January being the first month of the year is always a difficult & mostly frustrating time. How do I blame, who can I blame? Well that’s an answer no one can answer. Weather being the same as usual, crappy light and on the aviation side of things is always hard to crack. Early deployments, weather, get just generally getting back into the swing of things so February was the month id compensate and nail the month good & proper.
Usually January WAS the time of hitting the hills in Wales or a trip to Salisbury Plain but I felt it really never maximised its full potential but now we start our year being BACK IN ACTION.
It was indeed Salisbury Plain Training area which I kicked it off with and the results were 10/10 all around. I must say it was a risk but forward planning helped the day turn out to be a good crack!!!
This was the time to get some updated images, crack the banter to the harshest and just have a getting out to have some exciting and funny time with some well-known friends!
Everleigh DZ was first location of the day turning up with a Squirrel already carrying out the sortie. The Squirrel is a variant of the AS350 Ecureuil civil helicopter. The relatively modern aircraft is the training helicopter of choice for both the Defence Helicopter Flying School and the Operational Training Phase of flying at Middle Wallop. This single engine helicopter is the perfect platform for instructing all the different flying techniques required of new pilots.
Not long behind on the approach was our first Apache of the day. Wasn’t even 10am yet!! The Apache attack helicopter can operate in all weathers, day or night and detect, classify and prioritise up to 256 potential targets in a matter of seconds. It carries a mix of weapons including rockets, Hellfire missiles and a 30mm chain gun, as well as a state of the art fully integrated defensive aid suite. Designed to hunt and destroy tanks, the Apache attack helicopter has significantly improved the Army's operational capability. In addition to the distinctive Longbow radar located above the rotor blades, this aircraft is equipped with a day TV system, thermal imaging sight and direct view optics. The latest fleet of Apaches flown by Army Air Corps pilots from the Joint Helicopter Command, are more advanced and more capable than the previous model which will provide the Army with a continuous edge over any future adversaries.
The new AH64E model of the helicopter can also carry more weapons while being more fuel efficient, allowing the Apache to operate in more demanding conditions for longer durations. The new helicopter’s improved computing capacity and updated sensors means the new fleet will also be receptive to upgrades in the future, ensuring it remains at the cutting-edge of technology. The first UK helicopters are due off the US production line in early 2020 and will begin entering service with the British Army in 2022.
Plenty of movement with a sortie of an hour we moved onto the next plan with a short drive to the lindens to bump into the Bell 212. Couple orbits from above before proceeding for finals into the area surrounded by trees. First time to catch something in the Confined area and this to me made the day. The Bell 212 is used by the Army Air Corps in the jungle areas of Brunei. A winch on the side of the aircraft also enables medical evacuation in otherwise difficult terrain. Consequently the Bell 212 is currently employed in predominantly jungle areas where its performance is a great advantage.
Being rattled around for an hour after visiting the CCDA we ended up back to Everleigh with some more apache action and a visit from Empire Test Pilots' School Agusta 109 from QinetiQ. Extensively modified, the A109 helicopters provide digital engine control and glass cockpits with integrated real-time instrumentation data for both pilot and flight test engineer students. Dedicated flight test engineer work consoles are mounted in the main cabin, enabling students to monitor parameters in flight and make immediate flight test management decisions.
In total the apaches were around in high numbers which made up not capturing any chinook action.
Anyway less of the talk and more on the images so here we have a selection of images from various parts of the area.
Public access is allowed on 75% of the SPTA and is governed by local bye-laws. Take notice of the MoD signs and Red Flags which indicate areas that are unsafe to enter. You must not drive more than 12 feet from the road on to grass areas and you must not block military vehicle crossing areas which are clearly marked. Landmarc Wardens and MoD Police frequently patrol the SPTA. Away from public roads photography of sensitive military hardware can be prohibited, the SPTA Wardens and MoD Police will respond to reports of such activity. On occasions helicopter pilots will fly for the camera, especially after their training has ended. If they move away from you, do not follow them around the area, be patient and unobtrusive.
Some key points:
1. Observe the bye-laws, signs and red flags.
2. Do not walk or stand on an airstrip (cut grass area) or landing area, stay on public byways.
3. Do not park on byways or block military vehicle crossings.
4. Do not drive on non-ability or closed roads, tracks or bridle ways.