22.11.18 Lesley Upham

Coachmakers’ visit to Brize Norton

In early October the Master, 11 Liverymen and guests were privileged to spend the day at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. We were welcomed over coffee by Wing Commander Sean O’Sullivan of the OC Engineering & Logistics Wing. Wg Cdr O’Sullivan outlined the work of the base, which has 7,000 staff drawn from the forces, civil servants and various civilian trades. He also confirmed the importance that the base puts on encouraging young people to take up STEM subjects. In fact Wg Cdr O’Sullivan himself has risen through the ranks by taking advantage of the education and training opportunities offered to him in the RAF.

A Lockheed C130 Hercules landing at Brize Norton

Brize Norton is home to more than 60 aircraft comprising four fleets: 22 Airbus A400M Atlas, 14 Airbus Voyagers, 17 Lockheed C130 Hercules and eight Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. The airport is the embarkation point for all UK defence activities, with the logistics squadron responsible for supply and movement of UK materials 24/7 across the world. On the day we visited the team was preparing to supply humanitarian aid to the victims of the Indonesian earthquake and tsunami.

A factual presentation of the work of the Survival Equipment Section (SES) provided a fascinating insight into the survival and aircrew equipment assemblies SES supplies to all flying squadrons at RAF Brize Norton and lodger units both at home and in deployed locations. The activities included the testing of life jackets, deployment of rescue services to pilots forced to eject from their aircraft and the fitment and maintenance of the sophisticated helmets warn by aircrew.

The tour gave an appreciation of the all-encompassing engineering support that takes place in the background to support operational and training commitments. One stand-out fact was that Brize Norton uses 350,000 litres of fuel every day, enough to fill 8,500 Ford Fiestas! After lunch we were treated to a close up view of A400M Atlas LXX Squadron RAF.

Pallets await at Brize Norton

The Airbus A400M entered operational service with the RAF in 2014 and provides tactical and strategic airlift capabilities alongside the RAF’s Hercules and C17 fleets. LXX works closely with Airbus and Flybe in maintaining the fleet – an example of co-operation between industry partners and UK armed forces. Coachmakers were thrilled to be allowed access to the flight deck. The complexity of the “fly by wire” plane was amazing and the knowledge of our guides outstanding.

Finally to end our fascinating day we visited the Joint Air Delivery & Evaluation Unit (JADTEU). JADTEU conducts operational trials and evaluation to develop the delivery by air of personnel, machines and material across UK defence. I don’t think there is anything they cannot work out how to move into position. Among the anecdotes, we heard how the team moved a huge piece of granite half way up a mountain for the National Trust.

The overall impression was one of the staggering breadth of the responsibilities and capabilities of the men and women who serve at the base. As Wing Commander Sean O’Sullivan said in his address they are “an insurance policy for the British public.”