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Thread: Flare-Paths (on appraoch to runway)

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    Default Flare-Paths (on appraoch to runway)

    On Average,
    How long was the flare-path on the approach to landing on a fighter station runway?

    I am asking as I am researching an accident which occurred on the approach to the flare-path.

    Any advice please

    regards

    Chris

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    Chris,
    Although no expert on WW2 night flying requirements in the RAF, I doubt that such a thing as approach lights even existed as we understand them today. Even runway lights were often non-permanent in those days, as smaller fields (such as fighter ones) often only included grass vectors, without hard runways, so the flying aids had to be easily transportable so as to provide the ability to quickly re-arrange the flares to match changing wind directions. It was quickly learned, as the bomber campaign got into full swing in all weathers, that RAF heavy bomber stations should be equipped with permanent runways because grass could only support constant operations in drier weather, and as aircraft take off weights went up in leaps and bounds, the grass surfaces deteriorated very rapidly and took considerable time to repair temselves - in very bad winter conditions, operations became all but impossible. As four-engined bombers with weights over 25 tons began entering service, it became ever more obvious that a lot more hard runways would have to be built, and with the passage of time, permanent electric runway lights became standard, replacing the messy and dangerous flares, which also required personnel out on the airfield. As to purely fighter fields, sometimes they got hard runways, but I imagine that fixed electric lighting for night flying would have to be justified - perhaps a permanent resident heavy night fighter squadron (Beaufighters or Mosquitos) might have constituted such a deserving case. Even then I do not believe that an actual approach light system was involved, although it would have to be fairly obvious from the air the direction from which you should approach the working runway, although R/T in such cases would normally be available. Temporary flarepaths were always designed to be very distinctive for this reason, and obviously had to be re-arranged should the wind direction change, which must have been a real pain on a dark airfield. The same conditions would apply when carrying out night operation with flying boats.
    These are my initial thoughts, but I am certain we will have many experts on this Board more qualified than I on lighting arrangements on WW2 airfields.
    David D

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    Hi Chris - As David says, it could depend on the airfield but 'Drem' lighting was fairly standard by late 1940 (aka Airfield Lighting Mk I) and by mid-war most airfields were on Airfield Lighting Mk II or III. Mk II provided:

    - On the airfield itself: flarepath lights, taxy track lights, totem poles, angle of approach indicators, floodlights and dispersal track lighting, ground signals.
    - Exterior to the airfield: outer circle lights, inner-centre-outer funnels and a 'lead in string' from the outer circle to each outer funnel.

    Some measurements:

    Mk I (Drem) outer circle was 1,000 yards from the end of each runway.
    Mk II/III outer circle was 2,000 yards from the end of each runway.
    Mk II/III Funnels - Inner 500 yards, Centre 1,000 yards and Outer 1,500 yards from end of runway.

    Richard

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    As others have said - some airfields never had an electrical lighting system,and only had 'gooseneck' paraffin flares...here is a restored gooseneck in operation...
    AFAIK they were only positioned within the airfield boundary...so no early approach assistance to the pilot...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=t91Ztn4UZA0

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    Hello Chris

    You will find a standard layout under "Section C - Night Lighting for Peace Training" and written instructions in Appendix II at the rear of the A.P. 129 Royal Air Force Flying Training Manual Part I - Landplanes. Mine is a tatty December 1939 reprint incorporating A.L. 1-3, but I could photograph the relevant pages in daylight tomorrow if you email me.

    I presume the Inquiry or Accident Card refers to a flare path being in operation, as I have seen in the TNA, RAF Flying Accident Statistical file, a reference to landing accidents in 1940 due to "War Conditions" where the runway lighting or flares were extinguished due to an air raid warning, causing our aircraft to crash.

    I find this official statement strange or odd, as aerodrome runway illumination was exempt from the 1939 Lighting Restriction [black out] regulations.

    By late 1940 Fighters had begun to be equipped with their own VHF system to assist with direction / approach.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Hood; 7th October 2013 at 20:47. Reason: ref to VHF

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    This is part of an article written about Night Flying at RAF Southrop...
    Interesting little details like the cover fitted so that the goosenecks could only be seen at low level and also the bonfire used as a marker...



    Every course of pupil pilots had to do night flying. When mechanics or riggers were detailed for night flying duties you would often have to lay out the flare path with Goose Neck flares. Goose Neck flares were shaped like a large coffee pot, the spout being shaped like a goose neck. It was filled with paraffin and had a wick down the spout. After being ignited a round sheet metal cover about 3 feet in diameter on short legs was positioned over the flares allowing the light to shine out onto the ground and the flares were not visible from height. There was no radio in the Oxfords and night flying was dangerous in the blackout with no contact with the ground and the flare path could easily be lost to view. To give the pilot guidance about 2 miles from the airfield a bonfire was kept burning to indicate to the pilot where to turn in and line up. The bonfire was known as Lead in Lights. When you were on night flying duty, in the late evening before midnight you went individually to the cookhouse for a mug of tea and an egg on fried bread, which during the war was a treat a luxury. After night flying duty you generally had the next day off, and you would put a towel across your bed to indicate that you were not to be disturbed. Having the next day off depended on what time the night flying finished and you came off duty.

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    Here is a thread from key..it has a simple diagram representation of one of the versions of the Drem Airfield lighting system,and also a brief precis of circuit procedure/radio calls...


    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&rc...81282022242094

    It also has a link to the website where the diagram was originally shown

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    Just out of interest,there is a good simulation of the earlier system at Deenethorpe if you scroll down to near the bottom of the page ,but probably replaced by a later system by the end of the war...


    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&rc...81283021586625
    Last edited by bvs; 8th October 2013 at 01:55.

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    Chris
    The Flare Path
    Sent my email in a pm to you, if you reply email me, I'll send you the attachments and flare path plans in accord with the wind direction. The Air Ministry Standard Orders for Night Flying at RAF Aerodromes, para 13, but very, very basically the flare path marked the space available for landing, with a row of flares across it seems, to form a 'T'. But there should have been a boundary light at the leeward end of the flare path and it indicates where the windward boundary light should be sited and it is illustrated with Flare Path Layout plans, which give you the official RAF Standard Orders for flare path layout in accord with the wind direction.

    Whether RAF aerodromes practised the Air Ministry Standard Orders layout in reality, is another matter.

    There is a full description and plans with reference to flare path, (Glim or Goose Flares or Money Flares) and reference to red Glim, or red hurricane lamps for obstruction marking, to fully understand any Court of Inquiry comments on the flare path arrangement (if any comments were given). There are additional comments regarding the portable floodlight etc.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Hood; 8th October 2013 at 20:52.

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    The portable floodlight mentioned by Mark, was a prewar invention and was usually called the "Chance Light", presumably from the name of the manufacturer (or designer/inventor), and not that it necessarilly created a "chancey" siuation when in use, although that might have been the case too (just joking). I seem to recall having seen a good view of a Chance Light in action in some publication, surrounded by a gaggle of Hawker Hinds or similar-type aircraft, the light acting as intended as a pool of light where the trainee aircrew (and ground personnel) could actually see what they were doing, rather then relying on hand-held torches. The Chance light had its own portable power supply, no doubt powered by a small petrol engine, which therefore was free to be set up anywhere around the airfield, without having to worry about dangerous and cumbersome electrical cables all over the place and creating an even greater hazard. This light was widely known around the world during WW2 on aerodromes of widely scattered British Commonwealth air forces, even in New Zealand. Training stations sometimes also used vertically mounted search lights in emergency situations to act as a homing aid for aircraft caught out by bad weather during cross country exercises. Incidentally the person (officer or sometimes an SNCO) in charges of the Night Flying party (ground) prewar and in the very early war years was known officially (rather confusingly) as the Aerodrome Control Pilot, or ACP. This is a frequently misunderstood abbreviation, as you would expect such a person (in charge of night flying) to be (a) a pilot, which could be the case, but not necessarily, and (b) that he would be have "Night flying" mentioned in the title. However in AP 129 and other publications, the duties of the ACP are clearly laid out, and there is no doubt that he was solely concerned with night flying. A google search on Chance light might well turn uop something interesting.
    David D

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