A NOTAM popped up several weeks ago which highlighted that the "disused" airbase at Machrihanish was being used as a Landing Site for a parachute drop. With my long interest in the base, and the prospect of military personnel dropping in, this chance was too good to miss.
The scheduled drop was to take place on the afternoon of Tuesday 22nd March 05. The day before, a full equipment check was conducted, and packed into their appropriate bags. This included the usual contingent of video camera, digital camera equipment and of course, the trusty hand held military band scanner, my newly purchased Uniden 3300xlt.
Signpost: Now MoD Machrihanish
Puma helicopter overflight
After a 3 1/2 hour drive, the base began to come into view through the low lying cloud and mist. The weather was not looking good for a parachute drop. Unfortunatly this was the case for most of the day and thus the parachute drop never took place. The trip was not totally uneventful however.
While sitting around at the end of the main runway, the radio crackled to life on Campbeltown Tower 125.900mhz. Being taken totally off guard, a puma helicopter suddenly appeared flying down the centre line of the runway. With a hard right hand break right in front of us, the helicopter flew back down the base and disappeared. This was the first and last time the helicopter was seen or heard from through the rest of the day.
Gaydon Hangar - Door slightly ajar
The private security firm who were guarding the base began to take an interest in our presence. This resulted in a stand off for a short time, with the securitas guard sitting in his car watching us.
In the end, the security guard got out of his car, and shouted our registration plate down his radio. This was obviously for our benifit so we could hear him. What is beyond me is why did they not just speak to us and find out what we were up to. Had they approached us, we would have told them the truth, we were waiting for a parachute drop. The common sence approach was obviously beyond the civilian security guard, as we ended up getting stopped by Campbeltown police just as we were getting ready to head home.
Security patrol - watching them watching us
After a chat and a PNC check on us, it was clear that we were neither terrorists or posed any sort of threat. The friendly officers then wished us well, and we all parted on our seperate ways. It goes to show that if you state your business, and are polite, then there are no problems and everyone goes home happy.
With a Temporary Restricted Airspace (TRA) being enforced around Machrihanish from the 1st April - 30 June 2005 for flight trials, the question that remains just now as to what is being tested.