1993-2010

So with my RAF service over in 1993 , I settled down eventually to civvy life once more, found a new job as an Optical Technician here in Louth, Lincolnshire,  where I spent 8 happy years learning a new trade and the work was varied and thought that this would suit me till retirement. Alas I was made redundant and had to find a new job. I was successful in being given another job, this time as an IT assistant working with adults who had Learning Difficulties, a very rewarding job indeed. And so I retired from work just a few weeks before my 65th birthday and now joined the ranks of the OAP, along with my military pension, found myself reasonably well off.

I tried to keep up with local military projects and joined the Lightning Association up at the old Binbrook Airfield, the Association was still going strong and I managed to  attend the very last Rally at the airfield, where under the expert hands of the late Brian Carroll, Lightning Mk6  XR724 did a fast taxi with both engines in reheat. A talk was also organised in the old Sgt's Mess where Brian and Ian Black gave some very interesting stories of their time on the English Electric Lightning.



Not long after the last Rally, the Lightning Association membership was scrapped due to circumstances one being that the membership magazine struggled to find new stories and also the cost of producing the magazine was becoming prohibitive. A few years later, the runways at Binbrook were dug up for hardcore and eventually XR724 had nowhere left to stretch her legs. The Owner and one of the ex members have since purchased a plot of land where the intention is to build a heritage museum. XR724 now sits on a concrete hard standing, but alas no longer will she be able to fast taxi. It is hoped that she will eventually be able to fire up the Avon's and fill the old RAF station with sounds of the once thriving and busy RAF station. 

Up till last year 2018  I volunteered to update and modernise the Association web site, which I had up and running, with a surprising number of hits over the years. Lack of updates from the engineering team and the occasional story saw the interest drop off, but we have another webmaster who volunteered to take the site on and bring it up to date, so perhaps at some point the whole website will have a new look.

My interest in the Lightning did not completely disappear although no great involvement on my part, till in 2009 I met up with an old ex 5 squadron pal, who was a founding member of the Lightning Preservation Group based at Bruntingthorpe Airfield  where a collection of Cold War Jets resided. This is when I was first acquainted with XR708 and XS904 the two fully serviceable Mk 6 Lightning's which performed two displays for the public, one at the May Bank holiday and the other at the August Bank holiday. You could say I was hooked from the very first visit, a very friendly team of ex 5 Squadron pal's and a few civvies who maintained the two jets. Since then I have helped in various ways, engine changes, electrical problems and everything else in between. We made frequent visits over the years and a few new guys have joined the team since these early days. Alas these glory days seem to have gone as we all get older, and I guess the visits will become fewer, but will try and get down there as often as is possible.

2009

I have tried to capture events from my visits and here are a few from these days.


My first visit  May 2009 with XR728 in the partially complete Q shed


Jack Reid, John Spencer and Steve Le Count preparing for a fast taxi run

The whole LPG experience is magic, members just get on and do what needs to be done. Normally when we visit Bruntingthorpe, we take a packed lunch which was taken in the butty hut at the rear of the Q shed, an excellent time for the lads to pull up a sandbag as well as discuss matters of the day while enjoying a comfy chair and away from the cold winds that were experienced in the Q shed at the time, before completion. Now in 2019 we are more likely to have our lunch sitting at a few tables in the middle of the Q shed for some reason.

It was not uncommon to have to remove an engine or two to assist in curing a fuel/hydraulic leak or other problem that required greater accessibility. Engine removals involved quite a lot of manpower and in the case of the top engine, the hire of a crane which was an expensive prospect. These days this is not a problem as a chain hoist was built in to the Q shed beams and also provided a much safer and accurate maneuverability of the No2 engine and also being able to work indoors in the relative warmth.


This was the old method of removing the No2 Engine outside in the weather.

And with the installed chain hoist, a much better and safer engine removal/installation.


The lower engine the No1 ECU was a much easier task and was removed and refitted in the hangar.







Task accomplished using 4 mini hoists, attaching an engine bracket the lowering the complete assembly on to an engine trolley.

These are just two of the routine tasks required to keep the jets fit for purpose and provide the spectacular fast taxi runs in full reheat on two annual public holiday weekends per year along with the large collection of Cold War Jets, and always subject to serviceability. The LPG have an excellent record of providing an excellent display and no where else can you experience an English Electric Lightning at so close quarters.

The public get to see the finished product in all its glory, perform what was once a daily occurrence for myself and many others at RAF Binbrook. What most do not see is the amount of hard work and dedication of the small engineering team who give up their time to make this a reality. Also it is worth reminding you that with a limited amount of spare parts, it comes down to the experiences of the team in being able to repair/refurbish items as they fail.

For those that have never experienced an English Electric Lightning fast taxi down Bruntingthorpes large runway in full reheat, I fully recommend you get down there on one of the open days as there will come a time when spares and experience will eventually end.



A double Q Scramble reenactment 27th July 2013 both jets at readiness





Both jets exit the Q shed and head for the runway threshold


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