During the Summer of 1964 I was on annual Summer camp with my local branch of the Air Training Corps, 1114 Sqn Gosforth Branch near Newcastle Upon Tyne to be precise. The camp chosen that year was R.A.F Linton On Ouse and memories still remain vivid to me of the events that took place early on in that week. Without beating around the bush too much I had decided I must get a flight in either a Jet Provost or better still one of the Vampires. After one or two hours of Pinnochio speak I found myself being strapped into a J.P.Mk3 with a Wing Commander Hubbard who was taking a regulation refresher flight, something all desk bound fliers must do to keep their wings valid. Prior to strapping into the little jet and on my walk on the flightline a Pembroke taxied past very slowly and as I glanced at the windows i noticed most of my unit were seated in this very aircraft, all I can recall is that everyone was wearing a bit of a grin as we waved passing each other and I hoped the aircraft wouldn't stop and rumble my escapade.
Some 26 years later I found myself again on the way to Linton On Ouse but this time my visit to the camp was again to fly in one of the many J.Ps based there but it was all above board and had kindly been organised by Support Command in conjunction with a commission I had to do on an article about the J.P. This time it was in Spring that the second flight would occur and fortunately for me good sunshine and visibility prevailed for my 2 day trip. Linton airfield also happens to lie in a very beautiful location in North York's only 10 miles from York itself and anyone who comes to know the area is drawn to the lush landscape near the airfield , especially the run in from the toll bridge at Aldwark which crosses the Ouse. If you follow the road signs after this crossing it will bring you nicely round to the visitors and spectators car park, where if conditions are right aircraft drop onto runway 04, very close to this car park making it an ideal viewing point for photography and spotting. Having reported into the guardroom and signing in I was directed to the area where 2 squadrons aircraft hangar was located.
Having met with my contact person at 2 Sqn., a Flt/Lt Andy Heard, i was soon directed on to the flight clothing and helmet outfitters departments to ready me for the flight in the right outfit. This stage over it was then onto the medical wing to see if i was comfortable with the rather heavy Mk3c green coloured helmet and measured up from the buttocks to the knee caps to see if I am not too big to have my knee caps clipped off should I have to eject, there isn't much room for mistakes leaving the aircraft with a seat from the Martin Baker seat makers at frenetic speed, so fitting in it is paramount.
I now hastily leave the medical centre clutching a pass certificate granting me a flight of not more than +8G and -3G.
Hearing the aircraft around me on my return to 2Sqn's hangar makes me think back to the time of the 64 Summer camp again and another highlight of that week.
Since I had made the flightline my home for the first few days of my stay i couldn't help but notice one J.PMk3 in particular, especially when it was flying, this belonged to a Flt/Lt Jarvis who wore a maroon Mk1A helmet with what I think was the badge or emblem of central flying school on it. He certainly didn't need to have a specially marked bone dome to separate him from the other flying instructors, his aerobatic skills were just a treat to watch and there wouldn't be too many trying to emulate some of his routine.
A typical routine would consist of a take off with the J.P rising just inches off the runway and then the undercarriage would be retracted the aircraft was then held at what seemed to me to be no more than a couple of feet from the deck and a run down the strip of about 100yds was made like this at just above take off speed, approx. 90 knots. Then full power on must have been applied and the little J.P began a slow but verical climb to a height of between no more then 300 to 400ft where a very low stall turn was made, it was at the downward side of this manoeuvre after the turn was made and power was applied again in the dive that i used to look through hand covered eyes in disbelief at just how quickly the J.P was recovered and brought out of the dive screeching away from the ground at what must have been 100ft or so. Some smart flick rolls would be done along with some other manoeuvres all at low level and then the aircraft would disappear for a few minutes, at this point i was still spellbound by the display and by the time i'd come round from this dazzling act the loud sound of a J.P was heard from over the hangar area, this time the aircraft was inverted and what a sight it was to see it come from nowhere at such a low height upside down. So it was with these thoughts and memories I made my way back to 2Sqn's hangar.
Next on the agenda was something very high on the R.A.F's safety list for people flying as passengers in their training jets and this was familiarisation on the Martin Baker seat, the type Mk4 fitted in most Jet Provosts. This proved to be invaluable to me because not only had I been taught so well in strapping myself in to the seat, but it showed me some of the function levers on the side of the seat to position myself higher or lower or move forward or backward, really important when taking photos in a small area and making the best use of space available. With nearly half of the first day over covering my awareness subjects I was introduced to the other flying instructors who would make up the 3 ship formation flying the next day.
My pilot was a Sqn/Ldr Dave Marchant (alias Darthvader) a very helpful chap who'd had lots of experience doing photo sorties, so understood the needs of the passenger wanting to get the right shots at the right time, this was made clear to me on the flight on the day, because of a limited time in the air working on fuel time and the planned places for my photo opportunities there was a one and one only chance at each place for me to get my photos, air time limited any re-runs. So after having been given a brief run down on what would happen on the flight, I was left happily for the rest of the day taking photos of incoming J.P's by the runway caravan. Day 2 arrived pretty quick and after a briefing in the morning of how the flight would be organised, formation wise, and weather wise, we headed out to the flightline. Start up was quick and still with canopy slightly opened we trundled off round the perry track checking instruments and other functions as we went for the piano keys, and line up, ready for take off. Soon after take off we joined up and had settled into echelon formation, it wasn't
long that I was notified of my first opportunity, we were to pass Sutton Bank and after a quick radio session between the crews the 2 other J.P's closed up, tighten the formation, and with the o.k from my pilot Mr Marchant I fired off my first few frames trying to get the famous landmark horse and the 2 other J.P's in frame. I don't think I got more than 3 frames and through the intercom came the words that we were off to the next checkpoint, at this point i felt a bit deflated as I hadn't quite got enough photos to say at least one of them might be a success. Such is life and my thoughts told me at the next checkpoint to be more prepared and just blast off as much film as possible in the hope that 1 or 2 might come out right . Having just had this mini pep talk to myself I was just starting to relax and looked out onto the other 2 J.P's, and then checked my camera for how much film there was left to go, i was just about to look up when through the corner of my left eye i noticed the control column being slammed to what I thought was as close as possible to the inside wall of the cockpit bulkhead my pilot could get, to top this off I then saw it move forward and this could only mean one thing an uncomfortable feeling of going down at great speed with me rising out of the seat slightly and the helmet wanting to leave me of its own accord.
With just enough time to gather my senses and peer out from the front of the canopy I noticed a large amount of trees coming my way and before I could say a word about this situation we were off again, thankfully in the up direction also at great speed bringing a new sensation from the helmet again, only this time it was now weighing on my head like 20 2Ib bags of sugar looking for a hiding place in the collar of my flying overalls. My immediate instinct was to tense up like a weightlifter in an effort to psyche myself up for the next arduous task and thankfully this climb back up only lasted a few seconds or so and the heat was off as the speed seemed to drop off and we met up with the other 2 J.P's and began to sidle back into echelon formation to head for our next checkpoint. I think at this point I was asking Darthvader what that was all about but left it as my better side had just told me i had received his calling card or better still , "The Linton Flying Instructors Handshake". Needless to say my next few shots with the camera were a bit shaky but things settled down and i could see the funny side after calm was restored from helter skelter world. Landmark points such as Malton Castle soon loomed up and i only managed to get 2 shots from this area and they were both duffs when I had them retuned to me. My best moments came en route to Whitby where I got some nice photos of the other 2 J.P's as they flew ahead of us, one of the aircraft left early to return to Linton so it was 2 for Whitby. It was over the Whitby area I found my pilot and the other J.P crew really helpful banking this way and that in every effort to help me get a couple of good shots (Thankyou).
All in all it was a very memorable occasion and one which I treasure and can only say a big thanks to Sqn/Ldr Dave Marchant for a brilliant flight and to Flt/Lt Andy Heard for all his help at the time. The trip was also made possible through a M.Hill and a Mr Chris Shepherd who was then the Support Commands P.R.O.