Llovely Llandudno, the “Queen of the Welsh Resorts”
(By Crewmaster Simon Johnson)
The air show season has begun! Our first display of 2015 was a new venue for us; the lovely seaside town of Llandudno. We had been invited to take both helicopters as static displays on the promenade.
Huey509 and Loach011 had recently completed their annual inspections and Stuart had worked wonders, yet again, to get them spick and span and in show condition. Unfortunately his hard work was about to be undone as both Dick Barton (Piloting Loach011) and Rob Tierney (Piloting Huey509) had some flying to do at our base before they took both machines to North Wales.
Thursday saw the arrival of Rob at Wesham. He came early in the hope of missing the Bank Holiday traffic; it was a good plan in theory but it seemed the rest of the UK had the same idea! Friday saw Rob do the flying that he needed to do to set him up for the weekend.
In the meantime Phil and Jo had loaded up the motor home and headed off by road to Llandudno. They had permission to arrive on the Friday night so they could be on site on the Promenade early on Saturday to guide both helicopters in.
When Dick arrived at Wesham he wasted no time getting changed into his flight gear whilst Stuart, Bradley, Rob and I took Loach011 out of the hangar. Dick checked 011 over, sorted out his paperwork and he was off. The rest of us sorted out and loaded what was need for the following day in to Huey509. No sooner had Dick gone, he was back. We had seen him over Garstang way doing some moves and all of a sudden Loach011 was getting bigger and louder! Back at the landing site he continued to practice landing on sloping ground from different angles; always good to get the feel of such landings. Happy all was good we pushed Loach011 back into the hangar then off for a bite to eat and to discuss our plans for the morning.
Saturday morning was grey and overcast at 0630 hrs as Nina, Bradley and I arrived at the hangar to be greeted by Dick and Rob. Soon after we were joined by Stuart and we were soon pushing Huey509 down to the pan of the landing strip. There wasn’t a breath of air so we didn’t have to worry pointing 509 into wind. Next Loach011 was pushed out on the trolley.
The flying arrangements were Dick and Bradley in Loach011 and they were to take the lead to Llandudno. Rob was flying 509 with me, Stuart and Nina. The plan was to arrive at Llandudno between 0830 - 0900 hrs so our lift time would be 0800 to 0815 hrs. Everyone aboard, Dick and Rob pressed the starter buttons and the two helicopters sprang to life. I did the walk around check for any leaks on the Huey and that all hatches and doors were secure. Plugging in there was a screeching on the headsets but with a little trial and error the faulty lead was discovered. Once fixed, all was good and I climbed aboard and strapped in.
At 0810 hrs Dick pulled pitch, lifted off and moved away from the landing strip so not to get caught by the Huey509’s formidable down draught when Rob pulled in the pitch and power. Loach011 clear, Rob followed suit and gravity lost its battle to keep 509 on the ground. Rob checked all his controls and headed out to meet Dick and Bradley. Dick spoke to Air Traffic at Blackpool Airport who passed on the basic service of wind speed, pressure, etc and asked him to squawk 0450 which he duly did.
Turning south we headed towards Warton and the Ribble Estuary. Not long after Dick put a call in to Liverpool Airport who asked him to give them a shout when we had reached Point of Ayr. Soon we were passing Southport and fast approaching Crosby. At this point we turned south west to head over the Mersey Estuary. The visibility by now was not so good so we kept a good look out. Loach011 kept disappearing into low cloud. It is a little disconcerting to know there is an aircraft ahead of you but not sure where but we were in the capable and experienced hands of Capt Tierney. Rob eased back and dropped a little height to see if we could see beyond the cloud which did help. With all eyes on the job we managed to keep tabs on Dick up ahead. We flew along the top of the Wirral Peninsula flying past Wallasey and Hoylake whilst aiming for the Point of Ayr. By 0830 hrs Dick was talking to Liverpool again. Now we hugged the coast all the way to Llandudno. We flew over Prestatyn, and then we were soon over Rhyl with its caravan parks spread far and wide and striding out to Colwyn Bay. Apparently, at this point, we could be heard in Llandudno! Personally, I don’t believe a word .... we are never THAT noisy .... are we?!?
Rob and I could see the seafront at Llandudno just peeking over the top of Penrhyn-side flying at about 1200 feet. The sky was still grey but the sea was beautifully clear. The bay looked glorious as did the seafront. Phil, on the ground, had made contact with Dick and asked if we wanted to take a recce flypast just to get our bearings and locate the landing area. I had spotted Phil so was happy where we were going. Dick and Rob flew up along the promenade then turned right out into the bay. Dick at this point broke away to allow Rob to take Huey509 in first. Phil guided him down and positioned us at about 45 degrees to the seafront. Our landing time was 0846 hrs. Once Huey509 was down, Phil headed to the east of us to land Loach011 close by. Dick was on the ground and down to ground idle as Rob was preparing to shut Huey509 down. As soon as we were on the Prom I had jumped out and was at the ready with our cooking pot that we use to catch the fuel that is dumped when the turbine is shut down.
We could see that a crowd had formed to watch us come in. They were itching to get a closer look but they had to wait for the rotors to stop turning and they stop when they stop! Rotors duly secured the local Air Cadets moved in with the railings to create a safe area around both aircraft. Phil, Jo and Nina began setting up the shop alongside the motorhome. Soon the eager onlookers approached and the pilots and crew began answering their questions.
The most popular question of the day was “How did you get the helicopters here?” Quickly followed by “What time are you leaving, I will stay to see you take off!”.
The crowd grew, the sky tried to clear and the air show began with two Buckmeisters gently flying around the bay in formation. Still the crowd became busier and busier. The shop did a roaring trade; Jo and Nina were rushed off their feet all day! Before we knew it, it was lunch time and we had been treated to a Gloster Meteor, an Avro Anson, a Strikemaster, and a Catalina. The Flying Display continued including a Spitfire and Hurricane from the BBMF, unfortunately no Lancaster. The Red Arrows screamed in to do their thing. It was a great display with some interesting new moves which had the huge crowd “oohing”and “aahhhing”. The finale was the lovely P51 Mustang with its very distinctive supercharger whistle.
It was now time for us to pack up ready for departure. We packed up the shop and secured everything in the trailer. Meanwhile, the railings were moved back along with the crowds to make a safe area for our departure. Everyone was warned about the affects of the down draught from the huge rotor blades! Our leaving time was 1610 hrs, but moving the large crowd back and then clearing the area of any debris took a little while so, just after 1700 hrs we were ready to climb back into the aircraft. Phil took control and gave us the all clear to start. Once we were up and running he did a walk round both aircraft before he gave us permission to lift. Both helicopters lifted and backed away from the Promenade and in to the bay.
Once over the water, Loach011 and Huey509 turned out to sea. With the Huey509 leading, both machines turned towards the pier and then flew down the eastern side of it to flyby the beach and let all those on the ground hear just what a lovely sound the Huey makes. Phil later reported that on the ground, the appreciative crowd gave a round of applause which is always appreciated!
The sky to the east was now clear which gave us a great view of the coast line. Approaching Hoylake, Liverpool Airport Air Traffic warned us of an unidentified aircraft about three miles from us travelling north to south on a course that would cross our flight path. Nina spotted it first, shortly followed by Rob and I in the front. The aircraft passed about a mile ahead of us and we made good time back to Wesham, taking exactly the reverse route we took coming down. Back at base, we re-fuelled the machines and put them back into the hangar. Phil and Jo meanwhile, decided to stay in Llandudno for couple of well earned hours to enjoy the sunshine and a nice meal and so avoided the queues of traffic leaving the town.
So, the first event of the year is all done and dusted! Llandudno has certainly set the bar high! It is a lovely seaside town in a very pretty setting. Everyone was so welcoming and so pleased to see us! The warm welcome made the day an absolute pleasure.
Thank you to everyone who made the day such a success. Particular thanks to Edward Hiller of Mostyn Estates Ltd, Peter Sinclair the Llandudno FDD and to the Air Cadets for their assistance.