A Day Above Yorkshire
Ex-RAF pilot John Nowell has recently released a new book entitled "A Day Above Yorkshire". This innovative photographic book takes you on a guided tour around Yorkshire, often viewed from the air and with a strong RAF theme throughout. The book is divided in to chapters "Dawn", "Morning", "Midday", "Afternoon" and "Evening", and contains many excellent photographs, including a number of Church Fenton based aircraft from the 1980s.
The author's love for Yorkshire and its natural beauty is obvious, and the book makes an excellent read for anyone who wants reminding just what a special place Yorkshire is!
The book, ISBN 978-1-904566-24-3, is available at various bookshops around the Vale of York such as the White Rose Bookshop in Thirsk, Castle Hill Bookshop in Richmond, Claridges in Helmsley, Hoppers in Malton, The Guisborough Bookshop, Waterstones in Northallerton, Middlesbrough, Scarborough plus Hull, Skipton Castle Bookshop and the Barbican Bookshop in York.
85(R) Sqn disbands
Due to cuts to RAF basic training as a result of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, 85(R) Sqn (part of Number 1 Elementary Flying Training School) were disbanded in August 2011. No Elementary Flying Training therefore now takes place at RAF Church Fenton, with the only flying being that of Yorkshire UAS and 9 AEF. I understand there are now only 5 Tutor aircraft based at Church Fenton.
See below for a picture of the final 85(R) Sqn course graduation at Church Fenton, 02 Aug 11.
Yorkshire UAS Friends and Families day 2011
Yorkshire UAS held their annual Friends and Families day on 17th June 2011. Some photos from the day can be seen below, courtesy of Officer Cadet Matthew Wehrle:
Avro Vulcan XH558 practice display at RAF Church Fenton - 26th April 2011
On Tuesday 26th April 2011 I was lucky enough to be working from home when Avro Vulcan XH558 turned up un-announced and carried out two practice displays over RAF Church Fenton. This was the first time XH558 had displayed at Church Fenton since the 1992 air display.
Visit to RAF Church Fenton by the author
I was recently very privileged to be invited by Group Captain Terry Jones, RAF Linton-on-Ouse station commander, to visit RAF Church Fenton for a guided tour. The day also included a flight in one of Church Fenton's Grob Tutor fleet.
Following the morning Met Brief, I was then given a formal brief on Church Fenton's current role, by 85(R) Sqn and Yorkshire UAS personnel. Next on the agenda was a safety brief on the aircraft, followed by a trip to the survival equipment section for flying suit and helmet fitment.
The flight itself lasted 1 hour, routing in the region of the old RAF stations of Elvington and Driffield, and I was able to experience the Tutor's handling characteristics first hand over the Vale of York. Returning to Church Fenton, I was given the opportunity to fly a circuit of the airfield, before landing on Runway 24.
Following the flight, I visited 85(R) Sqn's operations building and Air Traffic Control, as well as taking a look at some of the WW2 airfield defences which are still in existence at Church Fenton.
My thanks go to Gp Capt Jones, Sqn Ldr Paul and Flt Lts Jones, McKenzie and Williams for allowing the visit and hosting me during what was a very enjoyable day. Some photographs from the day can be seen below, all are © Crown Copyright:
RAF Church Fenton main gate
Old SHQ building
Old SHQ building
Pre-flight brief with Gp Capt Jones
Preparing for the flight
The view from 3 hangar
RAF Church Fenton Air Traffic Control
World War 2 aircraft revetments
World War 2 pillbox
2434 Sqn open day a great success
On Saturday 26th September 2009, 2434 (Church Fenton) Squadron ATC held a very successful open / families day at Church Fenton in aid of Help For Heroes. Approx 25 aircraft visited, in weather which couldn't have been better. A number of photos from the day can be seen below:
Spitfire BM597 re-visits its old home
On Saturday, 5th September 2009, ex-Church Fenton gate guardian Spitfire Vb BM597 night-stopped at Church Fenton after performing at the proms in the park event at Harewood House. Some photos of BM597 'back home' can be seen below:
2434 Sqn Air Cadets open day
2434 Church Fenton Air Training Corps squadron will be having an Open / Families day on Saturday 26th September 2009. Hopefully the BBMF & Red Arrows will be doing a fly past on the day with other RAF & civilian aircraft to attend including Jet Provost MK3 & MK5, Harvard, RAF Tutor, RAF grob 109, Extra 300, Cirrus SR22, Hot Air Balloon. The squadron will have various stalls & exhibitions, drill & band displays, Jet Provost aircraft charity pull, etc. Any ex CF personnel or anybody interested in visiting on the day please get in contact with Pilot Officer Mark Whitaker email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Memorial service held for Church Fenton airmen
Sunday 29th April 2007 saw a plaque dedication and memorial service being held at Thorp Arch Church, near Wetherby, for two Church Fenton based airmen who lost their lives as a result of enemy action in April 1941.
On the night of 24th April 1941, Sergeant Frederick Charles Crozier and Flight Sergeant George Bell were flying Boulton-Paul Defiant N1568 of Church Fenton based 54 OTU, the RAF's first night-fighter training unit. The airfield came under attack from German aircraft, and as usual a warning was given to all aircraft to extinguish their nav' lights and orbit a beacon until the intruders had left the area. Unfortunately, for an unknown reason, the aircrew did not heed this warning, and their aircraft was engaged at 1000ft by a Ju88 piloted by a Leutnant Pfeiffer. Flt Sgt Bell, the turret gunner, returned fire, whilst Sgt Crozier took violent evasive action. Unfortunately, as both aircraft were flying at virtually zero feet, the Defiant struck a tree near Thorp Arch village, crashed and came to rest near Thorp Arch Church. Both aircrew were tragically killed.
Thorp Arch Church, near Wetherby
A couple of years ago, Sgt Crozier's brother, David Crozier, began investigating the circumstances of his brother's untimely death. The result of his (and others') in-depth investigations, was a full "dossier" on his brother's wartime RAF service, including such historically important items as the letter written by the Church Fenton station commander to Frederick and David's parents notifying them of the crash. David also managed to trace Flt Sgt Bell's relatives, and on Sunday 29th April 2007, the two families came together at Thorp Arch Church, only yards from the crash site, to hold a service of rememberance and dedicate a plaque to their relatives' memories.
The Church service was very well attended, so much so that it was standing room only. Fittingly, Church Fenton's own 2434 Squadron Air Training Corps also provided a guard of honour at the service.
The plaque now proudly displayed in Thorp Arch Church, a fitting memorial to the two airmen tragically killed over 66 years ago
David Crozier, flanked by relatives of the two airmen, and a Guard of Honour from 2434 (Church Fenton) Sqn ATC
Church Fenton re-union
Interest has been expressed in organising a Church Fenton re-union. Could anyone interested contact me through the contact page.
RAF Church Fenton stars in "The Royal"
Anyone with Church Fenton connections who was watching "The Royal" on ITV on Sunday 1st April 2007 may well have recognised the location - it was no less than the 'pan' at Church Fenton. Starring was Air Atlantique's DH Devon VP981. Filming occurred in summer 2006, with weather which couldn't have been better.
The fact that it was screened on the 70th Anniversary of the opening of Church Fenton (1st April 1937) was a fitting coincidence.
RAF Church Fenton now part of 22 (Training) Group
On 30 October 2006, Church Fenton became part of 22 (Training) Group, when the Training Group Defence Agency was renamed. It was decided that use of a dormant Group number plate, that of 22 Group, would promote ethos, esprit de corps and preserve Service history. The 22 Group design depicts a Phoenix to symbolise the RAF renewing itself through training. The motto “Always Rising Again”, in the context of constant renewal through training, is ideal for today’s TG.
The Group's new website can be found at www.tgda.gov.uk
The Group badge can be seen to the right - image and some of above text © Crown Copyright.
RAF Church Fenton Families Day 2006
The RAF Church Fenton families day 2006 was held on Friday 30th June 2006. The flying display consisted of displays / flypasts by no less than 14 different RAF types - not bad for a small station! Approximately 250 visitors attended the day, which once again was blessed with very good weather.
A familiar visitor was locally-based businessman Paddy Green's C-47 Dakota N473DC, which made a stopover at Church Fenton en-route to its home at Liverpool. This aircraft was recently re-sprayed at Church Fenton, see below.
Once again, many thanks go to Sqn Ldr Gordon Pell, OC 3 Sqn 1 EFTS for inviting me to attend the families day, and to all the staff and students of Yorkshire UAS and 1 EFTS for their hard work arranging and running the day.
Dakota given some TLC at Church Fenton
C-47A Dakota N473DC recently flew in to RAF Church Fenton for some well-deserved TLC. Locally-based owner Paddy Green approached RAF Linton-on-Ouse to hire some hangar space at Church Fenton, and with 3 Hangar currently being unused, Linton were more than happy to oblige.
The aircraft was completed shortly after my visit and rolled-out on Thursday 25th May, and will hopefully take part in D-Day commemorations later this year.
For more information, see the RAF website: http://www.raf.mod.uk/raflintononouse/news_06_30.html
Many thanks go to Paddy for allowing my visit to see the aircraft.
|Photos of the C-47's roll-out on Thursday 25 May 2006, courtesy of Peter Micklethwaite|
Major changes to University Air Squadron structure and RAF Elementary Flying Training
On 21st September 2005, it was announced by Defence Minister Don Touhig that there is to be a major shake-up in the way that RAF Elementary Flying Training (EFT) is organised. Currently, all University Air Squadrons (UASs) are responsible for a share of the RAF's EFT requirement, training both University students during the course of their degree, and also Direct Entry (DE) student pilots.
From now on, however, University Air Squadrons are no longer flying units, and all RAF EFT is to be carried out at three bases - RAF Church Fenton, RAF Cranwell and RAF Wyton. These three bases will each be home to a squadron of No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School, with Church Fenton being the home of No. 3 Sqn of 1 EFTS.
Changes for the station will be minimal, with little, if any, increase in flying activity. There is the possibility of more aircraft arriving at some point in the future, although nothing has been decided yet. For more information, see the Yorkshire UAS page.
Yorkshire UAS families day 2005
The YUAS families day 2005 was held on Friday 1st July 2005. As last year, the weather was once again fantastic (my sunburn bears testament to this!). Aircraft in the flying display included Tucano, Tornado F3, Harrier GR7, Seaking, VC10, Tutor, Jet Provost and Apache. The static display consisted of Harrier GR7 (x2), Hawk, Jet Provost, Firefly, Piper Warrior, T-6 Texan, Tucano, Tutor and Chipmunk. Some photos from the day can be seen below, © Ian Herbert
Yorkshire UAS to again provide Tutor display
Yorkshire Universities Air Squadron, based here at Church Fenton, are to supply the Tutor display for 2005, as in 2004. Hopefully there will be no problems with props this year, as there were last year, which severely restricted all Tutor flying. For more details on the display, visit www.tutordisplay.org.uk.
Yorkshire UAS families day sees numerous displays
Friday 25th June 2004 saw Yorkshire UAS hold a families day at Church Fenton, quite possibly their best to date. Even the weather was kind! A mini fly-in was organised, with numerous civilian aircraft dropping in. Possibly the highlight of the day though was a display from Elvington based Hawker Hunter T8C XJ615 (really XF357). It was wonderful to see the sight of a Hunter over Church Fenton once again, 45 years after the type left the base for Leconfield.
Aircraft in the flying display included Tucano (solo display and 9-ship), Hawk (display), Tornado GR4 (display), Jet Provost (flypast), King Air (flypast / circuits), VC10 (flypast), Nimrod (display), Tutor (display) and Hunter (display). Some photos from the event can be seen below (some © Dave Butler):
Yorkshire UAS to provide RAF Tutor display for the 2004 season
This year's RAF Grob Tutor aerobatics display will be provided by Flight Lieutenant Chris Parkinson, a pilot with Yorkshire Universities Air Squadron, based at Church Fenton. Flt Lt Parkinson recently won the Wright Jubilee Trophy in the RAF Personnel & Training Command Aerobatics Competition 2004. More information on the display can be found on www.tutordisplay.org.uk.
Ex-Church Fenton station commander passes away
The sad news of the death of Group Captain 'Bill' Sise has recently been announced. Gp Capt Sise was the station commander at Church Fenton at the time of its transition from fighter station to training station (1958 - 1959). He always took a great interest in the welfare of his men, and as a result was very well respected by all. Gp Capt Sise's obituary can be seen here.
Church Fenton sees yet another Royal visitor
Prince Andrew can now be added to the list of Royals that have flown in to Church Fenton. He flew into the base on Friday 4th July 2003 because of an official visit to York. As Linton-on-Ouse was holding a graduation flypast that day, the nearest available airport was Church Fenton.
JEFTS Firefly completes final training sortie
Tuesday 24th June was a sad day for JEFTS Church Fenton, as it marked the final training sortie carried out by the unit. The aircraft will be returned to Barkston Heath shortly afterwards. This brings to and end a five year stint at Church Fenton, the first aircraft arriving on detachment in 1998. As mentioned previously, the Direct Entry students that would otherwise have been trained on the Fireflies at Church Fenton will now be sent to "Direct Entry Flights" on various University Air Squadrons around the country (including Yorkshire UAS). It is not known if any other unit will move into the empty hangar space left by JEFTS.
A great shot of a 4-ship of Church Fenton Fireflies high above the clouds
To mark the disbandment of the unit, some commemorative photos were taken, and can be seen here. Both © Pete Anderson. Click each photo to enlarge.
The final sortie of the unit was carried out on Thursday 26th June, when 3 aircraft were flown back to RAF Barkston Heath for use with the remainder of JEFTS. On their way back, they completed flypasts at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, Sherburn-in-Elmet and Breighton.
4-ship of Fireflies over their home base
Base to stay open
After an MOD review of University Air Squadron training, the Defence Minister Adam Ingram has written to Selby MP John Grogan confirming that RAF Church Fenton is to stay open, and in the future may even be used for RAF engineer training. For the full story, visit the thisisyork website.
72 Squadron re-forming
72 Squadron, most recently flying Wessex at RAF Aldergrove in Northern Ireland, is to become the new name for 1 Squadron of 1FTS, based at CF's parent station, nearby RAF Linton-on-Ouse. 72 Squadron was of course the first and last fighter squadron at RAF Church Fenton, arriving in 1937, with Gauntlets and Gladiators, and after being resident at a number of other bases, left Church Fenton in 1959, at the time flying Meteors/Javelins. The re-naming of 1Sqn of 1FTS to 72(R) Sqn and 2Sqn of 1FTS into 207(R) Sqn means that once again, 72 Sqn aircraft will be using CF's runways.
JEFTS operation to end in 2003
The RAF element of JEFTS is to cease to be in July 2003, bringing to an end what will have been a 5 year stay at Church Fenton. The reason behind the move is that the RAF has identified a large surplus of flying hours at its UASs around the country, so it has decided to move all Direct Entry training to the UASs. As a result the RAF part of the contract with Babcock-HCS will not be renewed, although the Army and Navy training with JEFTS (to be re-named DEFTS) at Barkston Heath will continue.
Developments at CF
Recently, the new precision approach radar has been installed. Also, there are now a number of floodlights around the new bowser park. As JEFTS are leaving the base in 2003, the new fire station / ops building that was rumoured will now not be built.
RAF Dakota spends a few weeks "up North"
On Friday 14th September 2001, the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight's Dakota ZA947 arrived at Church Fenton with an engine problem. The aircraft arrived at about 5pm on the evening the 14th, making its' way in over Cawood, with its' undercarriage already down (unusual for aircraft at that distance from the base). As soon as it landed it was the subject of a hive of activity. It was taken into one of the hangars, to be taken out again on Saturday morning. There were once again people all around it, but it was again put back into the hangar.
The RAF got a replacement engine shipped over from the USA, and a test flight was carried out on Thursday 11th October. the aircraft got as far as South Milford (approx 3 miles away) and had to turn back and land at Church Fenton again, with a rough-running engine. The aircraft had another engine shipped over and this was then fitted, another test flight being carried out on Friday 2nd November. This flight must have gone well as the aircraft never came back to the base.
RAF Dakota ZA947 on a previous visit to Church Fenton. Photo © Dave Butler
CAF CP-140 pays a visit...
On Monday 3 September, a Canadian Air Force CP-140 flew through Church Fenton. The aircraft did an ILS approach, then out and towards Pocklington, where it overflew the old RAF base as there was a group of Canadian servicemen visiting their old wartime bases. (Information from the Mil-spotters site and www.airfields-in-yorkshire.co.uk ...)
ex-ATC buildings are no more
The old asbestos Air Training Corps buildings next to the main road through the base have been completely demolished, although I don't know of any plans to develop the site. (31/8/01)
Ex-Church Fenton Spitfire back in Yorkshire....
The Spitfire Mk Vb, BM597, which was for a number of years the gate guardian at RAF Church Fenton recently returned to the skies of Yorkshire, for the Great Yorkshire Airshow at Elvington airfield over the August Bank holiday weekend. Although it was hoped that the Spitfire, now owned by Historic Flying, based at Duxford, would be able to give a flypast at Church Fenton, this was not possible due to a large number of NOTAMs in the area....
Click image for a larger version. Photo © Chris Chambers
4 Hangar is no more...
In the week commencing 6th August 2001, there was a demolition team working on no 4 Hangar.