Back to Previous Page

Derek Hogarth



Life for a Rigger After Halton


RAF Leeming

1960, Like all of us after 3 years of the RAF’s finest technical training, I was looking forward to the “Real Air Force” I was posted to RAF Leeming in Yorkshire, an OCU with Javelins, Canberra’s and Meteors, and the famous Avro Anson. My important assignment was to the Visiting Aircraft Flight. As Leeming is in Yorkshire there are a lot of race courses, so we had a busy time with jockeys and horse owners flying in with their small private aircraft, at least we did get some tips. I think the two most important things I learnt in that 1st year was: do not marshal aircraft from the front when you can see from the gun ports that they have been on air firing (OC 111 Squadron), and the other: when marshalling Shackletons at night with wands, when one wand fails turn off the other and run.


RAF Carnaby

From Leeming it was on to RAF Carnaby, where is Carnaby you may ask. That was what I asked the orderly room, they said we don’t know, it’s not in the list of RAF stations. Finally after finding an old 40s or 50s book, they located the “base” right next to Bridlington on the East Yorkshire coast. So they gave me a rail warrant to Bridlington. I arrived at Bridlington station and asked where the RAF were, and was told to go to the harbor and l would find some RAF people in the White Horse pub. So off I went, walked into the pub, and was happy to meet some RAF types playing darts, of course being in uniform I was welcomed, given a pint, a pasty and a set of darts. After a couple of games and pints we introduced ourselves, and they asked how long I had been working on Air Sea Rescue boats and what locations. So the bottom line was, I should go out to the main road and wait until a RAF bus came by an jump on it to RAF Driffield 30 minutes distance. This I did and arrived at Driffield the parent station to Carnaby. I was then told I was to take another bus to Carnaby, but as it was getting late I should take a room and try again next day. When I did finally arrive, there was an upset FS yelling that I was a day late. 247 Squadron was a Bloodhound MK1 site protecting a nearby Thor missile site, they were both located at the end of two 2.5 mile WWll emergency runways built for damaged aircraft returning from raids over Europe. The US Airforce built two more runways after the war each side of the old ones for emergency landings of B52s. While at Carnaby I went to RAF Binbrook to take my Tech board; my STQ was Lightning hydraulics and wheel & brakes, amazingly I passed. During this time I completed Bloodhound training at RAF Newton, and later a Victor course at RAF Gaydon. 1964, now that I was Victor trained I was looking forward to working on them, but the RAF knows better and sent me to Scampton.


RAF Scampton

At Scampton I was employed in the Vulcan modification bay. I really liked this aircraft work after being on Bloodhounds, so I was pleased when I was sent to RAF Finningly for my Vulcan course. After completing the Vulcan course and 8 months at Scampton I was then posted to RAF Woodhall Spa 112 Squadron, Bloodhound Mk2 this time.


RAF Woodhall Spa

Arriving at RAF Woodhall Spa in 1964, an old WWll bomber runway where aircraft were bombed up. We were to form up the Squadron, assemble and test our equipment, missiles, launchers, radars etc, then be ready to move to Cyprus within months. Well months turned into years, political issues with the Greek Cypriot government. During this time I was working on missile maintenance and repair, and the launcher servicing bay, then more Bloodhound training at RAF Newton. We were parented by nearby RAF Coningsby which was under Care and Maintenance, no aircraft, therefore lots of game shooting and fishing.


Detachment to RAAF Butterworth Malaya

In 1965 I went on a 3 months detachment to 33 Squadron Bloodhounds at RAAF Butterworth in Malaya, I and several other riggers, Keith Elliot included, were to modify some equipment on the Bloodhound missile launchers. We arrived but the mod kits did not, we were told to check in at the Squadron each day, then usually told to just take the day off. Some of us would go to Penang island to sample the local Tiger beer. One memorable night we missed the last ferry back to the mainland, hired a sampan, then appropriated a trishaw to get us back to the base. Being the only blond trishaw driver in Malaya I was easily spotted by the local law, and the two of us ended up in the pokey until the Aussie SPs bailed us out.


RAF Seletar Singapore

Finally in 1966 I happily received a posting to 65 Squadron Seletar, of course Bloodhound Mk2’s again. As most of you know Singapore was the ideal posting so I was sorry to leave after two years due to British government cut backs.


RAF Bicester

In 1968 I returned to the UK to 71 MU RAF Bicester, or Smash and Crash as it was known. After so many years on Bloodhounds it was somewhat strange to be working on aircraft again. Unfortunately at Bicester we didn’t have any aircraft of our own. We were responsible for heavy repairs, modification, and crash recovery of aircraft anywhere in the UK, and on occasion in continental Europe. Even though this was a period where I was constantly travelling, it was a job I really liked. There was a lot of satisfaction in getting a severely damaged aircraft back in the air. Other repairs were painfully slow and repetitive, such as Canberra wing skin replacements, C-130 floor replacements, and of course the incredible Lightning fuel leaks. These fuel leaks were soul destroying. Imagine starting with a fuel leak in one area, this could take 3 months of painful cleaning and resealing. Leave to cure for several days, then pressure test for leaks, no leaks in the repaired area, but leaking like a sieve from a dozen other areas. One aircraft could take up to 18 months to repair.


RAF Akrotiri Cyprus

In 1970 I was once again I was on the move, to 103 MU RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. After settling in here, 1st job, scrap recovery on a Royal Navy Buccaneer which had suffered a heavy carrier landing, and poked the main gear through the wings. This seemed a no-brainer, just cut it up into 1 cwt junks for the scrap man. Unfortunately these aircraft are built like the proverbial brick s--t house, several layers of thick gauge alloy, I was not allowed to use explosives so it was a major challenge. I quickly realized my old Squadron 112 was also on the island and requested a day off to go and visit them at Paramali West near RAF Episkopi, I was informed that I could visit the following week. The day before my planned visit I was informed that 112 Squadron had been authorized to keep me for 3 months as they were short of skilled manpower. Naturally after the 3 months were up I was officially transferred to 112 Squadron. This was an ideal posting, working 7:00-1:00, 5 days a week, which was unusual in Cyprus, I took up scuba diving, and after being qualified I join the NEAF underwater rescue team operating out the RAF Air Sea Rescue unit in Limassol. I was fortunate to lead a dive team on a 2 weeks expedition in RAF Gan, what a great time!

Whilst I enjoyed these 3 years working on Bloodhounds I was really upset when at the end of my tour I was informed I was to be posted to RAF West Raynham, another Bloodhound unit. This led to me refusing the posting, which eventually had me in front of the AOC NEAF. This was it I thought, what is the penalty for this, the rope?? Colchester?? Discharge??. So there I was at attention in the AOC's rather large office. "Take a seat - coffee, tea?! - tell me why after 13 years of excellent service you are refusing this posting?". Once I caught my breath, I explained how many years I had served on Bloodhound units, and why I thought I was being misemployed. The AOC then to my surprise said "I agree, where would you like to go?". Once I recovered my voice I replied "Well how about RAF St Mawgan where I could continue with my scuba hobby?" He said "Good choice, it's yours". On return to my Squadron they were amazed to see me still free.


RAF St Mawgan

RAF St Mawgan, or as it was called in 1973 The Royal Cornish Air Force, was interesting and a little scary, Nimrods were rather large, and took some getting used to. I soon acclimatized to this new regime of Nimrod Serving Flight and was very quickly running up to 3 maintenance teams. Life in Cornwall was different, the summer months were wall to wall tourists, and the winters were the opposite. The local folks are slow to accept you, but once you have spent a winter there then you are accepted. After 3 years I volunteered for Jaguar training and spent some months training at the OCU at RAF Lossiemouth,


RAF Bruggen, Germany

In 1976 I was posted to 31 Squadron RAF Bruggen, Jaguars were then my life, in my view one of the first aircraft designed for ease of servicing, must have been the French influence. During the next 3 years we spent many months in Sardinia, Squadron exchanges with the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Belgian Air force, German Air Force, and numerous detachments across Europe. Due to my eldest son’s education needs I received a fourth year extension, which I spent in the RAF Bruggen Aircraft servicing Flight. This was another great experience, due to NATO requirements we were never short of work, but what a great team.


RAF Cotishall

So, 1979 back to UK, RAF Coltishall as Jaguar Aircraft Servicing Flight hanger manager. This was to be a very rewarding position and also my longest time in any one place during my RAF career, more that 4 years. My time at RAF Coltishall could have carried on, but in 1983 I was invited to apply for a position on the Kuwait Liaison Team.



The Kuwait Liaison Team was a joint services team established after WWll to support and train the Royal Kuwait Air Force and the Kuwait Army. I was accepted and arrived in Kuwait airport 1 April 1983, I was a real April Fool, that was the very day that Kuwait went officially dry, so when I declared my two bottles of booze, they said very nicely, hand it over. Life in Kuwait was certainly different, living in a Salmiya apartment block was certainly different. I was for ever complaining about my apartment, and the fact that I could see the night sky through the cracks in the walls, and was told to be quiet, it is free. Our team then had a visit from the UK Defence Minister Heseltine (Tarzan). Subsequently I was ordered not to approach him about accommodation deficiencies when we were to meet with him. So we were sitting at tables in our social club when he and his entourage entered, and would you believe which table he came to and sat down. Correct, next to me, and what did he ask? Correct again, hello can I ask what your accommodation is like? Well what could I say, in my 25 years in the RAF serving across the world, it’s by far the worst that I have had my family living in. The response was quick, within a week I was living in a bungalow on the beach in a secure compound.

Regarding work with the Kuwait Air Force, I was assigned to be hanger manager at Ahmed Al Jaber air base about 30 miles into the desert. We had 23 A4 Skyhawks, probably the best maintained A4s in the world. The A4s didn’t fly many hours due to several factors such as strong desert winds, and lack of available pilots Mostly maintained by Pakistani and Indian Air Force on secondment and some civilian guys from the same countries. The maintenance shops also had Kuwaiti servicemen and engineering officers, with some support from Kuwaiti national servicemen. The pilots were mostly Kuwaiti royal family and 2 former US Marine pilots, supplied by McDonnell Douglas. The first thing I had to get used to was that on his daily hanger inspections the senior engineering officer would meet me and then walk hand in hand with me around the hangar. This took some getting used to, as well as putting up with the knowing smiles of the 4-5 other Brits on the base.

Two other things are worth mentioning here: I decided to have a fire drill which I had to get approved by the base commander. After notifying all of the hanger personnel, and briefing them, I then removed the glass on the hanger fire alarm and hit the button. Nothing happened, no alarm, nothing, I went to the base fire department, a state of the art building and explained to the fire chief what I had done and the result. Bottom line, their system was perfect but none of the alarms on the base were connected to their control room.

One day, the senior engineering officer asked if I would make a sketch of a proposed aircraft wash building adjacent to the hanger. The area was already concreted, with water supply, drains and power supplies. I used the largest sheet of graph paper I could find and drew a to scaled sketch, showing entrance and exit doors, spray equipment, store rooms, kitchen, toilets, and of course a pray room. After notifying the officer that I was not a structural engineer, and this was just a conceptual drawing he agreed and I forgot all about it. Several moths before I was due to leave Kuwait I was visited by 2 civilians from their MOD contracts office they wanted to know if I was Mr Derek, and was this my design, because they were going to build from my sketch. I left before it was started, but I’m told it was built - scary!

In 1985, after 2 good years in Kuwait I was given a posting to Kinloss!! I asked what the second choice was, their response was, this the only choice, you are promoted what else do you want? Well I did choose and retired from the RAF.


Civilian Life in the USA and Elsewhere

I joined BAE at Weybridge in 1986 as a product support engineer supporting either the new Hawk sales to Indonesia or the development of the new Hawk derivative to the US Navy the T-45 Goshawk. I chose the T-45 and was sent to McDonnell Douglas, Long Beach California, as ILS rep’ for 3 months. After my 3 months was finished “McDac” asked me to switch companies and stay with them, which I did.


McDonnel Douglas, Longbeach California

Thus started my new career in the USA, I was the Logistics analyst responsible for writing maintenance procedures for the T-45 Goshawk, in the areas of hydraulic power, flight controls, landing gear, wheels brakes, air-conditioning, all of the things a rigger should know. Additionally I would be working with the designers to ensure that the as-built aircraft could be maintained. Also spares had to recommended for the fleet of some 300 planes. Then I became the English-to- American language specialist, it is amazing how different the languages are, especially in the area of tech pubs. I was traveling to the UK almost every other month, often to BAE Brough to try and instruct them how to write a tech pub suitable for the US Navy, but that is too long of a story to tell here. After two years at Long Beach it was suddenly announced that the T-45 program was moving to St Louis, personnel could move with the program or find another job. Ten per cent actually accepted the move, I and the other 90 % found new jobs.


Boeing, Huntington Beach California

Mine was the start of yet another career, a move to the International Space Station program at Boeing Huntington Beach, a move of about 6 miles. Life at Huntington Beach was interesting, as a senior logistics analyst, I was responsible for writing on-orbit maintenance procedures and recommending spares and repair parts for a number of systems. These were initially Propulsion, Communications, & Thermal Control, this also meant that I was a member of 3 system Integrated Product Teams (IPT), traveling throughout the country working with each of the subcontractor design teams, and traveling to meetings with the design teams in Russia, Japan and Europe. After 5 years of this, my manager left to join NASA, In addition his manager then retired, both handed over their responsibilities to me. By 2002 my team had increased to 45 which by now included oversized air and ground transportation of all flight hardware, using special trucks and the Super Guppy aircraft. During 2002-2003 the Space Station work was transitioning to Boeing Houston, as I was completing the transitioning of personnel to other Boeing positions I was contacted by a German friend who was a manager with the European Space Agency (ESA) in the Netherlands, he was recovering from surgery and needed help and was I available? of course I was. September 2003. Career # 3 or is it 4.


Amsterdam - European Space Agency

Within a month, just as I received my US citizenship, I relocated to Noordwijk in the Netherlands, just south of Amsterdam. I was employed by a management consulting company, Booz Allen Hamilton BV in Amsterdam, but working on site for ESA, located at the Space Centre. The work was essentially the same as before in the US, but our sub contractors were located across 18 European countries, with two primes in Bremen Germany (EADS), and Turin Italy (Thales Alenia).


Abu Dhabi

In 2007, after 4 ½ years with the European Space Agency I was contacted by a member of Booz Allen Hamilton in Rome, he was to manage a military program in the UAE, supporting the UAE Air Force. My extensive RAF background and experience in Kuwait had come to his notice, and I relocated to Abu Dhabi for 3 months. A large portion of this 3 months was spent at the 7 UAE air bases. As this was summer it was rather warm, our company dress code was suit and tie, regardless of location. One of the biggest surprises was the number of former RAF technicians I came across on these bases, all in supervisory positions. One of the strangest things to happen to me in the UAE, was while interviewing an engineering officer at an Apache base. After I finished my interview this Major then informed me that he would like me to work for him as his manager of various private projects he had or was planning. One was to manage the building of 5 villas in the Abu Dhabi area, next was to research and then build a fish farm on one of his properties in the desert. Another was to research and set up tourist attractions at two locations where he owned land, and finally to establish a tropical fruit farm. He was willing to make me his partner at no cost, what a deal!


Back in Holland

After returning to Holland mid August 2007, I operated out of our Company Amsterdam office helping with developing new proposals mainly to the European Space Agency. Proposal writing was not my favorite occupation, so early in 2008 at age 67 I started my retirement process, and finally returned to the California in March 2008.


Derek Hogarth