches as M-STAR, a U-2 and some hidden Dakotas? And flying in a new aircraft type for us is always a highlight! All in all, this was a great trip! :)