It was back in 2019 that Fawley Parish Council invited The Flight to attend their Armed Forces Day event, but initial enthusiasm turned into disappointment when our aircraft was fogged-in at Middle Wallop.
Two years of lockdowns then followed, but we were determined to make it this year, and sure enough, on Saturday 18th June our Scout XT626 dropped into the Gang Warily Recreation Centre just inland from Southampton Water.
The 20-minute flight from Middle Wallop had started at the perfectly leisurely time of 0810, with pilot and two volunteers on board, and just enough equipment strapped in the rear cabin to keep us going for the day; on this occasion we were leaving behind our vehicle.
Clear skies all the way, and a route that led down the edge of the New Forest provided a privileged view of some of Hampshire’s finest scenery; you may have enjoyed the New Forest on the ground, but seeing it from a thousand feet up is awesome.
With Southampton Water snaking along to our left it was easy to spot the grey mass of Fawley refinery from a distance, and then the small green patch of playing fields on its Southern edge, with one of our colleagues who lives locally marking our spot for us.
A last-second turn to avoid overflying some horses in a neighbouring field, and we settled down next to a pond, watched impassively by a huge dog, I think a Malamute, who looked completely unconcerned as we landed only 20 metres from him. We were welcomed by Kathryn Ashdown, Manager of Operations and Events for Fawley Parish Council, who had waited three years for us to turn up. The smile said it all.
Once the event had opened to the public we had a steady stream of children aged 5 to 85 wishing to look over the Scout, and sit in it.
It’s still rewarding to be able to answer the most common question, “So how exactly did you get it here today?” by simply pointing upwards, or at the pilot.
Some people still don’t believe us…
We talked to hundreds of people during the day, with countless youngsters only too happy to try on a flying helmet, and to tell us how comfortable/uncomfortable they thought the rear cabin seating was. I lost count of the number of times we explained to visitors the history of the Scout, the people who flew and maintained it sixty years ago onwards, and the work we do to keep our particular example flying.
We were joined at one point by a petrol tanker, which caused confusion to some who thought we were a double-act about to demonstrate refuelling one vintage machine from another.
1952 AEC Mammoth Major (CSV987)
Before too long the unmistakable swirl of bagpipes could be heard in the distance. Bagpipes are like Marmite; for the record I don’t like Marmite, but love the sound of the bagpipes. One of the highlights of the day for us was a photo-opportunity with the Hampshire Caledonian Pipe Band, who played superbly.
All too soon it was time to pack away for the short flight home, the take-off watched by plenty of people who had remained behind just to see if we really were telling the truth about flying in.
The Fawley Armed Forces Day event is an impressive local celebration that deserves every success year on year. Our thanks go to Kathryn and her team, to Paul Stanton for the usual smooth flight in, and to Jake Verry from Boeing, who gave up his Saturday once again to join us as a volunteer – have a safe flight back to Oz.
Who knows, next year we may be able to fly in both helicopters, perhaps that will impress the Malamute.
Photo credits: Google Maps, Mark Meaton, Kathryn Ashdown (Fawley Parish Council)