BBMF in the winter months…
Now, contrary to popular belief , be hind the closed hangar doors here at BBMF, we don’t just lounge in the T bar watching DVDs of the glorious displays we have performed in the summer. The winter is just as busy, but in different ways.
The aircraft undergo rigorous winter maintenance which includes the dismantling of aircraft for detailed inspections, many of which include the use of x-rays to inspect for cracking and corrosion. We fix any faults that are found and give the aircraft the much needed ‘TLC’ that these priceless pieces of our national heritage deserve. Before Christmas, the aircraft are dismantled to various states of undress and any new components are ordered, or indeed made, as we have various contractors which support us. After Christmas, the aircraft are meticulously rebuilt. By the time February and March arrives, the focus is very much on getting the aircraft ready for air-tests and the work up to our Public Display Authorisation, which is awarded by the Air Officer Commanding.
Not only is the majority of maintenance done during the winter, but the majority of training courses are also conducted during this period in order to maximise the number of personnel available during the busy display months. These courses are not only formal engineering training courses but include other activities such as dingy drills should we unexpectedly find ourselves in the sea during a display!
It would be pointless getting the aircraft ready and the personnel suitably trained without the venues scheduled to show these fine old aeroplanes to the general public, so the OPS (Operations) team and the PRO (Public Relations Officer) are also hard at work planning the next season. It is not uncommon for BBMF to receive well over 1,800 requests for an appearance! Last year was a particularly busy season with 1,270 events planned. BBMF can sometimes cover several events during one flight and last year flew 749 sorties. Planning this is a very complex task. Not even the largest airlines operate as BBMF often do in launching multiple aircraft from various different airfields, forming up for a time-on-target flypast before dispersing to other areas.
The aircrew continue currency flying through the winter, hence local personnel will often see our Chipmunk in the sky. Late winter and early spring, BBMF will be airtesting the newly maintained aircraft and getting pilots’ competencies renewed to enable them to fly our various aircraft during another hectic season.
So, the next time anyone drives past our hangar in the winter months, please remember that we are not in hibernation, but preparing to put our beautiful old aircraft in the sky the following summer.