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  RAF Marham Enthusiasts Evening - RAF Marham, Norfolk, 19th May 2016


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On May 19, 31 Squadron hosted an enthusiast evening at RAF Marham in Norfolk, last home of the frontline RAF Tornado GR4 force, and Aviationphoto was fortunate to get the chance to attend what quickly became an oversold event through Rich Cooper and Steven Comber’s Centre of Aviation Photography (COAP).

Making the journey north for an early evening start we were let on base and bussed to the flightline where, shortly after arrival, a Coningsby based Typhoon entered the circuit and gave an impressive display in what was left of the blue sky. With rain forecast, the blue soon turned to grey and we moved towards a pair of GR4s ‘hot-pitting’ in between sorties which allowed some great opportunities for photography which very much leant itself towards a monochrome edit.

As the jets taxied out there was a chance to photograph a trio of GR4s on static display before the thunder of mighty Rolls-Royce RB 199 Mk 103 turbofan engines split the evening sky. Standing on the taxiway alongside the runway gave a great, unobstructed view as the pair of Tonka’s powered upwards, a rare and cherished view for me as a mainly airshow attendee!

Moving on we were given access to the Weapons Load Training Cell where a pair of instructional airframes were surrounded by training weapons, one of the aircraft being ZA267, one of the original Tornado F2 fighter variants. A cockpit tour of the GR4 followed, our main hosts by this time being a pilot and navigator from 31 Squadron who graciously answered our many questions throughout the night. Ground crew were also much in evidence to make sure no one strayed from where they were supposed to be and it was interesting to find out from them the differences, challenges and advances promised by the imminent arrival of the Lightning II at Marham, many already having experienced the aircraft during tours in the US.

Final highlight of what was becoming a long, damp but memorable evening was the chance to photograph the Operation Granby ‘desert pink’ painted jet, complete with sharks mouth markings, that was tucked away in a HAS undergoing maintenance. Remembering the First Gulf War in 1991, the aircraft also serves as a tribute to the crews and personnel who have been involved in the continuous fighting in the Middle East since then.

By now, with a cold drizzle having set in and a long and dark drive home beckoning, it was time to call it a day. However, a good time was had by all and, on a personal level, the chance to get access to a frontline RAF station and photograph operational Tornados in the twilight of their career was one not to be missed.

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