a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

Sunday 30 September 2018

The Plane Spotting Edition

I have to confess to have developed a bit of a thing about planes during the summer. It started on Instagram when a random picture of a 'crashed' jet popped up on the explorer page and before I knew it I was frantically searching for its mystery location. After some fairly extensive research on Google Earth I found where it was and thought to myself ... I am going to have to go and have a look at that. So that's how I found myself in the middle of a moor in north Northumberland taking pictures of this.

I had a rough idea where the plane was located and set off on my gravel bike hoping to ride straight up to it. Unfortunately that plan didn't work out as the ground conditions made riding the bike completely impossible. Despite the fact that I was up on the moor after the driest few of months of weather for years the ground was still a complete bog. So once I caught sight of the plane in the distance it took an hour of real struggle to get to it carrying my bike, of course leaving the bike and just walking to it would have been a lot easier but where's the fun in that ? and the Instragam pictures wouldn't have been as good either.                                                                                        (Instagram @tony_rees123 click on the right or see my previous Instagram post here)

The plane is a 'T-Bird' a Lockheed T33 Shooting Star sub-sonic jet trainer. Although it appears to have crash landed on the moor a more likely explanation, especially considering it is in the middle of a bog is that it was probably dropped in by helicopter. The wreckage of the jet is on the edge of an RAF firing range so it was probably placed there as a dummy target.

At this point you might be thinking that leaning my bike against a plane that is used as a target wasn't the most sensible thing to do but as you can see it's in really good condition and despite the fact that it has apparently been there for thirty years it doesn't look as if they have managed to hit it yet, so I wasn't too worried.

The metal straps over the cockpit have been added to discourage people from climbing inside. I should stress at this point that the plane is on open land with a small road not that far away. I didn't have to climb over any fences to get to it although there were some raised barriers with a sign saying 'NO ENTRY WHEN DOWN - LIVE FIRING' ... even good Instagram pictures wouldn't have tempted me to ignore that message.

On Tuesday evenings through the summer I compete in the TLI organised races at the Croft motor racing circuit near Darlington, a former RAF base which is still used as a private airstrip. In the twelve year that I have been racing at Croft this was the first time that I had actually seen a plane. I had a really good chat with the pilot and part owner who was just as interested in my bike as I was in his plane.

The plane was was built in 1965 in Germany and is owned by a syndicate of four friends, they paid £16,000 for it, flew it back from Germany and spent another £4,000 bringing it up to UK specification. So 5K each and they are up and flying, which sounds like pretty good value to me.          I was third in my age group in the race that night and took home £5 in prize money and immediately decided that from now on all my winnings would be going in to my 'aeroplane fund' ... shouldn't take me too long.

So on the hunt for a secondhand bargain I popped up to Teesside airport to see if there was anything available and look what I found a 'doer upper' ! It's a bit lop-sided I know and clearly needs a bit of work, but how hard can it be, really ? I mean it was only a few weeks ago that I single handedly put a new derailleur hanger on the 'Cafe Bike' (in under two hours) The only problem I could see at this point was that they were probably going to want a bit more than was currently in my 'aeroplane fund' - yep still only a fiver. 

A couple of weeks later while out training and with the heat wave continuing I happened to be passing another airstrip, this time the home of our local model flying club - so obviously I had to pop in to check out the planes. I spent a very enjoyable hour chatting to a smashing bunch of fellas, all members of Stockton Model Flying Club.The club has been going for over fifty years and has 150 members who own the 14 acre site where their airstrip is located.  My visit got me thinking that getting in the air with a model plane might be a bit more of a realistic option, especially as yes you guessed it, still only £5 in the winnings !

The Ribble Pro Cycling Aero 883 gets even more aero with the addition of what's left of one of the planes after a crash landing ... oops that looks expensive, maybe even a model plane is going to be a bit out of my price range ? I wonder if one of the nice chaps would lend me a plane ? 

Final (model) plane of the summer and of this weeks blog a Spitfire taking off over the Ribble Aero 883  and another sunny training ride interrupted by my plane spotting obsession, and this one doesn't even fly, its on a pole !

That's it for this week and hopefully that's it with the plane spotting thing, thanks for humouring me and reading this far. 
Next time on the blog: Bike racing in a multi-storey car park, its fast, its furious and it hurts ... a lot !


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