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My 2011 Airshow Season

November 26, 2011  •  Leave a Comment


2011 Airshow Season Review

So the 2011 Airshow Season is done and dusted and the long wait until the 2012 season kicks off with the Spring Airshow at Old Warden in May has begun.

The 2011 season for me, can almost be described as one of two halves, with plenty of ups and a number of downs. Yet despite these downs it has been a successful year for the UK’s Airshow scene, in my opinion.

My season started with the Spring Airshow at the Shuttleworth Collection, a display which saw some good weather, in terms of blue skies, but was very windy which affected the participation of some of the lighter types in the show. The highlight of the show was the UK public debut of the Polikarpov PO-2, which gave the show a distinct Russian theme, as the Russian Air Attaché to the UK was in attendance.

Next up was Duxford’s season opener, which had its usual mix of Fast Jets, Warbirds & Civilian participants to appeal to the wider airshow going audience. My personal highlight from the spring show was my first display from the Classic Flight Meteor NF.11.

In late May, I was invited to attend the HanGAR organised Vulcan Photoshoot at Bruntingthorpe, which provided close up access to the Vulcan and a long line of classic British jets spanning the Cold War era.

June was a particularly quiet month for me, with shows that are usually too far away to attend or that personally don’t appeal to my interests.

So this brings us to the VERY busy month of July, in which I attended no less than 4 shows. The first of which was the July Military Pageant at Old Warden, where I met GAR’s Huw Hopkins & Elliott Marsh for the first time (A meeting which made the second half of the season very enjoyable with plenty of airshow banter and discussion).

It was at the OW show where one of the seasons down moments occurred. Having just arrived at the airfield I discovered that Anna Walker had landed wheels up in Kennet Aviation’s Seafire whilst in France. Whilst trying to discover any more info on this incident, I went to get a drink from the airfield cafe, as I was paying the Shuttleworth Volunteer Airfield Fire & Rescue crash tenders raced out the main gate with Blues & Twos on shortly followed by a large quantity of Bedfordshire’s Fire & Ambulance services as well. This was as a result of the collections Bucker Jungmann suffering an engine failure during an aerobatic display practice to the west of the airfield and ending upside down in a nearby field. Fortunately the pilot walked away from the incident, with only a slight dent to his pride.

Aside from this incident, the show was up to its usual standards with participation bolstered by Peter Teichman’s Hurricane IIb & Spitfire XI and a spritely display from Cliff Spink in the Golden Apple F-86 ‘Tiger’ Sabre.

During the second weekend in July I joined thousands of other Warbird aficionado’s at the world famous Flying Legends Airshow at Duxford. I attended both days of the show, and can safely say that despite the Skyraider/Mustang incident that occurred on the Sunday it was possibly two of the best days I’ve spent at an airshow this year.

My personal highlights, of which there are many, include the following: Red Bull P-38, The Horsemen, RNHF Swordfish, 3 x Hispano Buchons, 4 x Hawker Biplane’s, Aer Lingus’ DH-84 Dragon, 4 x Curtiss Fighter’s and the bombed up French Skyraider.

Less than a week later, I found myself pitching tents and setting up a caravan at the Kemspford Campsite adjacent to RAF Fairford for the Royal International Air Tattoo. To be honest, I don’t really care about what does and does not turn up for RIAT, as I treat it as a holiday with 4 days spent with friends and family with the added bonus of an Airshow.  My highlights of this year’s event included the Hunter 60th Formation, the A-10, Su-27 and the C-27J. I didn’t bother taking any photos of the C-27 as I was too busy admiring it's aerobatic prowess.

The next aviation ‘fix’ I got was not at an airshow, but I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. It was when the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance landed near my house whilst on a callout, the full story can be found here.

The fourth and final airshow/event of July was the new Duxford based event created to support B-17 Sally B. My highlight from this small event was the ‘Russian Doll’ formation of American WWII Bomber/Transport types including Sally B, C-47, Beech Tri-gear and UC-43. My blog from this event is here.

The second weekend in August can only mean one thing to anyone local to Sywell, The Royal Aero Club ‘King’s Cup Air Race’. This is always a good event which attracts a wide range of General Aviation types to compete for the coveted King’s Cup. A type which I have not seen compete before was the Piaggio P.149 ‘Race 149’. Also a first for me was seeing a C-152 win the King’s Cup, which just about sums up Handicap Air Racing, anyone can win it!

Three days later I made the long trip down to Teignmouth to combine a visit to a friend’s with the Dawlish Airshow, a location which if the weather plays ball, then you are in for a real treat. Unfortunately the weather didn’t play ball and a cold and damp day was spent on the hill overlooking the seafront. It was still an enjoyable couple of days despite the weather.

The second new event of the season for me was Little Gransden. It is a show I’ve been trying to attend for a number of years but it has always fallen on the weekend that I have had to move to university. Now I have graduated that weekend is ‘free’ again. Little Gransden is a fantastic little show which raises money for charity and attracts some excellent participants, including the UK’s only appearance of a CP-140 from Canada. My highlights from this show included the CP-140, Mark Jefferies and the Glider FX displays.

September saw me attend two airshows and a semi private event at Lee-on-Solent for the Schneider Trophy 80th Anniversary. An event which I covered for Global Aviation Magazine.

I attended the Saturday of the Duxford September airshow, which was blessed with good weather and some glorious late summer evening sunshine. The show’s main theme was the 75th Anniversary of the Spitfires first flight, which was suitably celebrated with 7 spitfires taking to the skies to conclude the show. Even though Duxford managed to attract USAF participation in the form of the F-15E Strike Eagle Demo, the winning displays for me were the T-28 Fennec Pair and the Norwegian Air Force Historic Flight Vampire Pair.

The second airshow of September was the wonderfully relaxed and unique Shuttleworth ‘Uncovered' show, which reverses the typical format and puts the ‘live’ aircraft as well as several ‘static’ aircraft inside the paddock for closer inspection by the crowd. Highlights from the show included the lesser seen Parnall Elf & DH-51 ‘Miss Kenya’ and the Lysander display in some excellent warm sunshine.

One week later saw me unexpectedly attend a Ballooning event at a nearby farmstrip airfield ahead of the final Shuttleworth show of the season.

I have already covered the ballooning event here, so I will concentrate on what might have been my overall season highlight.

The Shuttleworth Autumn Airshow was blessed with unseasonably good weather with clear blue skies and temperatures of 28 degrees. The collection tried a number of different things in an attempt to freshen up the show format including unique formations and static aircraft line ups.

The collections DH-88 Comet racer was positioned perfectly with the sun in the right place and a clean background so that show goers and in particular photographers could get one final look up close with the aircraft before it is stripped down for servicing and undercarriage modifications over the winter, with the intention of returning this unique aircraft to the skies.

Unique flying formations included a quartet of Miles Aircraft, including a Whitney Straight, Gemini, Magister and Falcon. Another different formation was the Avro Nineteen (Anson) and visiting Spartan Executive.

Other highlights from Old Warden included the Chipmunk Ribbon Pickup and the Polikarpv Po-2.

This brings me on nicely to the final airshow of the 2011 season at Duxford last weekend, which saw the UK public debut of the Meteor T.7 and the de Havilland Beaver. It also saw the return of the Tiger Nine team to Duxford after many years away.

Even though the main airshow season was over, there are plenty of aviation themed events to be found across the country, mainly in the form of Nightshoots, in which aircraft are gathered under spotlights and run to produce some wonderful and atmospheric images. 

Weald Aviation Services, based at North Weald in Essex successfully ran their first nightshoot at the end of October with a selection of warbirds and classic jets on display with several of them also running under the spotlights. The highlight of this event  was the running of Kennet Aviations Skyraider at full power (2750 rpm) on the tie down apron with a 30 ton strop unsuccessfully holding the tail down for a short period.

Earlier in the day, with the help of Global Aviation Resource's Elliot Marsh and the Vampire Preservation Groups Mark Hooton, I was given the opportunity to get up close to the VPG Vampire T.11, both on the apron during pre-flight checks and during takeoff.

The adrenaline rush of being that close to the Vampire on takeoff will certainly live with me forever and will remain one of my top aviation highlights ever.

So if I was to pick ONE highlight from the whole season, it would have to be the beautifully flown Miles Whitney Straight, an aircraft which definitely lives up to the adage of ‘If it looks right, then it should fly right’.

In conclusion, 2011 has had many highlights but it has had a fair share of lowlights including the loss of several historic airframes and the tragic deaths of Flt Lt Jon Egging, Flt Lt Sean Cunningham and Jimmy Leeward at Bournemouth, Scampton and Reno respectively.

Blue Skies

Thank you for reading.






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