Friday, 29 October 2010

BA says goodbye to the 757

G-CPET vacates Manchester's runway 23R after arriving from Heathrow on 30th October, engines in idle reverse

British Airways is waving goodbye to its three remaining Boeing 757s this weekend. G-CPET (above) has been repainted in the 'Negus' livery they carried when they entered BA service in 1983.

Here is the final timetable for G-CPET with BA, 30th October 2010:

BA1384 Heathrow to Manchester departing 0745 arriving 0840
BA1389 Manchester to Heathrow departing 1000 arriving 1105

BA1482 Heathrow to Glasgow departing 1215 arriving 1340
BA1487 Glasgow to Heathrow departing at 1425 and arriving at 1545

BA1454 Heathrow to Edinburgh departing 1725 arriving 1850
BA1463 Edinburgh to Heathrow departing 1935 arriving 2100

Crikey, makes me feel old. I still think of the 757 as one of the 'newer' airliners. It's far and away the best looking airliner around today, not difficult among such ugly ducks as the 777 and A380. Only the A340 and 744 still have style!

I won't miss those wake vortices, however! Or rather, I'll endeavour to carry on missing them when positioning behind a 757 on final (757s generate vortices far in excess of what one would expect for the weight of aircraft).

There will be an Ian Allen 'Spotter's Special' from Heathrow on 6th November, which if Air Traffic permits, will include a low pass at Manchester in recognition of the type's long association with the Manchester / Heathrow shuttle.

Update 6/11/10: 'Spotter's Special' did not run - it was cancelled through lack of take-up of tickets.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Harleys under Concorde

Forty fabulous machines - that'd be thirty nine Harley Davidson motorcycles and a Concorde! They came together today at the Runway Visitor Park when we had a visit from the 'Hatters', the Manchester chapter of the Harley club, and their highly polished machines.

I'd gone down to the RVP with daughter Claire and her boyfriend Dave to show them around our ex-RAF Nimrod aircraft. Afterwards, we had a look at the Harleys - and Concorde, of course!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Nimrod Press Day

Yesterday was Press Day for our upcoming Nimrod tours at Manchester Airport Runway Visitor Park (formerly the Aviation Viewing Park). Fellow guides John Northwood, Ross Williamson and myself showed the press around the aeroplane, and I was interviewed on BBC Radio Manchester. BBC TV's Stuart Flinders filmed a piece on board for a story they were doing on the effect on nearby BAe Woodford of the recent announcement to cancel the new Nimrod MRA4 programme. The picture above of me on the flightdeck is from a piece on the Wilmslow Website ( ).

Direct link to the story here:

Friday, 15 October 2010

Sedbergh walking holiday, 11 - 15 October 2010

I'd decided to try one of Stockport Walkers' famed walking holidays. This one was at Sedbergh in the Howgill Hills, based at Thorns Hall. About forty members of Stockport Walkers attended and as usual the holiday was over subscribed, with more applying than there were places for (the places were allocated on a first-come first-served basis). We were easily able to take all the rooms at Thorns Hall for the week.

As ever, please click on any of the pictures in this post for a larger image. And click again for a larger one yet!

Thorns Hall, Sedbergh

I had managed to book a single room, and, with its second door opening onto a garden with a bench that caught the afternoon sun; it was delightful.

My room, with its second door opening onto the garden with bench....

....The view from the bench

We arrived at Sebergh on Monday morning in time for a walk around the town and lunch in the garden of Thorns Hall. At 1pm we departed on a local walk to the lower slopes of Winder, Sedburgh's local hill. Wainwright says that "Winder is to Sedbergh as The Matterhorn is to Zermatt". Thankfully, Winder is considerably more diminutive than that Swiss mountain, but it will still provide us a challenging climb to the summit tomorrow.

The weather couldn't have been better; brilliant low winter sunshine from a cloud-free sky, and this was to last into Tuesday as well.

On Monday night I walked into Sedbergh from the house and was amazed by a stunningly clear night sky; the Milky Way was a distinct white arc overhead, an edge-on view into our own galaxy. There were so many stars that picking out the familiar constellations among the millions of pinpricks of distant suns was not easy. I wish we had night skies like that in Cheshire, where, especially looking north, town and street lighting pollute the heavens leaving only the prominent objects visible.

Each day, three separate walks were planned, each with a leader. As with all Stockport Walkers' walks, these were designated A, B, and C, with 'A' being the most demanding. I usually join the Wednesday 'A' walks, but in deference to the difficult terrain of the Howgills and the fact that we'd be walking every day, I settled for the 'B' walks this week. In this part of the world, even the 'B' walks were pretty demanding!

The first 'real' walk of the week was the ascent of Winder on Tuesday.

Looking down on Sedbergh from the flanks of Winder

Climbing the lower slopes

The group spreads out as we climb higher

The group on the summit of Winder - on a fabulous day!

The view from the summit across the Lune Valley to the Langdale Pikes in the Lake District. If you double-click the image to maximise the size, the obvious scar of the M6 motorway can clearly be seen; the London - Glasgow West Coast Main Line railway immediately this side of it (all but invisible) is far less intrusive on the landscape. The viaduct in the middle distance is at Lowgill, and used to carry the Tebay to Skipton railway which served Sedbergh, and closed in 1965. To see a steam train crossing Lowgill viaduct and the scene then moving forward to show the same location after closure of the line, click on this link:

In the valley of the river Rawthey, the group enjoys an afternoon tea stop. Winder is in the background; did we really climb all the way up there?

Further along the Rawthey valley, the river Dee joins from the south

The evening entertainment at Thorns Hall was a couple of local folk singers. Later, some of the ladies who had heard me enthusing about last night's sky insisted I take them out into the garden to see the wonders overhead. Though not quite as clear and distinct as Monday night, it was still pretty impressive. Below Cassiopeia, our neighbouring galaxy 'Andromeda' was just visible as a greyish smudge. Before this week, I don't think I've ever seen that before without the aid of binoculars. Pleiades was coming into view low on the eastern horizon by late evening, presaging the approach of winter.

Wednesday's walk was from Hawes, about 16 miles south of Sedbergh. The super weather was gone, and the day dawned dull and misty with low cloud on the hills. We climbed up from Gayle in the cloud to Wether Fell. On the top, we negotiated a typical peat bog landscape with 'sink holes' (deep holes where the limestone has eroded) scattered about. By the time we reached the Cam High Road (a high level Roman road across the fell) the cloud was beginning to lift and the views open up.

The Cam High Road over Wether Fell stretches into the still-murky distance

Looking down on Hawes in the Ure valley, from Burtersett Pasture

The group on the hillside above Hawes

That night at Thorns Hall, our team won the quiz!

On Thursday it was my turn to lead. The weather was dull but dry, and we started from a car park about five minute's drive out of Sedbergh. I took the group along the Clough river to follow the Sedgwick Trail which demonstrates the interesting rock formations of the Dent Fault. This geological feature marks the divide between the high rounded hills of the Howgills and the Lake District and the flatter more plateaued landscape of the Dales.

We climbed out of the Clough valley in a loop to the north to Sarthwaite, then back down to the river for our lunch stop, enjoying the peace disturbed only by the babbling waters of the Clough river. Our route continued to Farfield Mill where we crossed the Clough again, to start climbing the south side of the valley. The cultivated fields gave way to open moorland at Frostrow Fell, and the path was far from obvious. The going was tough with soft tussocky ground, spongy wet mosses, and many small streams to cross and an undulating landscape. The soft going was beginning to tire some members of the group (and this was our fourth day of walking so the cumulative fatigue was showing) so I decided to cut the walk short. I pioneered a route north back to the road across a few miles of boggy moorland which was tough going itself, but not as tough as continuing the walk for its planned length.

We arrived back at the cars a tired but happy group after this last walk of the week. I was whacked by now and had an early night and so missed out on the 'country dancing' at Thorns Hall (oh dear what a pity.. never mind!).

Friday was probably the worst weather of the week, with rain threatening. Some intrepid folk were going to do a short walk at Dent on the way home, but enjoyable though the week had been, I was 'walked out' and set off after breakfast for home.

A tiring but most enjoyable week. Wonder where next year's will be?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Keighley & Worth Valley Railway trip

Organised from Styal Mill for volunteers and friends, our coach left the Mill and after some difficulty with directions (ever the way with coaches, in my experience) found its way to Oxenhope, the southern terminus of the railway (

The train from Keighley arrived, hauled by BR Standard class 4 tank locomotive 80002. The standard 4 tanks are one of my favourite locomotives, so I introduced myself to the driver as steam locomotive footplate crew on the Museum of Science & Industry (MoSI) railway in Manchester and asked if I could come up onto the footplate while the engine ran-around its train. Running around involves uncoupling the loco from the front of the train, drawing forward, running back past the train on the parallel line, then drawing forward again to be coupled to what was the back of the train, for the return journey down the valley to Keighley.

The driver was happy for me to 'come aboard', so I did.

As ever, please click on the pictures for a larger image.

The cat that got the cream. Me on the footplate of Standard 4 Tank 80002 at Oxenhope for its run-around the train

80002 having reversed past its train continues towards the points before pulling forward on the line nearest the camera to be coupled onto the other end of the train

The loco having coupled on again for the run back down the valley, I climb down from the cab

Fellow Styal Guides Andy Palliser, Mike Hunter, and me boarded the train and were delighted to discover it included the 'Jubilee Bar Car' in the consist, a Mk1 coach converted into a real ale bar. And the ale was very good indeed! The K&WVR is a railway that really understands the relationship between steam and real ale.

I had been recommended the fish & chip shop at Ingrow as one of the best chippys to be found, so as it was now past lunchtime we got off at that station to sample it. It was an unprepossessing concrete box of a building just up the road from the station, and if I hadn't know better I wouldn't have given it a second look. But wow! It served easily the most delicious fish and chips I can ever remember tasting.

Back at Ingrow station, we had a look around the railway museum.

Mike Hunter and me at the Ingrow museum

The next train down the valley was hauled by ex-WD Austerity 2-8-0 90733, and we boarded for the ride down to the line's northern terminus at Keighley. We stayed on the train during its stop at Keighley enjoying another pint of superb ale from the bar car, and travelled on it up the valley again, non stop, to Haworth where the line's locomotive depot is located. The locomotives belonging to the railway are in one of three 'stages':

1) In service on the railway if they are in working order.

2) On display at Oxenhope shed if their boiler certificate has expired or they otherwise require rebuilding, from where they take their turn to move on to stage 3.

3) At the Haworth sheds being being refurbished for service.

We joined a tour of the loco sheds and were fascinated as our guide showed us these latter group of engines being worked on. We were amazed at the costs involved - £25,000 for a superheater header casting, £10,000 per wheel for re-tyring, and between £400,000 and £600,000 for a boiler rebuild. It can easily cost well over £1,000,000 to completely refurbish a locomotive, and that's with the labour on the railway being provided free of charge by volunteers. In an attempt to reduce costs, the railway is trying its hand at refurbishing a boiler on site, rather than sending it away to a specialist boiler company. So far this looks like it might reduce boiler refurbish costs by as much as 75%. However, with the volume of work to be completed, most boilers will still have to be sent out to contractors for repair.

Standing between Mike and myself, our 'shed guide' at Haworth keeps us entertained

Standing in the Haworth shed yard, the delightful 1874 Evans well tank 'Bellerophon' is a recent returnee to the K&WVR

We finished our day on the K&WVR with a train ride back up to Oxenhope in time to join a tour around the carriage sheds. Star of this show was the 1912 Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway 'Blackpool Club Car'. This was discovered as a cricket pavilion at Borrowash, Derbyshire but originally daily conveyed businessmen who lived on the Fylde to their businesses in Manchester. It had luxury armchairs, each 'owned' by a club member, and there was a travelling steward to serve refreshments.

The club car in its original condition

Replica armchairs in the partly-complete refurbished club car

The carriage shed tour finished in time for us to rejoin our coach for the return to Styal Mill after an excellent steamy day in Bronte country.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

We run the first Nimrod tours at the RVP

Nimrod XV231 arriving at Manchester earlier this year

Ex-RAF Nimrod XV231's flight deck

Today was 'M Festival', the families day for Manchester Airport employees. It was held at the Runway Visitor Park (RVP) this afternoon. Employees and families were bussed by airport bendy-bus into the RVP to enjoy a range of activities under Concorde.

M-Festival activities in the Concorde hangar

Tickets were available for attendees to enjoy a tour of our ex-RAF Nimrod. Fellow guide Ross and I conducted the tours, the first ever on this Maritime Reconnaissance aeroplane, which still has most of its service equipment on board. The tours lasted fifteen minutes (so just a quick overview) and we ran them every twenty minutes. They proved to be very popular; a great success!

Public tours are currently planned to start in November, and as well as these 'overview' tours, we plan to present a longer, more detailed look at this fascinating aeroplane.

Nav and Tactical Nav positions in Nimrod

Friday, 1 October 2010

Captain Andy Barnwell visits our Concorde

Bankers under Concorde, listening to Captain Andy Barnwell

I had a nice surprise this lunchtime. I turned up at Concorde to do a series of tours for a corporate event for a major bank, and found that ex-Concorde captain Andy Barnwell was giving the pre-lunch speech. I was particularly taken by his observations of his first flight when he was co-pilot on the aeroplane, when unusually it suffered an engine surge.

Engine surges on Concorde were quite rare, but when they did occur they were dramatic in the extreme. The offending engine would effectively 'backfire', the flow reversing and coming out the front, with an unbelievably loud series of bangs, about twice a second. Because of the paired engine arrangement on Concorde, the adjacent engine's intake air was disturbed, and it, too, would surge in sympathy.

The noise and vibration with two mighty Olympi surging together, with the associated loss of half the available thrust, was such that all the crew could do was pull all four to flight idle, which caused the other two to pop-surge as they ran down, and slow down and descend to thicker air to start to run the engines back up to speed. All this cost fuel, and usually meant a diversion. In the case of Andy Barnwell's flight, to Halifax Novia Scotia. And sitting in a row of seats close to the action was none other than Gordon Brown and Ed Balls. Who, when Andy went back into the cabin, were observed to be ashen - grey - totally shocked and silent, unlike the rest of the passengers who just took the view 'these things happen' and ordered more bubbly. I guess the fatuous duo just didn't expect a touch of reality to impinge on their worlds!

It was good to be able to accompany Andy back into his 'office' at the pointy end of our Concorde G-BOAC. He was so disappointed with the way Concorde services ended that he'd refused to be involved with operations after the 'end' had been announced, and went to the 747-400 Jumbo Jet, which as a swansong to his career didn't impress after the magic of Concorde.

Andy nearest to camera, back in his old 'office'

Cloud effect projected onto AC

Tonight, the band practice before the celebration dinner begins