There can be fewer more spectacular venues than the Moray Firth for our Bader Braves to enjoy what is, for the vast majority, their first experience of taking a flight in a light aircraft or fewer awe-inspiring venues than the vast expanses of what is now a ghost-like air base, once the home of so many notable squadrons that shouldered the responsibility for the defence and protection of our realm.
Despite the concerning doom and gloom of the local BBC weatherman on Friday evening and the early Saturday morning leaden skies, Kinloss Barracks had donned a far brighter appearance by the time our band of Braves, some a bit bleary eyed, assembled at the guardroom at 08.30. After introductions our trusted and loyal Flight Director of the day, George McKenzie who is the man largely responsible for the organisation of what was going to prove to be a spectacular day, marshalled his convoy and led them with military precision on the two mile trek around the perimeter road and taxi ways of this now seemingly deserted installation; deserted that is until on the far side of this massive site signs of life became apparent for we were approaching one of the better maintained areas of this station which was our base for the day and home of our old friends and hosts – The Moray Flying Club.
The Braves were soon ushered into the club room, formerly used as one of the now defunct Nimrod Squadrons HQ. Smiling members greeted everyone with welcome cuppas and through the windows we could see the three white Cessna aeroplanes shining in what was now bright sunshine all ready and fuelled. Within no time safety briefings had been delivered, an outline of the day explained (and very exciting it sounded too!) and straight into action.
As the first three flights taxied out to the end of the huge runway, (remember Kinloss was until recently home to our Nimrod fleet and not only handled those very big aircraft but also the vast range of giant transport aeroplanes needed to support such a massive front line operation) passengers for the next flight were being briefed and prepared so as change overs enabled as near a seamless operation as possible for it is not unusual for the weather to change pretty sharply when you are this far north in the UK! But not today; one of the experienced members looked skywards, the turned round to take in the whole 360degree of the horizon and with a stroke of his beard he assured me that it wouldn’t rain until between 15.30 to 15.45’ish …….. “we will see eh” I thought!! (See footnote!!!)
Those Braves waiting for their turn were kept provided with drinks and snacks; they were given access to a flight simulator so as to try their hand at flying and by now not only was the sun shining brightly but the temperature had really picked up so there was opportunity to sit outside to watch outbound and incoming Cessnas. Around 10.30 there was a distinct “whirring” sound in the distance; it was unmistakably the sound of an approaching helicopter and before long a very big red and white Sikorsky S-92 Search & Rescue helicopter was hovering above us ready to land. It was a spectacular sight and quite an eye opener for, despite most of us present have seen the helicopters buzzing around the coast at times, it isn’t until one lands next to you that you can appreciate just how big they are! Talking of “BIG”, just as the helicopter landed two huge emergency fire appliances came screaming across the tarmac and lined up adjacent to the helicopter.
It transpired that George and the members of the club (one of whom was flying the Braves today but had the exciting daytime job of flying this very S&R helicopter) had arranged for all this hardware to be onsite for the benefit of the Braves. Whilst flying continued those waiting were given a real hands on treat clambering on all this special equipment and hearing and having demonstrations of how everything worked and what their job was. It was a massive learning curve for us all for unless you had “inside information” no one can appreciate the full extent and variety of the work that these aircraft and vehicles are expected to undertake, all very exciting but often scary and frequently dangerous!!
Soon it was lunchtime, an endless supply of sandwiches, drinks, cakes and all sorts of goodies. But the refuelling interlude in the flying was soon over and aircrews were back into action for the afternoon flights. Standing out on the apron it was quite noticeable that there was cloud building up and wind speed had increased; nothing too dramatic but quite evident.
As the Braves finished their afternoon flights they had yet another treat in store for our old friends at Morayvia had invited everyone to visit their wonderful Aviation Museum which is a real “must do” for any of you reading this find yourself anywhere near Kinloss. Not only does the museum hold a great collection of aviation memorabilia ranging from static displays of aircraft (none of us could resist taking control of the recently retired Sea King S&R helicopter or the big Antonov biplane!!) through the history of operations at Kinloss to those little metal things with a bit on the end that ….. well, you know … I am not an engineer and I have no idea what they are or what they were for but there are plenty of guides on hand to tell you and explain everything in very simple terms!! There is a super Planetarium where you can lay back and travel through the solar system and beyond.
The museum itself is situated just outside the perimeter of the main site and George had arranged for the Braves and their families to be escorted off site and round to the museum. Sadly in these days of increasing security around MoD land, once off site you couldn’t get back and so the Braves dispersed from the Museum which unfortunately meant that the traditional farewells didn’t happen. None the less it was a fantastically successful day the memory of which I feel certain will remain with all of the participating Braves forever.
Once again we are indebted to everyone at The Moray Flying Club and in particular to George McKenzie who did such a great co-ordinating job; also to Stan Barber and his team at Morayvia, the RAF Emergency crews and the Search & Rescue Helicopter folk from Bristows. Once again Kinloss has given our Bader Braves Young Aviators season a great start; hopefully they will be happy to do it again in 2018!!
Oh yes, one more thing – the footnote. At the end of the afternoon someone asked if I would like to take a flight along the Firth, of course I readily jumped in one of the 152’s. As we approached Burghead Dave, the pilot, said “do you mind if we cut it short Keith as the weather is closing in rapidly and its going to get very bumpy?” We returned to base and as we got out of the aeroplane down came the rain ……… do you know what ………. It was exactly 15.37hrs!!!!! Local knowledge or what!!!!
Report by Keith DelderfieldKinross Barracks, Moray Flying Club, Nimrod Squadrons