With Kent being severely unrepresented in the airshow circuit and with the Folkestone Airshow being cancelled, the South East Airshow was the only show in Kent for 2013. Before I get started on the show I would like mention two things that were wrong despite the terrible weather.
First of all, the website for the show depicted a ‘wishlist’ of highly unlikely and borderline impossible displays items (F-35 Joint Strike Fighter anyone…?) as well as posting last year’s Folkestone Airshow line-up in I would suspect, an attempt to get people to buy tickets.
Secondly, the traffic to get into the show was horrendous with many people jamming the roads up and being forced into one lane to enter the show grounds. If the show returns they must seriously address this issue.
The weather caused quite a lot of cancellations including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Douglas DC-3C Dakota III, Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC and Supermarine Spitfire, the Great War Display Team, the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. X, TG Aviation’s Boeing-Stearman N2S-4 Kaydet, the American Champion 8KCAB-180 Super Decathlon and The Tiger Club Turbulent Team. There was also several other cancellations due to technical problems including the Airwolf Helicopter, Nigel Wilson’s Beechcraft D-17S Staggerwing, the Old Flying Machine Company’s North American P-51D Mustang “Ferocious Frankie” and the Royal Navy Historic Flight’s Fairey Swordfish Mk. II. The Royal Air Force’s Westland Sea King HAR Mk. 3A was called away due to an emergency and thus was unable to display.
The static display for show had a fairly decent mix of civilian items with a few modern military and classic warbirds thrown in as well but was unfortunately spaced quite far apart making it quite a trek if you wanted to view all the items.
On the civilian front was a trio of light helicopters which featured a Robinson R22 Beta, a Robinson R44 Raven and a RotorWay Executive 90. TG Aviation also showed off one of its training aircraft in the form of a Piper PA-28-161 Warrior II.
The Battle of Britain Trust bought along a replica Supermarine Spitfire Mk. I and Hawker Hurricane Mk. I which were also joined by a replica Messerschmitt Bf-109 which at some point collapsed onto its underbelly. Plane Sailing based at Duxford also sent along their beautiful Canadian Vickers PBV-1A Canso A to have pride of place in the static park.
In terms of modern military, the Royal Air Force bought two training aircraft in the form of the Shorts Tucano T.1 and BAe Hawk T.1A as well as a soon to be retired Panavia Tornado GR.4. The Army Air Corps also proudly displayed their composite Westland Gazelle AH Mk. 1.
Kicking the show off to a good start was Peter Teichman flying in with his Curtiss P-40M Kittyhawk Mk. III from the Hangar 11 Collection. Despite the murky and turbulent conditions, the display was very well executed, enabling the new paint scheme of this classic fighter to be seen. Upon concluding the display, Peter flew back to North Weald but would return later with another one of his warbirds.
Next up was the Royal Navy Historic Flight’s Hawker Sea Fury T.20 which replaced the aforementioned Swordfish. This classic naval fighter tore through the cloudy skies and put on quite an impressive display before returning to its home base at RNAS Yeovilton.
Taking off for the next display was the Shorts Tucano T.1 from Royal Air Force. The desert camouflage aircraft was unavailable for the show so we were given the Royal Air Force Association Anniversary version. The display was frankly, unimpressive mainly due to the weather and the display distance from the crowd line. Before departing the airfield the display aircraft was joined by the static aircraft in the air.
After a very long wait we were treated to the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight’s North American B-25J Mitchell “Sarinah” which was making a very welcome return to the UK airshow circuit with Manston being the first. Despite the harsh winds present during the routine, this American World War Two bomber seemed unfazed by this and performed multiple steep wingovers which are a major trademark for this aircrafts display.
The weather had finally cleared up nicely with some blue skies and bright sun which made way for a wonderful aerobatic routine with Nigel Wilson’s Yakovlev Yak 52 which replaced his Staggerwing. His display was very adventurous with plenty of smoke and tumbling manoeuvres which were not hindered by the wind and proved to be very popular with the crowd.
With “Ferocious Frankie” being unable to display it was down to Peter Teichman and his Hangar 11 Collection once again. He flew in with his other classic American fighter, the North American P-51D Mustang “Jumpin Jacques” which has never had to undergo a major restoration. The display was full of high speed passes and impressive demonstrations of this fighter’s agility and really stood out in the now bright sky.
The displays stopped briefly to allow a Boeing 737-382 from Small Planet Airlines and a privately owned Socata TB-10 Tobago to depart we were treated to the major highlights of the show, a trio of classic jet displays.
First up to display was the Avro Vulcan B.2 which took pride of place in the centre of the static park. The routine began with wonderfully loud take off before performing many of the steep wingovers and low passes that are enjoyed by many. The display was somewhat sedate with a lack furious ‘howls’ but was entertaining nonetheless.
Next up was Jonathan Whaley’s Hawker Hunter F.58A “Miss Demeanour” which was flown by former Royal Netherlands Air Force pilot, Patrick Tuit who also displays the Dutch operated Hunter F.6 and T.7. Despite lacking a slow open canopy pass that Jonathan made famous, Patrick flew a stunning display in this loud and colourful classic jet.
Finally, to conclude the classic jet trio was the long awaited debut of the Red Star Rebels with their pair of Aero L-29 Delfins which were both painted in a very sleek black with red stars. The display opened up with a simulated airfield attack with some decent pyrotechnics before concluding the routine with some formation passes.
The pyrotechnics however, were not quite finished due to the display by the Army Air Corps Agusta-Westland WAH-64D Apache AH Mk. 1. Along with the explosions, this aggressive attack helicopter performed some stunning wingovers and got very close to the crowd line during its display making it quite a standout display.
With the weather once again closing in it was great to see a second classic American bomber arrive to display. This time in the form of the Duxford based Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” which is operated and maintained by the B-17 Preservation. This classic aircraft performed a great display in the windy conditions which was concluded as ever by a pass with two engines spouting smoke.
Due to the Airwolf Helicopter being out of action, it was down to Chris Burkett with his aerobatic Extra EA-300S to entertain the crowds. In spite of the strong crosswinds, the Extra flew a wonderful array of quick-fire aerobatics as well as some stunning low passes much to the delight of those who had stuck around.
The show was now coming to close with its final item in the form of a British classic. This was the Biggin Hill Heritage Hanger’s Supermarine Spitfire HF. IXE which performed a solo routine due to its stable mate, the Sea Hurricane being unable to flying in the blustery conditions. The Spitfire flew a gentle display with a series of sweeping passes and victory rolls to close the show before returning to its home base at Biggin Hill.
In conclusion, the show has some very entertaining displays despite some awful conditions with Nigel Wilson’s Yakovlev Yak 52 the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight’s North American B-25J Mitchell “Sarinah” being particularly stunning highlights. However, it cannot be ignored that the extremely poor ground management marred an otherwise great show and I certainly hope that many improvements will be made should this show return to the circuit.
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