By Robert Henry- Gloucestershire – UK 1951 MG TD

RAF Fairford is in Gloucestershire, a joint UK / US base since WW2 as it has a very long runway used for Bombers. They also hold an Air Tattoo with Air Forces from all over the world attending. I have seen the Stealth Bombers and ‘Blackbird’ there, but my wife had a better view of it at home when it flew straight over the chimneys! 

Fairford is also the home of the Fairford Classic Car Club.

We visited the Vulcan at Wellesbourne in Warwickshire back in 2014 as Fairford Car Club (‘any make’ and if raining, mature members just bring the Euro box!)  We learnt a lot about Vulcan XM655 and visited the cockpit which is quite cramped considering the hours they spent in there and the difficulty of getting out in a hurry.  My wife, Gill even pressed the big RED button, fortunately it is not connected to anything serious now.

Line-up of cars from the Fairford Classic Car Club parked below the Vulcan.

I remember being told that the air brakes were so good, it was rare for them ever to be used fully. With that huge wing area and no armament, it can out turn the best fighters!

On an exercise in Australia, it had to land undetected at an airfield, so they deployed all the ‘toys’ (including some that are not supposed to be used) and blanked out the whole radio system for miles. On being summoned to explain his actions, the captain simply said “that is the object of the exercise and proves it works as my plane is on the ground and no one knew it was coming”.  It makes an awesome noise when ‘giving it the beans’ low down.

The Vulcan achieved notoriety back in the 1960s for its simulated attacks on the US to test the nation’s air defences. Perhaps we’ll not venture too far down that path!

The other pictures are with the RAF display team at Kemble. It was a nice day out there (The Red Arrows were based at Kemble for a while). They had invited all the media to promote ‘Best of British’ air day back in 2012 and wanted some cars too, so I was asked to take the MG.

The RAF Display Team at Kemble.

Unfortunately, the weather was a bit rough so the RAF Hawk did a close display and even on a tight turn over the runway it was disappearing from view. The Kemble photo also shows the wing walkers who could not take off from Rendcomb (World War 1 airfield) so came by car!  Carol Vorderman who was still learning to fly in 2012, also there to promote the air day, plus a chap came with his Meerkats and a Hawk (bird variety). Meerkats are really vicious, not quite as portrayed in the adverts.

At Kemble they took the publicity pics after lunch, it’s a bit nerve racking parking your car within feet of an expensive plane.

The De Havilland Rapide at Kemble.

As it was Friday all the media went home quickly despite being offered a ride in the De Havilland Dragon Rapide from Coventry, so I got a free ride. Take off was interesting as once pointed into the wind it nearly took off without moving. What a beautiful aircraft, very Rolls Royce inside.  By the time I got home they had sent the link to the publicity shots, so a good day all round.

Kemble used to be RAF Kemble and is now privately owned and very busy.  I went there (it will never be Cotswold Airport [as it is now called], to me) recently for a coffee at AV8 to see what was going on. The huge bulk of aircraft that were there a few years ago (during Covid British Airways took all their 747’s out of service and the very last one landed at Kemble) are mainly gone, but there is now properly displayed the last BA 747 which is used for events.

Years ago, I did go to ASI (Air Salvage International at Kemble) for a tour of their dismantling facility, it was fascinating. The business was started years ago by one man and his dog when he saw a market for bits, the first being a training company that wanted a door and frame supplied; unable to get one, he bought a whole aircraft, and it the just grew as a business.

Everything is logged and most parts are sold on, the relatively valueless part is the fuselage which takes about 3 hours to crush into a pile of scrap. Quite a few narrow-bodied fuselages are used as themed venues as they can be transported by road, the wide-bodied ones are too expensive as they have to be sectioned for transport and re-assembled later.

Air Salvage International at Kemble (an aeroplane ‘scrapyard’!)

Ed’s note: The Red Arrows moved to RAF Kemble (now known as Cotswold Airport) in 1966 after RAF Fairford, where they were previously based, became the place of choice for the British Aircraft Corporation to run test flights for the Concorde Supersonic Airliner. They left Kemble in 1983 to move to RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire and then to RAF Waddington, also in Lincolnshire.