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'Retro' back to Lakenheath.


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Gents,


Spent a mostly quiet and unproductive afternoon at Mildenhall today when I found out that a 'Retro' flight of F-15s that had just completed their depot maintenance at Warner-Robins AFB was on the way back across the pond for Lakenheath. So I thought I would wait for them, even though they weren't expected until evening, but it was a pleasant day. Lakenheath was on 24 with Westerly winds. Then this afternoon, immediately after the local sorties had launched a 19 foot hole apparently appeared in the Lakenheath runway at the Eastern end! Cue lots of discussion between SOF and the airborne flights and for a while everybody was going to Mildenhall instead. Then the plan changed to take them from the 06 end at Lakenheath with a tail wind. So moving over to Lakenheath I had no idea what the Retro flight would do once they got here. They also took the 06 end (after being advised to land off centreline on the Southern side of the runway) so I shot them as they rolled out. Unusual to see F-15Es in this condition immediately after being in the shop.

 

Retro on the break.

 

2G5A9877.jpg

 

I'm sure most are aware of the tragedy that occurred at Lakenheath exactly a week ago. Whilst I was waiting I remembered I had read this;

 

https://www.robins.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2224898/warner-robins-air-logistics-complex-honors-fallen-usaf-pilot-from-raf-lakenheath/

 

Well, that was the lead jet in the flight.

 

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2G5A9969.jpg

 

2G5A9957.jpg

 

Retro 92/93.

 

2G5A0030.jpg

 

2G5A9984.jpg

 

When I'd got there I noticed the EOR crew had cleared off from their usual spot, which with Lakenheath not flying routine sorties late was understandable, but I did wonder if word had got through that they still had a flight coming in from stateside, maybe they would come back when the flight was due or they would do the usual checks and pins at parking. So Retro flight pulled into EOR and waited...

 

2G5A0061.jpg

 

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..and waited, when queried on the radio by the crews, it suddenly dawned on Lakenheath that they'd forgot! They were still sat there waiting, engines running 20 minutes later when I left and still nobody had turned up!

 

Flying cancelled for tomorrow - they've got a hole to fill in.

 

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by gary1701
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A 19' just suddenly opened in the runway?   I'm not an aviation facilities engineer but I'm pretty sure that's not supposed to happen. 

 

Great pics as always, thanks for taking the time to post! 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Hi again gents,

 

Thanks. Hi Bee, the size was 19' by 9', confirmed by Lakenheath on the radio when advising the inbound Retro flight. As you can see on the pics the jets rolling out are keeping to the South side of the runway as instructed. It was supposedly beside one of the cables. What may be a factor is that earlier this month Lakenheath closed for a few days for essential runway work so something may have gone wrong. Definitely no operations today, NOTAM posted confirming closure.

 

Gary 

Edited by gary1701
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Posted (edited)
On 6/23/2020 at 11:39 AM, hemspilot said:

Contracts going to the lowest bidder again?

 

Hi I wouldn't be at all surprised with whats happening today. I'm not over there, too hot but they started again this morning after repairs yesterday. Been listening in and keeping up and it's gone slightly farcical again. Another hole has opened up, although this time the wind has gone around and they're working opposite way. Again, after the afternoon flights had launched so they've been told to RTB to Mildenhall. However, Mildenhall doesn't want them as they have live guns - looks like they were going to Holbeach for some live strafing - and they're not equipped for live ordnance so I don't know what they're gonna do. I half expect them to appear out of the window on the approach for Wattisham...

 

Probably another down day tomorrow!

 

Gary 

Edited by gary1701
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Posted (edited)

 

Hi,

 

Lakenheath is closed again today, not sure if it will be the same pattern and they attempt a repair today and fly again tomorrow. It's obvious this pattern cannot continue but short of a lengthily closure and some major works not sure what they can do. It must be associated with the repairs that were conducted a few weeks ago as although it's hot this week by UK standards (30 degrees plus), thats hardly hot by global standards. We had a few days last year that were hotter than this - 35 degrees plus - and Lakenheath never had any problems.

 

Mildenhall and to a lesser extent Lakenheath have always had something of a 'reputation' shall I say. That's not just from the point of view of a UK civilian enthusiast looking in (although we do find it highly amusing at times listening in to them getting themselves in a muddle) but that's a reputation they have built up amongst their own peers. There is a reason why US military aircraft transiting through the UK have gone through the civilian airfield on the West coast of Scotland at Prestwick when they can arrange it, and it's not because of Trumps nearby golf course, despite what the media may believe when they became aware of it recently - it's been going on for years. Quite often Prestwick can be full of KC-135s, C-17s, various models of C-130s, all paying their landing and accommodation fees, whilst a USAF operated military airfield just a couple of hundred miles further South is empty besides the residents. The simple fact is the crews try to avoid Mildenhall. It's an awful experience, the billeting and accommodation is poorly organised, support for transits is pretty much non-existent, even for types like KC-135s that are based here. ATC is...well I could fill a whole thread detailing some of their howlers, and that's just what I've heard, others have seen far worse. Many transiting aircraft commanders have lost their cool with them over the radio.

 

It never made the national press, and this is no exaggeration, but last year the twin bases between them came very close to having a flight of transiting Mountain Home F-15Es run out of fuel in the overhead. This was a routine swap over down range, with the returning jets stopping over at Lakenheath before crossing the pond. Completely routine and obviously pre-planned and booked. Lakenheath would not take them initially as the cables had been de-rigged for a heavy movement. Nobody had restored the runway for fast jet ops despite knowing this flight was inbound. Then, whilst they waited overhead and burned down fuel, and honest, this is true as it was all monitored on the base radio frequencies, they could not find the relevant officer to certify the restored cables and runway for fast jet ops once they had got a crew out there. They would still not authorize the flight to land.  By then the MO flight was getting desperate, and asked to go to Mildenhall instead. They couldn't take them until they rigged their cables as obviously Mildenhall is normally configured for heavies. Trying to get Mildenhall to do anything quickly that is unscheduled and needs expediting is asking the impossible so they wouldn't be ready in time before they ran out of fuel.By then the F-15 crews were getting not only desperate but also bloody angry, they said they were taking the runway as it was, and would deal with the details on the ground. I think they landed well below minimums and with not more than a few minutes fuel remaining. That played out for a hour overhead two operational military airfields and whilst an extreme case, less severe problems occur pretty much every day, hence my comments about the EOR crews not being at the end of the runway for the returning Retro flight on Monday, despite Lakenheath knowing they were coming.                 

 

I don't know why Mildenhall and to some degree Lakenheath have this culture. It cannot be associated with just one command structure, as it's been like this for decades.

 

Gary   

Edited by gary1701
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6 hours ago, hemspilot said:

A military airfield not equipped for live ordnance...

This keeps getting better.

Need someone trained on the plane to safe the guns.

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