Abingdon Air & Country Show 2013 Review

Having already wetted by appetite for the airshow season at Old Warden a week previously, I was really looking forward to my very first visit to the Abingdon Air & Country Show. I was not disappointed in the slightest and I shall definitely be returning to this event again as it displayed a wide variety displays including stunning aerobatics from the Breitling Wingwalkers and a very spirited display by Peter Vachers Hawker Hurricane Mk. I. The show also featured a rare flypast by a Royal Air Force Lockheed TriStar C.2A which will soon be retired.

One of the major features of the show is the mass fly in of general aviation types and as usual featured many types of Chipmunk, Auster, and Cessna and Piper aircraft. The most notable civilian aircraft I observed was a lovely yellow De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth II and silver Yakovlev Yak 52. There was also a pair of warbirds in Luftwaffe camouflage which was a Nord 1002 Pingouin II and Axis Air Display’s Heliopolis Gomhouria Mk. 6. The Army Air Corps bought along a Westland Gazelle AH Mk. 1 which was a real hit with the crowds and the Royal Air Force supplied a locally based Grob G-109B Vigilant T.1 and an Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin HC Mk. 3 from nearby RAF Benson who are big supporters of the show.

But it was the international participants in the static line up that really generated interest with three great aircraft that the organisers were able to secure. Despite cancelling the Sea King display, the Belgian Air Component still supported the show with one of their SIAI-Marchetti SF.260D training aircraft which was parked next to a pair of civilian owned examples. Another training aircraft was also sent by the Royal Netherlands Air Force with their Pilatus PC-7 Turbotrainer in a sleek black and yellow paint scheme. The star of the static park was definitely the PZL M28B Bryza 1R which is operated by the Polish Navy and was very noticeable as I made my way to the ticket entrance.

As this show raises a lot of money for charity it was very fitting to have Eurocopter EC135 T2+ from the Thames Valley and Chilton Air Ambulance service open the show and gave a brief demonstration of its capabilities before departing towards its regular duties.

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Eurocopter EC135 T2+

Next up was an airshow debut, not of an aircraft but a pilot. Will Hilton made his first public airshow appearance in one of Silence SA1100 Twisters of the Twister Aerobatics Team with a solo aerobatic routine. His display was highly entertaining and was very fitting at this show as Will was marshalling this very event five years ago. Credit is also due to him as a shift in the display programme due to a delay meant he had to display earlier than planned.

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Twister Aerobatics Team

More aerobatic excellence took to the skies in the form of the pair of Vans RV-8s which make up The RV8tors display team. Their routine has developed much more than when I last saw them in 2011 and feature some highly dynamic manoeuvres and stunning aerobatic stunts. One of the highlights of their display is the heart drawn in the sky with their smoke generators as well as the display’s conclusion where both aircraft perform an individual pass low and fast along the crowd line.

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The RV8tors

The show didn’t just feature stunning aerobatics but also attracted a small selection of classic jets. The first of these to display was courtesy of The Gnat Display Team who sent one of their Folland Gnat T.1s for a solo performance. This Gnat was painted in the red and white colours of 4 Flight Training School (4FTS) and surprisingly did not utilise smoke in the display. Unfortunately the display lacked impact as the lengthy routine was very high up, seemingly getting lost in the clouds which made this aircraft especially difficult to photograph. Despite this, it was a great flying addition and would be great to see a pair or even a trio of Gnats at future shows.

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The Gnat Display Team

Warbirds made up the majority of the flying programme and the first of these to display was Peter Teichman’s stunning North American P-51D Mustang “Jumpin Jacques” which put on an excellent display of speed and agility. Having seen this display in less than perfect weather at Old Warden it was refreshing to this performance in much less restricting conditions.

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North American P-51D Mustang “Jumpin Jacques”

Coming in next was the delayed Royal Air Force flypast which was due to open the display proceedings. This was the Lockheed TriStar C.2A from nearby RAF Brize Norton which gave a single ‘dirty’ pass with wheels down. This type will soon be retired and be replaced with the Airbus A330-243 Voyager for both transport and tanker roles so it was great that the show organisers were able to secure this aircraft.

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Lockheed TriStar C.2A

We returned to the American theme, but this time with some training aircraft which are popular warbirds in their own rights.

Taking off to begin its routine was Clive Davidson’s North American AT-6D Harvard III in a fantastic yellow scheme which represented the SNJ variants in the United States Navy. This popular warbird put on a highly energetic display with surprising amount of aerobatics compared to other Harvard displays I have seen.

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North American AT-6D Harvard III

Concluding the American training segment was proposed replacement for the Harvard, the North American AT-28D Trojan. This particular example is operated by Radial Revelations which has performed several times at Abingdon but due to a fault could not fly at last year’s show.  This classic trainer in a desert camouflage scheme performed a stirring performance which was very well suited for a small venue such as Abingdon.

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North American AT-28D Trojan

Another training aircraft took to the skies for its display next in the form of the Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1 which is a former Royal Air Force trainer that was replaced by the Tutor in 2001. This aircraft was displayed by Rod Dean who put the aircraft a wonderfully dynamic routine with plenty of aerobatics which were surprisingly kept close to the crowd, allowing for some great photos.

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Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1

The next few displays were themed around the Battle of Britain which was kicked off with Peter Vacher’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. I which is the only surviving Hurricane that actually flew during the Battle of Britain and shot down five enemy aircraft. The display was highly evocative and spirited and although rather lengthy, was thoroughly entertaining throughout and in my opinion was one of the highlights of the show.

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Hawker Hurricane Mk. I

The Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight also made an appearance with their Avro Lancaster B.I which also gave an entertaining and evocative performance. Having the Lancaster display as well as reflecting the 70th Anniversary of the Dambusters raid but also Abingdon airfield’s history when it was used as a bomber base.

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Avro Lancaster B.I

Next up was probably the best display of the day and was none other than airshow favourites, the Breitling Wingwalkers with their pair of classic American trainers which featured a pair of Boeing-Stearman Kaydets. The duo performed an absolutely spectacular routine which based on the crowds reactions was hitting all the right notes and was also helped in no small part by the small size of the venue which kept the display close to the crowd. The display also featured a heavy use of smoke and manoeuvres performed by the girls on the top wings which really enhanced the routine and I eagerly await the next show they perform at.

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Breitling Wingwalkers

As we approached the end of the show, the final warbird display got under way in the form of the Douglas C-47A Skytrain which is operated by Aces High. The display was somewhat short but nonetheless demonstrated the impressive presence that this famous American transporter possesses. Upon landing, the Skytrain didn’t power down as it was waiting for the rest of its crew before departing back to its home base.

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Douglas C-47A Skytrain

The second and final classic jet at this show flew in for its display routine in the form of Jet Aerobatics BAC Jet Provost T.5 which has currently displayed to over half a million people in 2012. The display was highly entertaining with a lot of low and fast passes with a big inclusion of aerobatics which unlike the Gnat display from earlier kept very close to the crowd. This particular aircraft performs probably one of the best classic jet displays in the UK and was a great addition to the event as well as being another major highlight.

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BAC Jet Provost T.5

The Army Air Corps had the honour of closing the airshow with their Westland Lynx AH Mk. 7 which opened its display with barrel roll which even took me by surprise. The performance got even better with a lot of stunning aerobatic manoeuvres that no other helicopter can do which made this particular display one of the major highlights. Unfortunately the 2013 season may be the last time this particular display will be seen as the Lynx is phased out of service and replaced by the Agusta-Westland AW159 Wildcat which, being heavier will be unable to perform he aerobatic feats that the Lynx can. Once the Lynx performed its routine, it gave a final bow at crowd centre before heading back home and thus marked the end of the display proceeding and marked the beginning of the departures of the other general aviation types which I couldn’t hang around to see due to transportation issues.

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Westland Lynx AH Mk. 7

All in all this show was highly entertaining affair with many highlights including the Polish Navy’s PLZ M28B Bryza 1R and the Royal Air Force’s Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin HC Mk. 3 on the static display as well as the rare flypast by the Lockheed TriStar C.2A from RAF Brize Norton. The routines performed by the Breitling Wingwalkers and Peter Vacher’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. I were definitely the best displays of the day but special mention should also go to the stunning displays by the BAC Jet Provost T.5 and the Army Air Corps Westland Lynx AH Mk. 7. The Abingdon Air & Country Show was a truly outstanding event and I intend to return next year and many years after that.   

For more photos from this show check out the entire Abingdon Air & Country Show 2013 album on Flickr

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