Three visits to RAF Marham

Three visits to RAF Marham

I’ve been really slack with updates in recent months, for which I apologise.  I’ll begin my efforts to catch up with an amalgamated post combining pictures from three different visits to RAF Marham – 05/05/2016, 23/05/2016 & 14/07/2016.

RAF Marham – 05/05/2016

As Tornado’s phenomenal Royal Air Force service career starts to draw to a close (OSD now slated for 2019), RAF Marham has very much become my ‘go to’ base when the forecast has looked favourable and the diary has allowed.

It’s certainly not a busy base, but, curiously, I find that part of its charm.  For most, sitting out on the Runway 24 approach at Chalk Lane is sufficient, but the base offers so much more.  Granted, you have to work for it, but that’s what make it so satisfying.

The first of the three visits chronicled here came after a phenomenally busy day at RAF Lakenheath 24 hours earlier.  It would have been all too easy to head back there for more of the same, but there appeared to be a strong possibility that Runway 06 would be in use, and I’d already covered that fairly well a couple of weeks earlier.  So, Marham it was.

The sky was gin clear when I arrived, and Runway 24 was in use.  The action, however, was very slow, with just three jets launching for the morning wave.  Two of those hot-pitted and went again early afternoon.  Even by Marham standards, it was very, very slow.

Listening to ATIS, there was now a slight tail-wind component, so I took a chance that the afternoon pair might depart off 06 once they returned (assuming they went to the hot-pit once more), and I swapped ends.  One of the two became unserviceable in the hot pit, but another aircraft came out from the HAS site, so the late-afternoon wave (if you can call it that!) comprised just two singletons, and the runway change came after they were airborne…

Despite the blue skies, it really wasn’t that warm and it would have been quite easy to head home before they recovered, but the light was OK and these were the shots I was after at the end of the day.

Assuming that would be it, I was quite surprised when one of the two again went to the hot pit after landing.   By now it was nearly 1900, and I’d had enough really.  The light was going to be tasty, though, and I couldn’t turn it down.  Thankfully it was a very quick turn with the jet airborne at 1920.  Content with what I’d got, I called it quits and headed home.

RAF Marham – 23/05/2016

This looked like being a 06 day from the outset, and I had a very clear vision in my mind of what I wanted to get out of it.  Sadly, the crystal clear skies that had been omnipresent on my drive to RAF Marham were absent when I arrived.  I could hear engines running, so there was something of a mad dash to get into position in order to catch them – a pair – taxying past.

I was rather surprised when they were followed by a singleton carrying full II(AC) Squadron markings.  ZA400/011 had not long returned from Cyprus, where it had been on Op SHADER duty.  Then it dawned on me that there were no wing pylons and the jet was clean.  She was off to RAF Leeming and the RTP (Reduce-To-Produce) programme to be scrapped 🙁  She had famously been “Scud Hunter” during Op TELIC in Iraq.

A quick location change ahead of the pair’s recovery also produced a few surprises in the shape of a 100 Sqn Hawk and a pair of Typhoon FGR4s.  I’d been really disappointed to read that the RAF’s Typhoons were starting to lose their squadron markings (I’m still to shoot a II(AC) marked jet), so the second jet of the pair was most welcome – fully marked in 1(F) Sqn colours.

It later transpired that the Typhoons had diverted in due to RAF Coningsby’s runway being closed following a spectacular double tyre failure on a departing jet and the subsequent blocking of the runway.

For a while it sounded like there may be further diverts to follow, but the Voyager that was airborne was able to provide jets that were still up with enough gas until the runway had reopened, several hours later.

With the Hawk and both Typhoons parking northside, and despite it being much earlier than I would normally relocate (sun position!), I decided that I really needed to head across there to shoot them taxying out head-on.  The vicious heat-haze over the runway made it an easier decision to make.

The morning pair of GR4s hot-pitted and taxied out first, followed not-too-far behind by the Hawk.  Eventually the Typhoon canopies were closed, their cockpits empty, though.

The hot-pitters recovered (both ultimately to the HAS site – one had gone to the hot-pit but became U/S) and another pair departed shortly after.  They recovered just before 1800, by which time the lids were back up on the Typhoons.

The light for their departure (and the one further Tornado – a hot-pitter from the 1800 recoveries) was absolutely delicious.  It had been well worth the wait.

RAF Marham – 14/07/2016

After its failure to appear at the 2016 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, word reached me that ZG750, the Desert Pink Op GRANBY jet, would be heading to Farnborough on this particular morning.

The forecast was such that we were always going to need a little bit of luck with the light – partly sunny, partly cloudy.  The caravan was at 24 when we arrived, but it didn’t take too long for it to move to 06 – cue a hasty charge to the other end!

06 departures from 24 is always a bit hit and miss due to the imprecise departure profiles that can be flown.  Jets typically come right at some point, but precisely where that turn takes place can vary greatly.

Three GR4s got airborne before Pinky, the first of which was the most photogenic.  By the time Pinky’s turn came, cloud had really built and aside from a very brief flash of light as she climbed out, it was essentially pink on grey – not a great look!  Oh well.  You’ve got to be in it to win it.

A meeting with a wedding client brought an early close to proceedings.

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