Paul Johnson and Richard Clarke report from the Lightning Static Reheat Twilight Event at Bruntingthorpe which took place on November 4
The Lightning Preservation Group (LPG), based at Bruntingthorpe in Leicestershire, owns three English Electric Lightnings and two of these aircraft, XS904 and XR728, are kept in a 'live' condition. The latter machine was to be ‘fired up’ at this event. It is gratifying to be able to report that the event was a complete sell-out, a tribute to the abiding appeal of this much-loved aircraft.
The gates opened at 2pm and the ATC cadets, who are always present at these events to offer their welcome support, were in evidence to ensure that everyone had a smooth passage into the airfield. The bonus for the cadets being, of course, the opportunity to see the aircraft in action. There was then ample time to look around the historic QRA sheds, which were formerly in use at RAF Wattisham, in addition to the other resident aircraft from the Cold War Jets Collection. It was also good to look around the LPG shop, which has an impressive range of Lightning-related merchandise. It was then time for the action to begin with a safety briefing held just before the aircraft was put through her paces.
There was a palpable sense of anticipation among the crowd as the pilot, Sqn Ldr (Ret'd) Dennis Brooks walked across the apron and climbed into the aircraft to carry out his pre-engine run checks. The engine runs were being timed to coincide with the setting of the sun to ensure maximum impact in terms of the afterburners lighting up the darkening skies. As the sun began to set behind the omnipresent rain clouds the engines of the aircraft roared into life, then, as if to order, the heavy rain duly arrived, but this did not detract from the spectacle in any way. In many respects it actually enhanced it, heightening the sense of atmosphere.
We were then treated to two demonstrations from XR728, with each engine being run up to maximum power. On each occasion the afterburners were in full evidence and, as always, it was highly spectacular with the noise being almost beyond belief. That incredible sound reverberated around the QRA sheds and throughout the surrounding vicinity. It’s always impressive to experience the distinctive sounds and smells of this iconic and historic aircraft which served the country during the Cold War.
The event concluded at around 6pm and everybody went away happy in the knowledge that they had experienced something very special. It’s a unique experience, something you cannot see anywhere else. Congratulations must go to the LPG for organising such a memorable event.