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RAF Cosford Night Shoot 2020



This was the second time that Threshold Aero and the RAF Museum Cosford had come together to bring an evening of night time photography. The external aircraft, including the Bristol Britannia and Consolidated Catalina were lit-up to offer 200 photographers the chance to capture the museums exhibits in a different light. The big draw for the evening was the two unique test airframes that had been moved outside of their usual ‘Test-Flight’ hangar. Both the legendary BAC TSR2 and the British Aerospace EAP were strategically positioned in the fresh air to allow photographers to capture sometime a little special..

Threshold Aero run a range of aviation-based events at various locations in the UK. They specialise in night photography and are well equipped with LED lights to offer an alternate, illuminated view of the subjects. These events are always well-staffed with Threshold Aero and Museum personnel, every one of them enthusiastic and eager to help. Whether you need help with setting up your camera or want to know more about the aircraft there was always someone near-by to help. After the obligatory but jovial Health & safety briefing the eager photographers were allowed to wonder freely around the exhibits.

Although this was an evening event, let us not forget that the RAF museum is free to enter and open all day, every day. There are 4 hangars packed full of aircraft to explore. The award winning National Cold War exhibition is the only pace to see all three V-bombers, the transport hangar offers the World’s First Jet airliner, the de Havilland Comet. The War in the air hangar is currently preparing to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain with a unique collection of Axis and Allied aircraft. Today, I spent a little more time enjoying the Test Flight Hangar, the movement of two larger exhibits exposed the Saunders-Roe SR53 and Fairey Delta aircraft nicely for a little photography warm-up before the main event.

As the evening shoot began, I visited the Bristol Britannia; nicely lit and conveniently located in a secluded spot. The Britannia was designed for the British Overseas Airways Corporation, it made its first flight in 1952. 85 Britannias were built and the RAF used twenty-three as long-range troop and freight transports. G-AOVF was built for BOAC and first flew on 18 December 1957. The highlight of its career was its use by HRH Princess Margaret on a tour of the West Indies in 1958.

The Vickers VC10 and Lockheed C-130 Hercules represent a more recent chapter in RAF history. The natural banks on the museum car park gave photographers chance to get a slightly elevated view of the aeroplanes, further enhancing the photogenic nature of the two aircraft. The Hercules is still one of the most widely used cargo transports in the world, the Cosford example was the last RAF C130K Mk.3 to be retired. The Hercules was artistically given some Rembrandt lighting and today we were allowed to board the VC-10 and get some photographs of its well-persevered cockpit, also well-lit by Threshold’s lightning.

Just behind the visitor centre, there is a cluster of popular aircraft. On the previous night-shoot, all were part of the event, which created the minor issues of where to stand without being in someone else’s photograph. This evening, only one was given the Threshold-lighting treatment. The P-2H Neptune is a land based maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft, more than 1100 were built, no other post war maritime patrol aircraft was built in such large numbers. Despite the RAF operating six examples, the one on display in the museum is a Dutch Navy example, the markings of which looked particularly pleasing lit-up in the evening twilight

The Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina was the last version of the ‘Cat’ to be developed and was a development of a pre-war design which first took to the air in 1935. The PBY series were produced in greater numbers than any other flying boat. This particular Cat has had a long and varied career in both the US Navy and Royal Danish Air Force, it is currently painted in the vibrant colours of the later. The unmistakable airframe cuts an imposing figure day or night at the entrance to the first of Cosford’s exhibition Hangars.

The undoubted stars of the show were the unique test aircraft moved out exclusively for this event. The British Aerospace EAP was part of the Agile Combat Aircraft programme, it reportedly broke the sound barrier on its maiden flight in 1986. By the end of its flying career in 1991 the EAP had significantly contributed to the development of computerised flying controls which are now standard in frontline jets such as its similar looking cousin, the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Much has been written about the BAC Tactical Strike and Reconnaissance-2 better known as the TSR2. Ever-rising costs and changes in political policy led to it being withdrawn during the early stages of testing. As such aviation enthusiasts and historians have given it a near mythical status, we will never know if this could have been the greatest British aircraft ever built, but when you see it’s surprising large streamline shape lit-up outside in its anti-flash nuclear paint scheme, one cannot help but speculate.
The aircraft night-shoot was a real success; well-attended by over 200 photographers and efficiently organised. The RAF museum is free to enter and holds one of the largest collections of static display aircraft and aviation artefacts anywhere in the World. Split over two sights, one at Hendon, London and the other at RAF Cosford, Shropshire. There are a number of upcoming events at the Cosford site including the very popular open cockpits event on June 27th and don’t forget you can celebrate VE day here on the 8th May.

Review by Lee Chapman