From 3 – 7 Sep 09, Flt Lts Jamie Norris, Mark Robertson and Lt Ben Stubbs RN flew to the Czech Republic to support the Czech International Air Fest (CIAF), an international airshow in Hradec Králové Airport near Prague. The pilots were supported by a small team of Sqn engineers who travelled the 1650 miles round trip via ferry and road with overnight stops in Leipzig and Wurzburg. Being the first team to arrive for the airshow the 3 Harrier GR9s were parked at what was to be the entrance to the event. The engineers arranged the aircraft into a static display for the duration of the airshow which began at 0900 on Sat 5 Sep and finished at 1800 on Sun 6 Sep. Positive feedback was received from members of the public with a strong urge to see the Harrier again at next year’s CIAF. With 2 fuel leaks, a missing fastener and a battery that wouldn’t switch off, the engineers were kept busy with the detached aircraft.
Two groups each of 10 engineering personnel from the Sqn took part in Ex SUMMER EAGLE, a week of Adventure Training in Wales from 14-17 Sep 09 and 21-25 Sep 09. The Ex, which included canoeing, white water rafting, mountain biking and high/low ropes, was designed to trial a new concept in decompression training for troops returning from operations in Afghanistan.
Three pilots (Wg Cdr Harvey Smyth, Flt Lt Will ‘Brick’ Collins and Flt Lt Andy Chisholm from 20(R)Sqn) flew to RAF Aldergrove from 18 – 21 Sep 09, supported by a small engineering team, to commemorate Aldergrove’s closure as an RAF station and formal hand over to Joint Helicopter Command. Wg Cdr Smyth led the 3-ship flypast, exactly on time and on track, at the lowering of the RAF Ensign over Station HQ. During the visit, he also provided a singleton flypast at Lower Lough Erne for the scattering of ashes of the last remaining Battle of Britain pilot from Northern Ireland – Wg Cdr Ken MacKenzie DFC AFC. Wg Cdr Mackenzie, who died on 4 Jun 09 aged 92, was a fighter pilot who destroyed at least seven enemy fighters during the Battle of Britain, one of them by ramming it after he had run out of ammunition, for which he earned a DFC less than three weeks after joining his sqn. Later, as a POW, he was involved in numerous escape attempts. The Harrier sortie was notable also for being the first of its kind to be given permission to low fly in LFA19 Dedicated User Area and to penetrate to within 10nm of the Irish border. Wg Cdr Harv Smyth was firmly on ‘home’ territory during the visit, having originated from County Armagh.
Two pilots (Flt Lt Lewis Cunningham and Lt Matt Fooks-Bale RN) flew to Malta to participate as airshow static displays from 25-28 Sep 09 where Lewis felt his balcony view over Club Escobar was not appropriate as they were indeed there to work and not play!
The main focus for the month was preparation for, and execution of the CFS Agents’ (‘Trappers’) visit to the Sqn from 21 Sep 09 – 1 Oct 09. The aim of the visit was to independently assess the standards of pure and applied flying of a cross-section of Sqn pilots. The visit coincided with an HQ 1 Gp Assurance Visit on 22 Sep 09.