After some uncertainty over the format and indeed whether the event was to be postponed due to unavailability of aircraft, the first RAF Marham Enthusiasts Day took place on the 19th May. Although titled Enthusiasts Day it actually started at 6pm with everyone meeting up on playing fields outside of the base for ID to be checked and passes issued before being bussed into the base and onto the dispersal pan.
The event started with the roar of the Typhoon from the RAF display team which had flown down from Coningsby especially for the event. The pilot went through the 2016 routine against a very grey sky occasionally lit with bursts of sunlight. Sadly that was the last we were to see of the sun that night but the 100 or so photographers who attended the event weren’t going to let the British weather spoil the evening.
Parked on the dispersal in front of the row of Rubb fabric hangers was 31 Sqn ‘Goldstars’ 100th anniversary jet. The tail depicts the Gold Star of India which is in recognition of them being the first operational military unit in Indian skies, assisting the army in dealing with tribal unrest hence their motto ‘First in Indian Skies’. At the far end of the dispersal were two further Tornado GR4’s parked out for further photo opportunities.
We were free to wander around the dispersal at leisure and to visit the hanger where there was a cockpit tour and a tornado weapons display from the weapons trainer.
By far the largest interest though was at the top end of the service runway where very close access was given to the hot pits. Two tornados were being serviced before the pits were cleared of tankers and crew bus and the aircraft moved to a head to head formation in front of the crowd of photographers before each one headed on to the main runway for a spectacular take off with afterburners glowing in the darkening night sky.
From the dispersal pan two minibus tours were available. The first was to the Victor and PR9 Canberra stationed around the base and the second was over to the far side of the airfield to see the Operation Granby jet inside the Harded Aircraft Shelters. Although slightly cluttered with equipment and scaffolding to one wing whilst she undergoes structural repairs it was a great photo op particularly as we thought it was off the agenda. There was also another Tornado positioned outside of the HAS which made another great shot. Maybe next time we can have the Granby jet outside the HAS as the sun sets.
Back over the main side of the airfield and the pair of aircraft on evening operations were back on the hot pits being serviced, this time under the lights giving a different feel to the shots. As the stated 9pm finish time came and went the volunteer organisors were in no rush to kick everyone out and happy let people watch the first aircraft depart into the darkness before the rain drove the majority of visitors back to the coach for the short trip back to the car park.
This was the first event of this type at RAF Marham and the feedback was unanimousy positive with everyone attending complementing the friendliness of the volunteers and the effort they went to provide great access to the base. Let’s hope another one will follow soon.