Ian Parker snaps Andy Stewart in the Phantom Cockpit Simulator
HANG North 2014 report
Well, after 10 months of planning and advertising it finally happened. HANG North 2014, East Midlands Branch’s third annual History of Air Navigation Special Interest Group event took place on Thursday, 9th October.
After a successful event last year at the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby, the Branch was looking for a venue, which would allow a larger attendance, and which was more conveniently positioned for delegates arriving by car and by train. It didn’t take long to realise that Newark Air Museum (NAM) would fill the bill admirably. Positioned just off the A1 and a £7 taxi ride from a main line station, there could be no better choice for an event of this nature. Add to this a helpful and flexible management team for which nothing was too much trouble, first rate in-house catering, a Vice-President who is a long-standing MRIN, and the availability of a wooden hut from RAF Scampton, which was reputedly used by the Dambusters, and which could, at a push, accommodate 50 delegates, and the deal was done.
Following a meeting with museum Vice-President, Mick Clarke, and museum Secretary and Trustee, Howard Heeley, early in the year and early acceptance by our three speakers, the organisation was easy and trouble free. The main worry was persuading a sufficient number of delegates to attend, because most people seemed reluctant to commit themselves a long way ahead. Nevertheless, progress was made with the help of Tony Fyler, Editor of Navigation News with some strategically place adverts and Sally-Anne Cooke, RIN Conference Organiser, who kept a record of those showing interest and who worked very hard collecting their £20s. In the end, we had 28 present plus Mick and Howard, and after making space for tables for serving tea and coffee, and tables for book signing, this turned out to be about the ideal number for the event.
Experience has shown that not all delegates are able to meet a strict starting time. Therefore, the programme was arranged so that they could arrive any time after 10:00AM. After checking-in through reception, first stop was the Dambusters Hut for coffee and biscuits, and for many ‘long time, no see’ chats with colleagues from way back. In the meantime, Mick and Howard had arranged for the Vulcan, Shackleton, Hastings, and Varsity to the opened and manned by museum volunteers keen to explain the intricacies of the aircraft to delegates. In addition, access to the Phantom cockpit simulator inside Display Hangar 1was overseen with the help of one of our speakers, Wing Commander Dave Gledhill. The interior of these aircraft was a source of fond nostalgia to some and a source of amazement (gosh isn’t it a squeeze!) to others! The comment “This crew position seems to have shrunk since the last time I sat at it 40 years ago” was also heard several times!
Although it was quite chilly outside and a little windy, the rain managed to hold off for most of the day. However, by 1230 all were ready for the excellent buffet lunch (the fillings being deeper than the covers), which was laid out under the Varsity in one of the hangers and served by the museum’s wonderful lady volunteers. Serving lunch under the Varsity allowed to speakers to creep away to the Dambusters Hut and set up for the afternoon’s lectures.
First to speak was Air Defence Phantom and Tornado Navigator, Wing Commander Andy Lister-Tomlinson, whose enthusiasm for the history of the circumstances and politics which made the RAF end up with the Phantom and Buccaneer, which the Royal Navy had sensibly opted for from square one, in place of the TSR2 turned what might have been a very dry subject into a fascinating story from one who was there and who had subsequently experienced the ins and outs of the MoD at first hand.
Next to speak was well-known author and aviation historian Air Commodore Graham Pitchfork who excited us all with thrilling tales and photographs of operating the Buccaneer; first with the Royal Navy and subsequently during three RAF tours culminating in command of 208 Squadron.
Finally, after afternoon tea and scones with jam and cream, author and Air Defence Phantom and Tornado navigator, Wing Commander Dave Gledhill explained the development of the capabilities of both aircraft and the training of air defence navigators along with more spectacular photos and videos.
The afternoon finished with the opportunity for book sales and signing by authors Graham and Dave and by Wing Commander Jeff Jefford who’d brought along copies of his updated reference volume ‘Observers and Navigators’ (reviewed in the Jul/Aug issue of NN), which he made available at a very good price.
All agreed that attending HANG North 2014 had been an interesting and worthwhile experience, and this had been due to the friendliness and flexibility of Newark Air Museum volunteers and the generosity and skill of our speakers. We are certainly considering using NAM for next