The Lightning Preservation Group, based at Bruntingthorpe airfield in Leicestershire is home to three English Electric Lightnings and its two taxiable aircraft XS904 and XR728 were to perform a syncronised engine reheat on the airfield’s runway at twilight followed by a night photo shoot with its latest arrival XR713 in front of the QRA sheds.
The English Electric Lightning was commisioned as an intercept aircraft at the start of the cold war in responce to the threat of soviet bombers. Two Rolls Royce Avon tutbojet engines were mounted one above the other and enabled supersonic speeds. Its those engines that we had come to see light up the night sky as the light fell.
Arriving just after the gates opened at 2pm we were swiftly parked by the local ATC guys and informed that the briefing would be at 3.45 with the engine run around 4.30/5pm depending on the sunset. This allowed plenty of time to look round not just the fantastically rebuilt QRA sheds relocoated from the former Lightning base of RAF Wattisham but also the other aircraft on display at the Bruntingthorple museum.
Scattered around the site are the aircraft of the Cold War collection, many of which can be seen in action on the bi annual thunder days. Between the parked cars of the on site auction you’ll find Buccaneers, Jet Provosts, Canberra, Hunter, Nimrod and the very aptly named Super Guppy.
After a wander around the Cold War collection and the very busy LPG shop it was back outside the hanger for the 3.45 briefing and a quick dash to the runway to get a spot for the engine run. The plan was for XR728 and XS904 to be towed out to the runway and then line up side by side ready to roll. As the sun went down behind the stormy clouds the engines of both aircraft roared into life for a stunning double reheat display. As anyone who has been to a Lightning engine run will testify the warnings about ear protection were well advised. The only downside to the display was that XS904 on the near side failed to reheat on the second display so it was left for XR728 to entertain the crowd.
Following the engine run, some of the crowd drifted off but the keen photographers stayed for an opportunity to shoot the relatively new arrival XR713 under the lights. Set in and around the Q Sheds the aircraft were arranged in a variety of positions. XR713 was initially inside the right hand shed with the nose cone of XP703 and cockpit to the side of it before being pulled out into the very windy night and the hanger door closed for another photo opportunity.
As the final jet XS904 arrived back from the runway and was put away in the left hand shed there was plenty of time to capture it under the shed lights before finally XR728 was pulled in front of it to give an opportunity to capture all three aircraft together.
The day ended around 6.30pm with the volunteers off for a much earned beer and promises of a full night photoshoot in February. I for one will defiantly be attending.