Drivers passing Middle Wallop last Friday morning would be forgiven for wondering what on earth was going on as more than 20 aeroplanes, and some helicopters, descended to land at the Army airbase.
Middle Wallop, the home of Army Aviation was hosting a visit from the Royal Air Squadron, a distinguished group of aviators. As the squadron aircraft arrived, taxied in and parked on the flightline outside the Army Flying Museum it soon became apparent that the Squadron had brought with them a fascinating and diverse collection of aircraft. A beautiful Twin Beech, a V-tail Bonanza, and an immaculate Boeing Stearman were amongst the group, together with more modern aircraft including an RV9, Eurofox and several Cessna 182s. The helicopters included Robinson R22s, R44s and a Eurocopter EC120.
Once they had shut their aircraft down the crews made their way to the Army Flying Museum. There they were met by the CCF cadets of Embley School. Embley’s CCF has only recently established its relationship with the Army Air Corps and Middle Wallop in particular so this was the first opportunity for the cadets to participate in an official function.
The visit was the idea of Brigadier (retd) Richard Folkes, president of the HAAF, and a member of the Royal Air Squadron. After a welcome from the Commandant of Middle Wallop, Colonel Robin Melling the visit got underway. Members were divided into two groups, with one spending the morning on a guided tour of the Museum, whilst the other visited the HAAF.
The visitors also had a chance to hear about Army Aviation training at Middle Wallop and received a number of briefings from serving personnel. Perhaps the most fascinating of these was a short run through about the new AH64 Apache, the Echo model which is just coming into service with the Army Air Corps.
Led by cadet leaders Tim Leather and Helen Smart from Embley School, the CCF cadets were there to support the Squadron’s hosts for the day, the Historic Army Aircraft Flight (HAAF).
The idea behind the HAAF visit was to share experiences of flying, but also to introduce the squadron to the other activities within the HAAF. Several members had asked to fly in the HAAFs historic aircraft, so it wasn’t long before the Sioux, Scout and Chipmunk began a busy schedule of flying. However it wasn’t just the guests of the squadron who were flying, as the cadets were included in the programme too, and they all had a chance to fly.
Everyone also had a chance to visit the HAAF’s hangar and see all the engineering and maintenance work that is done by its team of dedicated and hard working volunteer engineers.
Friday was an important day for the HAAF in other ways too, as the squadron’s visit coincided with the launch of the HAAF’s Scholarship programme. Aimed at cadets, young soldiers and veterans, the programme is designed to offer people the opportunity to experience flight in one of the HAAF aircraft. Ranging from Bronze through Silver to Gold, each offers a chance to become involved in the HAAFs flying, whether on the Bronze level as a single air experience flight, or towards Silver or Gold level where recipients receive between five and ten hours of flying lessons.
With the HAAF visit and flying programme complete there were a lot of happy smiling faces as everyone gathered back at the museum at the end of the afternoon. The guided tours of the museum had been a great success too, with everything brought to life by the museum’s guides, experienced army aviators themselves.
All that was left was for the squadron’s members to depart which was quite a spectacle as each took to the sky in a very busy 40 minutes of starting, taxiing and taking off, quite a treat for anyone passing Middle Wallop later in the afternoon.
Photo credit: Daniel Frampton