Harrier GR5 at Culdrose

Unbadged Harrier GR5 AA gets ready to display at Culdrose in 1992

The air day at Culdrose in July 1992 was a memorable one for me as it was the last time I saw XH558 before her first enforced retirement, and it was the last time I saw the RAF Phantom display in the hands of Archie and Mark before the aircraft left the service for good. It’s a strange thing, but you really don’t REALLY appreciate anything in aviation circles until it’s gone for good, and while those two personified that train of thought, the aircraft in the subject photograph was at the start of its career and looking to go on, and on, and on…………….. The reality, as we all now know, was painfully different.

The last few years has been pretty grim for our hobby, with aircraft that have been both milestones in aviation, and enthusiast favourites, going out the window quicker than a budgie out of its cage.

I’m 37 now, and started seriously shooting at my first air Fete with a Practika in 1988. The more time goes by and the more types and squadrons buy it, the luckier I consider myself to have seen what I have seen, even in my relatively short time. I also know how unfortunate I’ve been to see so many changes and brilliant types go out of service and into the history books.

Culdrose 92 was a great show and stand out displays for me included the prototype Merlin PP5 (then stationed at CU on evaluation), the Harrier in question, Sea Harrier FRS1, Tornado F3, Firefly and Swordfish of the RNHF, RAF Phantom, and XH558.

It’s always a pleasure to shoot aircraft at Culdrose given the background and lighting conditions. It’s just one of those shows that sometimes springs a complete surprise, but more often than not is just a great opportunity to photograph standard service types at pretty close quarters.

AA was snapped with my Ricoh KR-10X and 400mm telephoto lens, and the image here is scanned on an HPDJ 2050 all-in-one from the original print developed in 1992.

As always, any further serial info for the aircraft, or interesting follow up info on the airframe that was present that day would be gratefully received.