Alnwick Probus Club, October meeting

The Alnwick Probus Club’s October meeting quickly dealt with the AGM business which was followed by an entertaining and thought-provoking talk by Martin ‘Paddy’ O’Hanlon.

The speaker followed a career in the Royal Air Force for more than 30 years, travelling all over the world, specialising in air traffic movement and surveillance.

Using radar and satellite technology every aircraft moving in British airspace is identified and monitored from RAF Boulmer.

Paddy outlined the development of aircraft tracking, from the early days of sound detection from elementary concrete concave structures, through to tall radio beacon clusters and culminating in computer-driven electronic systems used today.

During the Cold War, the British air defence systems were constantly probed by the Russians and the Eastern European bloc.

At the end of the Cold War, just as the pressure diminished, but did not entirely go away, the New York 9/11 attack was carried out by terrorists and surveillance was raised to still higher levels.

This constant state of alert is observed by nations throughout the world and when aircraft, even civil aircraft, ‘stray’ into foreign airspace the results can be catastrophic, as exemplified in the shooting down of a Korean passenger aircraft by the Russians in 1983.

Paddy’s talk was light-hearted, full of amusing anecdotes, but the underlying theme was deadly serious, drawing attention to the fact that we live in a very dangerous world.

As there are obviously other interesting facets to Paddy’s RAF life it is hoped that he will return to Alnwick Probus Club at a future date to continue with his reminisces.

The November meeting of Alnwick Probus Club will be a talk by Gillian Hambleton of The Northumberland Theatre Company.

Anyone wanting further information about the club should contact Bill Bland at or on 01669 620672.