Sector 2 RAF Lossiemouth to Oban
The visit to RAF Lossiemouth was meant to be brief but at least the crew met the local RAFBF Team plus spoke with the Ops staff to ensure the flight would not disrupt any fast jet traffic. With engines started it was a short taxi out but a long hold. A GR4 Tornado had taxied out beforehand and the hump in the runway meant it had disappeared from view. After what seemed like ages it re-appeared and roared past allowing the Catalina to line up and depart in a somewhat slower but more graceful style.
Heading west Inverness ATC had requested a flypast but alas due to time pressures and the route it had to be sadly declined. It was then on to Cromarty, another Control Point and a great sight with “haar” on the hills either side of the Firth. The plan was to fly into the Firth so as to announce the Catalina’s arrival. Jeff did this and continued the few miles on to Invergordon, a former RAF Coastal Command. A quick orbit was flown at Invergordon before turning back to the display area. By this stage Rod had seen the obstacles to avoid.
Approaching Cromarty from Invergordon with “haar” on the hills.
It was then a case of Rod taking control for the Cromarty Display. The only moving obstacle in the display area was the Nigg Ferry slowly crossing the Firth. However, that gave Rod time to prepare and the crowds lining the Firth plus those on the Invergordon Lifeboat were not disappointed. Inver Collie provided this video clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tlru5oCwMWQ
The former Naval Air Station was only a tent encampment on the grassy foreshore in 1913 but it was now full of onlookers. Sylvia Tarrant from The Highland Council was on the north side of the Firth and you can view her photos of the Display here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/highlandcouncil/sets/72157635192777299/ The crew certainly appreciated the generosity of the Highland Council, Black Isle Ward and the Cromarty Firth Port Authority who had sponsored the display. With the air display over it was time to continue on to Oban.
The route planned by Jeff took the Catalina back over Invergordon and then the Council Offices in Dingwall before hopefully flying down the Great Glen at low level. The weather on the east coast was no longer to be seen and now there was excellent visibility and a much higher cloud base. A low level passage was definitely possible but the temptation to fly really low was resisted. RAF Lossiemouth had stopped any fast jets and those sightseers on scenic launches wondered what was happening as the Catalina flew past, low and slow.
Down the Great Glen at 700 feet.
Can you see it yet?
Its behind you! Jeff’s family and John Warman saw this as they waited at Fort Augustus. Due to the tracking device on board the Catalina, John had been able to follow the progress of Project Hawker 2013 and suggested a stop at this vantage point. It was great for the support team (i.e. Jeff’s wife Liz, daughter Emma and son Alex) to see the Catalina fly over. Aloft, it was a truly memorable experience for the crew to have such good weather to fly this sector and in particular down the Great Glen. Emerging from the Great Glen it was then a case of how to proceed?
The crew flew over Oban Airport and approached Oban from the North but how was the time going? By good planning, Oban was reached in time for the closing of the Highland Games. In fact flying over the Games it was clear to see a pipe band in full swing. However, dropping down over McCaig’s Tower to the harbour gave the crew a surprise. Moored in the harbour was a huge cruise ship. Worse still, it was right in the display area! Luckily, the air display was planned for the Friday so the crew flew back to Oban airport. Just as the Catalina flew out of the harbour Jeff was able to point out to Rod and Shaun the crew accommodation. The Barriemore Hotel is at the end of the esplanade and it was easy to see because of the chap in a pink shirt standing outside. Who was it?
The wind favoured Runway 19 so Rod flew a mini Kai Tak approach but decided to go around on short final. As a result, those on the ground had a lovely close up as the Catalina powered away for a successful second attempt. Gordon Bickerton was on hand to capture it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkclFR5cajo
Once on the ground it was a tight taxi on the apron but there were a number of excellent airport ground staff to protect the Catalina’s 104 foot wingspan. Passengers on the local Hebridean Airways flight must have wondered what was happening. Oban Airport Station Manager, Tom Eddlestone, was on hand to welcome the crew and it was blue skies again. Would it last though?
For Captain Rod Brooking and Crew Chief Shaun Jarvis, their flying duties had been successfully completed and they could relax a bit now! Also, Jeff’s family had arrived with Captain John Warman. They had flown into Inverness and then driven down to Oban.
Hopefully, Crew Chief David Legg was at the hotel having travelled across from Edinburgh on the train. Two nights were planned for Oban and this permitted a change of Captain and Crew Chief. Project Hawker 2013 was not even halfway at this stage so more days and sectors were to be flown so keep following!