Monday, October 16, 2006

A Visit to RAF Valley

Yes, this is me, standing next to one of the BAe Hawk Jet Trainers at RAF Valley which is in Anglesey. Some time ago I was invited by the Station Chaplain to come to a service at the RAF church in Valley to talk about Mission Aviation Fellowship who I represent in North Wales. At the time I asked if it was possible to visit the base and see how it carries out its job of traing RAF pilots to fly fast jets. Today was the day it all happened.

As I drove up to the guardroom I immediately noticed three aircraft of the famous Red Arrows on the tarmac near the gate. Flight Lieutenant Rev Pete Tollerson took me onto the base and we started with a cup of tea in his office. There I saw the evidence of his successful completion of the officers' training course and group photos of other events.

Our first place to visit was the large hangar where aircraft are taken apart and put back together at major servicing times. There was also a great deal of damage on the other planes which had experienced bird strikes. One was a case of a shattered cockpit canopy whilst another had lost a turbine blade which almost ended with a disaster.

Then we set off in Pete's car to the other side of the airfield to see the working aircraft and their crews. Instructors and pupils came into the room to sign in before flying off in their Hawks. In another section I met Mike Squires, an instructor who had previously flown Tornadoes. I had already met Mike when I attended the church service 2 months before. He had been affected by poor visibility in the area he had planned to do some instructing so was not too happy with this.

Further along was the section supporting the rescue helicopter service. There I saw a life jacket being serviced to ensure it was up to standard for regular use. The people were all friendly and approachable. Next door was the Mountain Rescue Team wioth all its specialised equipment.

As I was on this side of the airfield we saw three jets do a circuit prior to landing and Pete exclaimed, "Those are not Hawks!" "No," I replied, "They are French Alphajets!" I knew they were due to make a visit with their support aircraft that day after talking to the young man in the guardroom who knew all the comings and goings at RAF Valley. Soon after this the Red Arrows took off in formation.

Back on the side of the airfield with most buildings I was able to take a rear view shot of the support aircraft which did the same job as the Hercules C130 which supported the Red Arrows. I saw a Red Arrows pilot sitting in a cockpit mock up in the squadron HQ. He looked quite a normal human being!! Soon I ws treated to lunch in the Feeder Unit for the squadron to save them having to go all the way to the Officers' Mess just off base.

I was thrilled at having the chance to visit this base situated on my island. It is an important employer in the area. Next year they expect to see commercial flights to Cardiff as the base becomes dual purpose. Next time I see a Hawk in flight I shall wonder if it is the one I used to lean on for my photo!
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keith - what a fantastic opportunity - I know envy is wrong BUT oh how I envy you the chance to visit the base (grin).

You look chuffed to bits in that photo.

Sea Fishing and Walking in the UK

8:20 pm  

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