Search the site

Entries in Squirrel (3)


24/01/13 Lynx over the Llugwy and a Surprise Squirrel

Four Army Air Corps Lynx Ah.7s were on exercise for the week utilising the Snowdon Mountain Flying Training Area (MFTA) practising flying in the bowls of the mountains, ridge flying around the tops of peaks and landing on natural landing zones (LZs). The planned two day trip I was intending on doing was scuppered by the weather so I stayed at home and went ahead on my planned second day. Setting off for the two-mile trek in the icy and snowy ground conditions was tough going in parts with it soon reaching depths of knee deep where it had drifted.




Still, we reached the edge of the lake and waited patiently in the glorious Winter sun. Soon, the Snowdonia silence was shattered by the distinctive sound of a Westland Lynx flying the valleys to our position and sure enough it turned in to operate in the bowl we were stood in. The first manoeuvre saw the Lynx fly into the bowl and come in on a shallow descent onto the LZ next to the lake. As it approached the LZ the down wash from the rotors sent ripples running across what was a perfect reflection of Llyn Llugwy, as you can see in the first image above.

Upon departing for another attempt at landing, the down wash then kicked up all of the fresh snow which had fallen overnight to create blizzard like conditions yet it offered some unique photography opportunities. Then like the previous attempt a low and slow approach over the lake whipped up a mix of snow and icy water offering yet more great shots. As it lifted off the LZ for the second time passing infront of the mountain Tryfan, the crewman signalled that they would do one more...



As we watched it enter the bowl for the third and final time it was clear that this was going to be "different". The Lynx descended to a height of around 15ft above the surface and maintained a slow, forward flight - heading straight for the camera. As the aircraft got lower the spray being churned up from the rotors down wash was incredible and it wasn't long before the wiper blades on the Lynx had to be turned on!




And so after some of the most spectacularly controlled helicopter flying I've witnessed the Lynx crew climbed to a couple of hundred feet before dipping the nose and carrying on with their sortie elsewhere in the beautiful surroundings of Snowdonia National Park.

Being in an area with sparse phone signal let-alone 3G meant we didn't know if they intended on coming back or whether they we were heading home early to Middle Wallop as the weather for their departure date was nothing short of horrendous with high winds and more heavy snow forecasted. As the hours rolled by with no phone signal, updates or helicopters the light became better and better as the day progressed, so we stuck it out until the end of the day. 

Conversation was interrupted just a couple of hours before sunset as the sound of an approaching helicopter once again shattered the silence. But it wasn't a Lynx. It was infact a Squirrel training helicopter from the Defence Helicopter Flying School based at RAF Shawbury. It wasn't what we were expecting but welcomed it nonetheless. It started working the tops of the peaks above the lake, landing on the same LZs that I had on previous occasions photographed the United States Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawks.

As it flew circuits, the crews spotted us armed with cameras and came down for a closer look. By now we had changed sides of the lake so that if anything did land on the LZ the light would be the correct side. The Squirrel made one approach and landing with the instructor at the controls in the some of the most glorious Winter light I've ever seen.




The second approach was made by the student pilot and he performed a great take-off facing into the sun which helped light up the inside of the cockpit whilst set against a snowy, rocky mountainside and it made for some truly unique images. 




After the students departure to go and work elsewhere in the Snowdon Mountain Flying Training Area we decided to call it a day. It had a been a fantastic day with some superb flying by both crews, in unrivalled scenery with fantastic Winter weather and great company. It's a fantastic location which offers photos like nowhere else and hopefully, in time it will see more and more action.


27/09/12 If You Go Down To The Woods Today...

...You're in for a big surprise! The temptation of getting up, close and personal with the UK's helicopters proved to much to resist again and so Salisbury Plain it was. Before breakfast we decided to nip across to the supermarket to get some food for the day and on the thirty second drive round to the cafe for breakfast I decided to put the scanner on. A thirty second window for something to call up for entering the SPTA, there was virtually no chance, the odds were against us. The instantly recognisable sound of a Chinook cockpit could be heard on the scanner and he was heading for a confined area known as the Pennings which was less than a mile away! So my first Chinook in a confined area and it was a new one too. All this before breakfast!



After a well earnt breakfast a Lynx teased us on Everleigh before a Squirrel dropped in the Lindens. Then the famous high pitched background noise broke out on the scanner with a Chinook heading back to the Pennings. So after a mad dash back to the Pennings we saw the same Chinook drop back in, this time in great light and a chance of a head-on.




So after two years of waiting to see the new Chinook and any Chinook in the confines I'd had a new one in the confines, twice in one day! Back to Everleigh and we had a very playful Apache which gave some great fast passes, head-ons and sunlit topsides.



Unbelievably another Chinook called up for the Pennings again. This time the light was poor and it was the same aircraft so we headed back to Everleigh where a Lynx was heading for and in great light. It landed on one of the mounds which offered a great photo opportunity with some interesting light.




It was great to finally see a Chinook landing in the trees, the down wash from the rotor blades is unbelievable as it beats the trees all over the place, the noise is deafening but the pilots do it with such professionalism and skill they make it look easy.


19/09/12 A Squirrel In A Different Habitat

The end of the exercise had finished on the Salisbury Plain Training Area therefore normal operations had resumed with all three forces using the Plain and pilots from MOD Boscombe Down's Empire Test Pilots School (ETPS). First up on this sunny, crisp morning was an Army Air Corps Gazelle from the nearby base of Middle Wallop. These have always eluded me in my time in coming to the Plain but on this visit I saw the same one 3 times.



The Autumnal light at this time of year provides great lighting for anything landing the Lindens. It provides an image with great contrast between the helicopter and dark woods in the background and helps to bring out the detail in the aircraft as can be seen below with this Army Air Corps Bell 212 from Middle Wallop. The Bell 212 is the modern day equivalent of the famous Huey that saw action in Vietnam and is popular in many films. Landing in this confined environment and as they approach they provide a heavy noise that can be felt and heard from miles away!




the end of the bought up something new for me. Something I'd never seen photos of before, a Squirrel in the Dustbowl. Often used by Chinooks to simulate "brownouts" that are often a result of landing in dusty areas in places like Afghanistan I was surprised to see the Squirrel carrying out multiple landings but a welcome sight nonetheless.





It's always nice to get something in the dustbowl, whatever it is and to get something you've never seen in there before made the trip for me. Here's hoping it happens more often!