RAF Northolt, situated in North West Greater London, held its first night photo shoot on the evening of the 29th January 2009. Having had our identities checked at the main gate we were escorted in convoy around to the rear of the hangers of No 32 (The Royal) Squadron where we all congregated in the car park and donned our yellow high-viz vests. We received a briefing on health & safety and on what we could and couldn't photograph and where we could and couldn't go by our host for the evening, Wing Commander Steve Pitcher, Officer Commanding No 32 (TR) Sqn. With the domestics out of the way we followed him out to the operational area in front of the hangers.

The first thing I noticed was the bright white light that illuminated the dispersal and aircraft. This would make photography, and the processing of the images afterwards, very easy. The aircraft in the static line up were well spaced out and parked at an angle to the double yellow lines, which we were briefed before hand not to cross.

About an hour into a very cold two hours that we were allocated, Agusta A.109E/ZR322 was started up for static ground running. A chance to get some photos with the rotors turning. During the ten minutes, strobes were activated and lights switched on and off giving everyone the opportunity to photograph this demonstration from a variety of angles.

Towards the end of our time slot, the Merlin crew arrived and prepped their helicopter, which then departed back to RAF Benson closely followed by the Cessna UC-35A Citation which was on a night flying exercise from Wiesbaden, Germany. The Irish Air Corps Learjet stayed the night. At the end of the photo shoot we gathered in the terminal building where hot drinks and bacon butties were available before being escorted back to the main gate.

Many thanks to Phil Dawe and his band of volunteers for organising the event and helping it to run smoothly. Wg Cdr Steve Pitcher, OC No 32 (TR) Sqn and the Station Commander, RAF Northolt, Gp Capt GGS van den Berg ADC MSc RAF for putting up with a load of photographers on their patch.

Another night photo shoot with a helicopter theme is being planned for RAF Northolt very soon.

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© On Target Aviation 2009