Thursday, March 07, 2013

Looking for aircraft in France, Ireland and Portsmouth Harbour

As many of you know I spend some of my spare time travelling round the UK and Europe aircraft spotting. Indeed last night I booked a day trip to Toulouse in France for later this month in order to visit the Airbus factory there. I also put my name down for a week long aircraft spotting trip around Northern and Southern Ireland for early next year. It will be so interesting to do Northern Ireland a place I’ve never been to.

One thing aircraft buffs like myself down here on the South coast like to keep an eye on is movements in and out of Portsmouth Naval Base. Not because we are all ship spotters as well, but some navy ships carry helicopters. A navy frigate might have a helicopter deck on which there will be helicopters. We like to keep track of any visiting foreign navy vessels in case they turn up with a helicopter or two on board. Last year I did manage to bag a nice Australian Navy ‘copter when one of its ships visited Portsmouth Navy Base. Rumours fly around when ships are due. Even more so when it is an American Carrier due. They are too big to enter Portsmouth but will anchor in Stokes Bay just off the coast. Local harbour tour companies will run trips out to do circuits of the carrier when they are in. I know a few lucky people who manage to get on the carriers when they are in but how they get on the official invite list is kept a closely guarded secret. I’d love to know how they did it.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing this today is that rumours abound that on Friday a French Helicopter Carrier is due into Portsmouth. The rumours state that it is off on a five month tour and therefore there is a good chance that there will be helicopters on board. Confirmation of the ships arrival will be publicised at lunchtime on the Thursday when the Queens Harbour Master at Portsmouth publish their list of movements planned for the next day. Its on their website in HTML and PDF formats. Perhaps a good candidate for an app or #opendata? Anyway, I’ll be checking those lists to see if the rumours are true and they ship is coming in and if the weather is good I’ll take some time off work to go and see it and hope that there are helicopters on board. The rumours state that the ship will go out on Saturday but I’ll be in London at UKGC13. Fingers crossed that it does come it and that any helicopters on it will be on deck.

However I’m always fearful that it could be a wasted journey. I remember one time in the very early days of the internet when the amount of information on it was nothing like what it is today. We had basic email lists to exchange rumours and one such rumour at the time concerned a US Navy ship that was due to visit Portsmouth. People were asking if the ship had helicopters on board. The rumour mill kicked into full force, to such an extent that by the night before the ship was due that rumours stated that the ship was a Frigate and defiantly had a helicopter on board. The ship was due at around 7.30 the following day and one guy got up really early and drove down from Oxfordshire to Portsmouth to see it arrive. By nine o’clock he was at work and posted on the email list how he drove all that way but it was a total waste of his time and money. The ship had arrived but he confirmed that it defiantly did not have a helicopter on board due to the fact… that the ‘ship’ was a submarine!



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