air sea rescue

Last year, on, 18 February, 2016, the Royal Air Force Search and Rescue Force was officially disbanded.

They provided around-the-clock aeronautical search and rescue cover in Cyprus and the Falkland Islands. Originally established in 1941 as the Air Sea Rescue, since aircrew who ditched over the English Channel had only a 20% chance of returning to their squadrons, the SARF evolved in 1986 to be helicopter-borne. 

They had probably the best motto I’ve ever heard from a military force; not because of it being badass, but because it’s defiant in the effort of saving lives.

The Sea Shall Not Have Them.

Airworthy B-17 Flying Fortresses, 2017

A quick guide to the survivors, and how to quickly identify them.

Sentimental Journey, 44-83514, CAF Arizona Wing

“Triangle U” fin flash, denoting the 457th Bomb Group, 1st Bomb Wing, 8th Air Force.  This aircraft served as a mothership during Operation Greenhouse, a series of atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in 1951.  She is based out of Mesa, Arizona.

Memphis Belle, 44-83546, Military Aircraft Restoration Corp.

Olive drab fuselage paint with yellow identification markings, lacks a fin flash for unit identification.  The aircraft is actually a B-17G modified to resemble the real Belle for the 1990 movie, and carries the markings of the original aircraft.  Note the flatter Sperry top turret (not visible in this picture), lack of a chin turret, and larger waist windows.  She is based out of Anaheim, California.

Miss Angela, 44-85778, Palm Springs Air Museum

Unpainted main fuselage, bright red forward fin, yellow ring around the nose compartment, the markings of the 34th Bomb Group, 4th Bomb Wing, 8th Air Force.  The aircraft was delivered to the 6th Air Force and served post-war in Brazil.  She is based out of Palm Springs, California.

Fuddy Duddy, 44-83563, Lyon Air Museum

“Square K” fin flash, denoting the 447th Bomb Group, 4th Air Wing, 8th Air Force.  Unpainted main fuselage, yellow fin and control surfaces, double green band on rear fuselage and fin.  This aircraft served as a VIP transport in the Pacific at the end of WWII.  She is based out of Santa Ana, California.

Nine-O-Nine, 44-83575, Collings Foundation

“Triangle A” fin flash, denoting the 91st Bomb Group, 1st Bomb Wing, 8th Air Force; olive drab fuselage, vertical red bar on fin, aircraft code OR-R, extensive mission markings for nose art.  The aircraft was subjected to three nuclear explosions in 1952 before being sold for scrap, then restored.  She is painted to resemble the original Nine-O-Nine and is based out of Stow, Massachusetts.

Yankee Lady, 44-85829, Yankee Air Museum

“Triangle L” fin flash, denoting the 381st Bomb Group, 1st Air Wing, 8th Air Force; unpainted main fuselage, red vertical band on the fin and red markings on the wingtips and horizontal stabilizers, aircraft code Y-GD.  The aircraft was transferred to the Coast Guard in 1946 where it was stripped and turned into an air-sea rescue plane.  She is based out of Belleville, Michigan.

Thunderbird, 44-85718, Lone Star Flight Museum

“Triangle C” fin flash, denoting the 303rd Bomb Group, 1st Air Wing, 8th Air Force; olive drab fuselage, large group markings on the fin and starboard upper wing surface, aircraft code U-BN.  The aircraft is painted to represent the original Thunderbird which flew 112 missions without a crew injury.  She is based out of Galveston, Texas.

Texas Raiders, 44-83872, CAF Gulf Coast Wing

“Triangle L” fin flash, denoting the 381st Bomb Group, 1st Air Wing, 8th Air Force; olive drab fuselage, red wingtips and horizontal stabilizers, group markings on the fin and starboard upper wing, aircraft code X-VP.  The aircraft served in the Navy as a PB-1W AWACS aircraft before being retired in 1955.  She is based out of Spring, Texas.

Madras Maiden, 44-8543, Erickson Aircraft Collection

“Triangle L” fin flash, denoting the 381st Bomb Group, 1st Bomb Wing, 8th Air Force; unpainted main fuselage, red wingtips and horizontal stabilizers, red band on the fin, black/red open band on the starboard upper wing, aircraft code F-JE.  The aircraft was converted into a Pathfinder with the H2X radar set before being retired in 1959.  She is based out of Madras, Oregon.

From 1979 until 2013 44-8543 wore the colors of Chuckie, “Square W” 486th Bomb Group, 4th Air Wing, 8th Air Force.  In these pictures she is painted with a yellow fin, triple yellow bands around the rear fuselage, yellow wingtips and yellow ring around the nose.  This is how the aircraft was displayed at my local air museum, and how it is most often pictured.

Aluminum Overcast, 44-85740, Experimental Aircraft Association

“Triangle W” fin flash, denoting the 398th Bomb Group, 1st Air Wing, 8th Air Force; silver main fuselage, red wingtips and horizontal stabilizers, red vertical band on fin, group markings on fin and starboard upper wing.  The aircraft was delivered too late to see service in Europe and was sold as surplus, entering the civilian market.  She is based out of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Sally B,  44-85784, B-17 Preservation Ltd.

The aircraft carries identical markings to Memphis Belle, acquired during the filming of the 1990 movie.  Her #3 engine cowling (starboard inner) is painted with a yellow-black checkerboard pattery.  She is based out of Duxford, England, and is the only airworthy B-17 in Europe.

Several other B-17s are listed as airworthy, including The Pink Lady (44-8846, last flown 2010), Boeing Bee (42-29782, flown 2006 with no plans for further flights), and Shady Lady (44-83785, recently acquired by the Collings Foundation with plans to return to flight by 2017).  Several others are under restoration to airworthiness.
Why Prince William is the perfect role model for all men
Even a dyed-in-the-wool republican, such as Neil Lyndon, would have to admit that the Duke of Cambridge embodies all the best characteristics of a modern man

Prince William – and through him the institution of the monarchy – has had an outstanding few days.

As President of the Football Association, he delivered an address on theFIFA scandal which was a masterpiece of clarity, firmness of purpose and Corinthian values while saying nothing about himself.

As a devoted Aston Villa fan, he must have suffered agonies while watching them lose 0-4 to Arsenal in the FA Cup final; yet he carried out his ceremonial duties on the Wembley pitch and in the Royal Box with faultless charm and unwavering impartiality.

And, most sensationally, he made me – a dyed-in-the wool republican of 50 proud years allegiance – feel slightly sad that I shall probably not live long enough to see this great guy crowned as King.

That revolutionary moment came during William’s pre-match interview with Gary Lineker on Football Focus.

Gary was digging around in the origins of the Prince’s earliest enthusiasms for football and he asked which cup final had first got him going as a boy.

The Duke of Cambridge nominated 1991, when he would have been nine. Gary beamed to remember that this was the final when his own Spurs team beat Forest 2-1.

“I’m sorry to remind you that you missed a penalty, Gary,” William teased.

“And had a perfectly good goal disallowed,” Lineker blustered.

“But we don’t question the officials’ decisions,” William gently chided.

Masterful. A 32 year-old quietly and tenderly puts a 55 year-old national hero in his place with a wit as quick and deft as Stephen Fry. That did it for me. Sans-culottes no longer. The House of Windsor has actually produced a man I can genuinely like and admire.

It began to dawn on me when William married Kate Middleton and I found them both irresistibly engaging that, for the last half-century, it might not have been the institution of monarchy against which I had rebelled with regicidal rage so much as the Windsors themselves - those uptight, ungrateful, ungracious miseries. C/f Holland, Denmark or Norway, where the people love their monarchs as cherished friends and the feeling is reciprocated.

Obviously, as the United Kingdom is presently organised, somebody has to ride to Westminster in the Irish State Coach to open Parliament or clink and jingle down the Mall for Trooping the Colour; but why does it always have to be a member of that same family? Does it make any difference whose head is under the crown or bearskin? At one time I mused with the notion that a coronation could be a prize in the National Lottery. Or that the name of the sovereign might be randomly generated by computer like a Premium Bond jackpot. For a time, I liked the idea that the King or Queen could be elected every year by plebiscite; but soon realised that process might end up with Jeremy Clarkson or Janet Street-Porter in Buckingham Palace – by comparison with which having to put up with another Windsor would seem almost appealing.

Then, as if by miracle, they go and produce the perfect man for the job. How did they do it? Did Prince Charles make sure that William was properly brought up after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales? Did Charles, Earl Spencer keep the promise he made at the funeral in the Abbey to ensure that Diana’s sons would not grow up solely under the dysfunctional influence of the Windsor family? Did Eton tend and nourish this flower of manhood?

However it came about, there are now at least half a dozen reasons why I should be happy to bow to King William and pledge my fealty if I could live another 30-odd years to see him crowned.

1. The work he has voluntarily taken on as an air/sea rescue pilot – a service to others which puts him up there with firemen and lifeboatmen, those Kings among men.

2. Dealing with encroaching baldness and imperfect eyesight in such an unfussy, unvain way. Not for him his father’s neurotic combovers and avoidance of nakedly telling camera angles.

3. Marrying such a terrific, apparently straightforward and sane woman and - for all we know - living a full and happy family life.

4. Carrying not an ounce of surplus on that athletic frame.

5. Being an admirable figurehead in the world for British football.

6. Surviving the death of his mother without going mad.

And, finally, above all else - that little kiss William gave his son George, after they had braved the baying media outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital, as he carried the boy in to see his new sister, Charlotte. That’s what clinched it for me. Never - in almost 70 years of life as an unwilling subject of the strained, rigid, overwrought House of Windsor (motto: “Whatever Love Means”) - have I witnessed a moment so spontaneously loving, open and kind.

That’s our man, comrades.