Aviation Fans and Spotters Sad About Memorial Aircraft Being Repainted.
One of the most recognizable and popular demonstration aircraft in the world, a Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 registration ZK349 of the 29(R) Squadron, painted in a striking Battle of Britain commemorative camouflage paint scheme, has been returned to its original operational low-visibility tactical paint scheme.
The aircraft memorialized the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain celebrated in 2015. It has flown numerous airshow flight demonstrations around Europe since then.
Typhoon ZK349, “GiNA” (from the G/NA designation around its roundel), was so popular she was voted the “Favourite Special Scheme” among airshow fans on the popular airshow forum “UK Airshow Review”. It won the vote by a large margin over other airshow performers. Fans of the aircraft started a “Save GiNA” campaign on Twitter with the hashtag “#SaveGina”.
A statement on the “Save GiNA” page read: “The campaign has been started with the intent of showing the RAF the weight of public opinion, so they can take that in to account when making any decisions to return the colour back to Grey or when deciding which aircraft to use. First and foremost the Typhoons are the UK’s most advanced fully operational Fighter Jets so we appreciate that priority must be given to their operational requirements which include defence of the Falkland Islands, their Quick Reaction Alert roles and current operations in the Middle East. However if the specific aircraft is available for the 2016 Display Season it is easy to see why the public would like to keep it in the unique colour scheme that little bit longer.”
News of GiNA’s repainting spread on Thursday around the world and was first seen in a post by Mr. Mike Grundy, a contributor in the closed Facebook group “Aviation Photographers”, a large international group of over 7,500 aviation photography fans.
Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon ZK349 was originally repainted in 2015 to match the markings of a RAF WWII Hawker Hurricane belonging to 249 Squadron’s Flight Lieutenant James Brindley Nicolson. Nicolson was the winner of the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross. This was the only Victoria Cross awarded to Fighter Command on Aug. 16, 1940.
Flight Lieutenant Nicolson was shot down in August 1940 by German aircraft over Southampton. He was seriously wounded when his Hurricane fighter was hit by enemy aircraft fire. He was about to bail out of his damaged, burning aircraft, but just before jumping he saw another German aircraft. Choosing to remain inside his burning plane and ignoring his grievous wounds, Flt. Lt. Nicolson aggressively pressed home a new attack and shot the additional enemy plane down. He received more serious burns over much of his body. When he did finally parachute to the ground, now even more gravely wounded, Home Guard volunteers who mistook him for a German pilot under his parachute mistakenly shot him in the legs.
In recognition of this heroic action and to commemorate the Battle of Britain, the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (RAFBBMF) was formed. The flight is based at RAF Coningsby, a very busy Typhoon and fighter base in Lincolnshire. RAF Coningsby is also a very popular location for aircraft spotters and photographers from around the world. The fans and historians have grown a unique and constructive relationship with the base.
Mr. Paul Smith, 43, of Stourpaine was kind enough to share some of his excellent photos of the Typhoon affectionately known as “Gina” from her markings commemorating Flt. Lt. Nicolson’s Hurricane that wore the same G/NA designation around its roundel.
Paul Smith has traveled to airshows around the world, and we met him in person last year at Nellis AFB in the U.S. He told us this about Typhoon ZK349’s significance:
“In the run up to the 2015 airshow season there was a lot of speculation around what the RAF would do to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Britain’s finest hour. When I saw the first pictures of the aircraft rolled out of the paint shop I wasn’t disappointed! The Typhoon looks magnificent in the classic early wartime scheme of dark earth and green and I was particularly happy that they had chosen to represent the markings of a hurricane; the backbone of fighter command during the battle. We will remember all of ‘The Few’ and their extraordinary effort during the battle, but Flt Lt James Nicolson VC DFC is a fine representative of the many aircrews from all over the world who bravely took on the Luftwaffe in the battle for freedom from tyranny. Seeing the Typhoon put on such an excellent display with the iconic Spitfire was an incredible experience and the obvious difficulty of the routine with two such dissimilar aircraft was made to look effortless. (Editor’s note: Airshow demonstrations with the Typhoon were flown with a Spitfire, not a Hurricane, as Paul correctly notes here) I hope this project bodes well for the centenary of the RAF in 2018.”
Thanks to Mr. Paul Smith for his excellent photos and to our friends in the Facebook group Aviation Photographers for their assistance with this feature.