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23.04.2007 at 22:05:23
 
For those interested I have just posted an article submited by Kelvin Holmes about controlling Lightnings from Patrington.  Its under OS(FC) Info on the main site and entitled Lightning (couldn't fit anything longer on the button).  If there are any other WIWACOLAS stories I'll gladly start a sub-set of pages with all of them on - or we could have WIWACOPAS for those slightly younger!
  
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Kelvin Holmes
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Re: New Page Posted
Reply #1 - 15.05.2007 at 15:39:02
 
Hope people find it interesting.  Comments welcome.
Kelvin (FC from 1968 - 1977)
  
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Richard Jenner
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Re: New Page Posted
Reply #2 - 16.05.2007 at 10:17:06
 
Hello Kelvin,

I'm very glad that you wrote the Patrington/Lightning control article - it certainly took me back to my early days as a controller and a very happy time on what was a very happy & busy station.

In fact it's the busy-ness of Patrington (circa 1972/73) that I always recall first. Most week days were organized chaos as I remember it with a single Chief Controller trying to manage a flying programme that could touch 9 control positions (did we ever go above that number by using consoles in the main ops room - I think we might have done in extremis?). Your example of being called to position from the crew room with the aircraft airborne was only too common. I think the other recollection from that era was the amazing density of military flying off the Lincolnshire & Norfolk coasts. Certainly there was far less airways traffic than today but with most of the 'V' force transitting 'our' play areas, avoiding other military traffic - plus all the active ranges - was the big challenge. Mode C (IFF flight level read-out) had yet to be invented of course but as I recall it we didn't even have an active Mode 3 read-out and had to twiddle the knobs on the IFF box until we found the right code. I think it was during this period that the North Sea coordination trial started with an air traffic controller manning a console just off the main ops room (Sam Allocator cabin?) to coordinate traffic information with Northern - I recall that we had an 'inter-station' marker as hangover from the day of Lindholme being a Bloodhound control centre. Anyway, the one bit of information everyone wanted was 'height' and as you so accurately recall it was hardly ever available despite the best efforts of the 'scopies'.

The other controlling recollections that stick in my memory are the USAF F111s that would occasionally call-up for PIs as part of a mission that would involve a tanker slot of Spain and a high speed dash to Scotland. Their preferred geometry was 135s which made the mental arithmatic even more difficult (for me anyway). When heading north at high speed you had to keep off centering the console (by winding the X - Y knobs) as they really shifted. We also controlled Buccaneers fresh from the factory at Brough on air tests - call sign Yogi I think. Probably my least favourite sortie was Coltishall (F3) air tests as the profile involved flying along above Blue 1 at Mach 2 with a climb to 50K+ while swiftly reaching the edge of the FIR, the UKADR and our known world. The next leg would be a descending right turn into Bawdsey's area - preferably into an active tow-line - while calling for a fuel priority, non-standard approach to Coltishall. In one 20 minute mission it was possible, or even probable, that 'you' would have upset civil ATC, the Dutch, the CC at Bawdsey and Coltishall ATC. Oh well! Very occasionally the odd gaggle of F4s would ask for PIs but they were mud-movers in those days.

I do agree with you that the T80 was the radar of choice for close control because of its narrow beam width that produced such small blips. I wonder though how many of today's controllers would like the 4RPM rotation rate that we set to provide long range detection? Certainly in 72/73 (when the QRA was still the IAF by the way), the Staxton Wold T85 was not operational although the T84 was which was a good thing as Binbrook climbouts used to go right through the Patrington overhead. I had an amazing feeling of deja vu then when I was posted to Staxton Wold in 1983 to control Binbrook F6s using Staxton's T84/T85 & HF200s and on a good old valve driven, oil cooled T64 console!

Anyway, great that you have written about this era as we contemplate the joys of bus passes. You mentioned the mix of career fighter controllers and aircrew on ground tours but we must not forget the 'old & bold' second world war characters - the ones with 'spangle wrappers' on their uniforms that were so much part of the scene then and guaranteed to shorten a long night watch with some stories.

Best wishes,

Richard Jenner

  
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Mike Clarke
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Re: New Page Posted
Reply #3 - 17.05.2007 at 09:20:00
 
Most enjoyable article Kelvin, brought back many happy memories. BTW, why aren't you a Member?
  
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Kelvin Holmes
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Re: New Page Posted
Reply #4 - 05.06.2007 at 13:53:42
 
Richard,
          thank you very much for your comments and memories.  You're right, I should have mentioned the former WW2 aircrew who were controllers with us.  I remember 'Dolly Dollicher' (not sure of the spelling) who was Czech and a former Spitfire pilot.  
         As you say those Coltishall sorties were amongst the most demanding.  The only thing tighter than the airspace was the fuel.
Best wishes,
                Kelvin
  
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