Blue Sky Thinking

Bit of a departure from the usual subject matter.

Let’s start with a little bit of history.

RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire started construction in 1935. Originally the name was to be RAF Carterton after the closest town, but the name of the tiny hamlet of Brize Norton on the other side of the base sounded way cooler so they went with that. Ok, it was actually to make sure it wasn’t confused with RAF Cardington in Bedfordshire. It is a cooler name though.

Sky’s the limit

Anyway, RAF Brize Norton was opened and operational by October 1937, and the mathematicians among you will notice that that means October 2017 marks its 80th anniversary. At time of writing, that’s this year. And this month. The planned celebrations came up a while back in conversation with our friends at the base. Our incredibly talented design team offered to help with the creation of some banners to adorn the place. We thought you might like to see them as the staff at Brize Norton begin their celebrations.

Out of thin air

It’s always a little tricky to start with a blank canvas. Parameters are sometimes useful when considering how to start a design, but the people at Brize were happy to let us come up with something with very few limitations. Out of the box. Blue sky thinking.


So we looked for parameters as a basis for a meaningful design. Some substance beneath the frivolity. Here are some of the nuggets of information we gleaned. Brize Norton as a base fulfils a specific range of tasks, and as such the types of aircraft flying out is limited. Four types, in fact. The spotters among you will know these are:

– the Airbus A330-200 ‘Voyager’ (which is used for aerial refuelling),
– the meaty ‘Atlas’ A440M for cargo and transport,
– the behemoth C-17 ‘Globemaster’, a giant cargo aircraft, and
– one of the classic workhorses of the RAF, the C-130J ‘Hercules’.

The Hercules, we were told, is being decommissioned after a long and distinguished career, gradually phased out with the Atlas due to eventually take over.


After a little thought and experimentation we hit on the idea of vapour trails forming the ‘Z’ of BRIZE – from the three aircraft staying at the base – and the zero formed by the trail of the Hercules as it performs a hefty pirouette and leaves. Yes, we know prop-driven planes don’t leave jet vapour trails. Artistic licence.

So that was what we came up with – a clear blue sky, the BRIZE 80 writ large across it as a tribute to the aircraft and their crew. They have operated across 80 years of peacetime and conflict and still work all over the world on both military and civilian operations from this little patch of rural Oxfordshire. It’s an anniversary that deserves marking in style.


The RAF at Brize loved the banner design and after a few tweaks, they made huge banners with the design. We hope it suits its purpose and goes down well with the people on the base and visitors alike. Oh, and by the way – the silhouettes are faithful representations of the aircraft to which Brize Norton is home. See if you can identify which is which, spotters. There’s a clue in the information above as to which is the Voyager. No, there isn’t a prize.

Excuse me while I kiss the sky

So, there you go. Bit of modern history for you. Bit of insight into the design process. Not what you were expecting from our techy blog, was it? But we were delighted to contribute to marking the 80th anniversary for the airbase, so we thought we’d share. Brize 80 has been celebrated throughout the year, but 13th October 2017 is the culmination of the celebrations. They’ll be unveiling a specially-commissioned sculpture before a dinner attended by past and present members of Brize Norton and local dignitaries such as the Mayor and local MP. They’re even due to feature on BBC South Today 6 o’clock news and coverage in local news and BFBS Radio.  We’d just like to add that we wish everyone at Brize Norton all the best and hope that they have time to let their hair down. Chocks away, Squadron Leader. Permission to party.