RAF Northolt Nightshoot XXX

07/03/2024

With the Threshold Aero RAF Brize Norton night shoot being a success for me photographically, I made my mind up that, should the opportunity arise, I would try and get myself a spot at the RAF Northolt night shoot, which was to be held on March 7th between 19:30 and 21:30. I applied and by the end of January had paid for my entry for what promised to be a great 30th edition anniversary event. 

As the weeks went on, many fantastic aircraft were announced, various aircraft not often seen at UK airshows. The first announcement was a German Navy Dornier Do 228 from Marineflieger MFG3 at Nordholz Air Base, however, it was announced on March 2nd that this aircraft had unfortunately cancelled due to maintenance issues. Despite this, I looked forward to seeing other rareities at the event, such as the German Navy P-3 Orion. Sadly, the night before the event, the Royal Canadian Air Force had to pull out with their CC-130 Hercules, and on the day of the shoot, a pair of T-6 Harvards also pulled out. It was still looking to be a great event, we just had to hope every aircraft arrived... especially that Orion!

One of only two aircraft to perform an engine run at photo shoot 30 was this Bulldog, seen here under the 32 Squadron hangar lights.

Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1 XX629

Having driven onto the base, the first aircraft you are met with is this incredibly smart-looking BAE 25, formally operated by 32 Squadron at RAF Northolt. Britains' fleet of 4 Royal BAE 125s was retired in 2015, 7 years ahead of schedule. 

Ex Royal Air Force British Aerospace 125 ZD621 - Ex 32 Squadron - RAF Northolt

The only other aircraft to perform an engine run that evening was this smart-looking French Xingu, proudly displaying tail art celebrating 40 years of service in the Armee De L'Air.

French Air & Space Force Embraer EMB-121 Xingu 078/F-TEYE - European Defence Airlift School 00.319 - Avord Air Base

France was a great supporter of the event, also sending along a pair of their Pilatus PC-21s. How striking is that colour scheme?! They were possibly the best-parked aircraft that evening, lit up very well under the 32 Squadron hangar lights.

French Air & Space Force Pilatus PC-21 07/709-FI - 315th Air Force Test Pilot School - Cognac-Chateaubernard Air Base

French Air & Space Force Pilatus PC-21 17/709-FS - 315th Air Force Test Pilot School - Cognac-Chateaubernard Air Base

By far the highlight of the evening, the soon-to-be-retired German Navy Orion. One of the final remaining P-3s in German service, catching one for the final time was fantastic.  Portugal has bought six P-3s from Germany, two of which have already been delivered. 60+03 will enter Portuguese service as 24812. Before arriving in Northolt, the aircraft overflew multiple UK airbases including Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Yeovilton, and RAF Fairford. Germany is replacing them with P-8 Poseidons, five of which will be delivered by October 2024. In total, Germany has ordered eight airframes.

German Navy Lockheed P-3C Orion CUP 60+03 - Marineflieger MFG3 - Nordholz Air Base

It was my understanding that Heli Operations, based out of Portland, had sent all of their Sea Kings to Ukraine for use in the ongoing conflict, so I was pleasantly surprised when one was announced to be taking part in the shoot. It's nice that various Sea kings are still in the air today, whether that be training crews at Portland or keeping history alive at Historic Helicopters.

HeliOps Portland Sea King HU5 XV666

The newest aircraft to enter Irish service is this CASA 295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, one of 2 the nation operates as a replacement to their ageing CN-235MPAs. With all its lumps and bumps it looks quite the part!

Irish Air Corps CASA C-295W 284 - 101 Squadron - 1 Operations Wing - Casement Aerodrome

Ireland sent 3 very smart-looking aircraft, with this EC135 being one of 2 to display a special scheme. This scheme is celebrating 60 years of the Irish Air Corps. With its various strobe lights on this chopper looks really quite good.

Irish Air Corps Eurocopter EC135P 270 - 302 Squadron - 3 Operations Wing - Casement Aerodrome

Despite seeing it at RIAT 2022, Irelands PC-12 in the special scheme was a welcome edition. To save repeating myself, here's a slightly more in-depth look into the IACs Spectre fleet: https://www.olliehillaviationphotography.co.uk/l/riat-2022-northern-europe/

Irish Air Corps Pilatus PC-12NG Spectre 280 - 104 Squadron - Casement Aerodrome

Arriving late to the party was this Airbus A400M Atlas from RAF Brize Norton. By the time it arrived, the event was already in full swing. We were cleared out of the way whilst the aircraft landed, taxied into position, and shut down.

Royal Air Force Airbus A400M Atlas C.1 ZM404 - 24/30/70 Squadron - RAF Brize Norton

As well as having the Sea King, it was nice to have its replacement parked alongside it, as seen in the photo further above. This Mark 4 example is designed for use by the Royal Marines, as seen by the fast roping beam above the cabin door.  

Royal Navy Augusta Westland Merlin HC.4 ZJ135/T - 846 Naval Air Squadron - RNAS Yeovilton