The RAFA Shoreham Airshow has gone through some changes with the sad passing of its two co-founders but despite this, the volunteers of the Shoreham-by-Sea branch of the Royal Air Force Association have been determined to make the 2013 event one to remember. The show commemorated several themes including the 70th Anniversary of both the Royal Air Force Association and the Dambusters Raid. But the main theme for this year’s show was the 70th Anniversary of the United States Army Air Force 8th Air Force’s Arrival in the UK which was commemorated by a special sequence of displays with a variety of warbirds.
The static display had a wide variety of privately owned aircraft as well the majority of the display aircraft including the Great War Display Team and the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight’s North American B-25J Mitchell “Sarinah”. A particularly rare aircraft on static display was an example of a Chiltern D.W.1 racing plane where there are only a small handle of this type airworthy in the UK.
There was however some cancellations including the Avro Vulcan B.2 which was due to appear on the day I attended due to technical problems as well as Lauren Richardson’s Pitts S-1S Special which displayed briefly before engine troubles forced it to abort the display on the Saturday.
The show was opened by a Piper PA-25-235 Pawnee from the RAF Gliding and Soaring Association took off with a banner welcoming the thousands of visitors to this year’s RAFA Shoreham Airshow.
Kicking of the show in grand style was the debut display by the BAC Strikemaster Mk. 82A which is owned by the North Wales Military Aviation Services Ltd and was flown by Mark Petrie complete with its own smoke system. This classic jet was flown in the past by the Royal Air Force of Oman and actually saw combat and was also a former mount of Team Viper when they flew Strikemasters. Mark flew an impressive and noisy display and is one of the few jets that can operate from Shoreham.
Next up was the first of many aerobatic teams that would display at the show and was one of Shoreham’s regular favourites, the TRIG Aerobatic Team flying a pair of brightly coloured Pitts S-1D Specials. The team flew a very tight and exhilarating performance in their small but powerful biplanes.
Barnstorming was the name of the game with the next display item, The Tiger Club Turbulent Team who are based at Headcorn Aerodrome. They fly a fourship of Druine D.31 Turbulents and began their routine with a series of formation flypasts before performing a variety of barnstorming antics including flying low under a streamer, balloon bursting and flour bombing which was very entertaining to watch.
Sticking to the aerobatic theme so fat but shifting to the era of the Second World War we were treated to a trio of training aircraft that were used by the Luftwaffe. This formation consisted of a Heliopolis Gomhouria Mk. 6 a license built version of a Bucker Bu-181 Bestmann, a CASA 1-131E Jungmann and a CASA 1-133C Jungmeister. The trio stayed in formation for several passes before splitting to perform solo routines. All three aircraft performed very well with the Jungmeister standing out the most in terms of aerobatics and ingenuity.
More biplane action came up next with the Tiger 9 team which was unfortunately cut to just seven of their nine De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth IIs which was still an impressive feat in itself to have such a large formation of aircraft over Shoreham. Although the routine was rather sedate, it was a great sight to see numerous Tiger Moths in the air much like the Diamond Nine team back in 1990’s.
The Royal Navy was up next with two historic aircraft from the Royal Navy Historic Flight based at RNAS Yeovilton. First up was the Hawker Sea Fury T.20 which arrived in spectacular fashion and pulled of a very fast and entertaining display. Next up was the Fairey Swordfish Mk. II which has visited Shoreham many times before and put on a sedate but fascinating display of its slow flying ability.
After a short break the flying resumed with another aerobatic team in the form of The RV8tors with their pair of Vans RV-8s who put on a very entertaining formation display to reopen the flying display.
Next up was the first of several displays by American warbirds and the first of two bought over by Peter Teichman from his Hangar 11 Collection. This was the Curtiss P-40M Kittyhawk Mk. III which is wearing the colours of 44-2104590 “Lulu Belle”. This classic fighter put on a stirring performance with plenty of speed and power as well as some nice topside passes.
Sticking to the warbird theme but from the era of the First World War we welcomed back Shoreham regulars, the Great War Display Team. This year the team flew with seven replica aircraft including a Fokker Dr.1, a Sopwith Triplane, a pair of Junkers CL.1s, a pair of RAF S.E.5As and a new aircraft on the team was Matthew Boddington’s RAF B.E.2C which is the earliest aircraft of the team. The display offered an interesting insight to aerial warfare during the First World War and was certainly one of the best displays of the show.
A series of aerobatic displays were next to grace the skies and began with the GliderFX team whose display began with a Piper PA-25-235 Pawnee towing the Marganski MDM-1 Fox up into the sky and making several passes before ascending to the height required for the glider to descend. Whilst we waited we were entertained by a paragliding display which then landed upon the descent of the highly aerobatic and graceful Fox glider which was very enjoyable to watch.
A major airshow favourite and big supporter of the show was the Breitling Wingwalkers with their pair of Boeing-Stearman Kaydets and glamorous young ladies on top of the wings. The team put on a brilliant performance with various formations and aerobatic manoeuvres whilst utilising a lot of smoke.
Unlimited aerobatics was the next display on the programme with The Matadors with a pair of XtremeAir XA41s painted in bright colours representing their sponsorship with Red Bull. The team performed an extraordinary display of aerobatics with some truly amazing manoeuvres which is unsurprising given the fact that both pilots are aerobatic champions.
The Royal Air Force were up next with their first display of the day with the Shorts Tucano T.1 which on the Sunday I attended was wearing the logo of the Royal Air Force Association which was celebrating its 70th Anniversary. The display showcased the manoeuvres that all pilots in the Royal Air Force must learn in order to progress to the jet training stage although I found the display a bit distant at times.
Historic elements of the Royal Air Force promptly arrived once the Tucano departed with a pairing of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC and the Avro Lancaster B.I which was the sole representative of the 70th Anniversary of 617 Squadron and the Ruhr Dams Raid which was carried out by No. 617 Squadron who are now know as the “Dambusters” and currently operate the modern day equivalent of the Lancaster, the Panavia Tornado GR.4. The pair flew in formation before displaying separate routines before rejoining for a finale pass which came in very close to a topside pass. Once the pair departed, the sounds of more Merlin engines could be heard getting ready to start one of Shoreham’s highlights.
This was of course the Battle of Britain Scramble that has been a staple at Shoreham Airshow since its first appearance at the 2007. This year’s scramble was opened by a pair of Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchons including the Aircraft Restoration Company’s example and Richard Lake’s which was making its first appearance at Shoreham. The pair of adversaries performed a short aerobatic routine before attacking an encampment on the opposite side of the airfield which signalled the next part of the scramble. Coming in fast was a formation of four British warbirds which featured a pair of Hawker Hurricanes including Peter Vacher’s Mk. I and the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s Sea Hurricane Mk. X which was also making its Shoreham debut alongside a pair of Supermarine Spitfires including the Historic Aircraft Collection’s LF. VB and the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Mk. IXT. After performing a series of formation passes before splitting off and chasing down the enemy Buchons along with plenty of pyrotechnics and World War Two reenactors that really set the scene for this spectacular scramble which was probably one of best demonstrations I’ve witness in over the entire 2013 season.
Another debuting classic jet came in fast from North Weald in the form of Graham Peacock’s camouflaged Hawker Hunter T.7 which is a new jet on for this year’s season. The pilot, Chris Heames really put the aircraft though its paces and was a very welcome addition to the flying programme and will hopefully return again soon.
Another Shoreham regular, Justyn Gorman also displayed once again in his Extra EA-300L which is now sponsored by World Aero and performed a flawless aerobatic routine.
Moving onto warbirds again, a further Shoreham debutant in the form of Kennet Aviation’s Douglas AD-4NA Skyraider which put on a very dynamic display for such a large and heavy aircraft.
We finally came to the main theme of the show, the 70th Anniversary of the United States Army Air Force 8th Air Force’s Arrival in the UK. This anniversary was commemorated with a series of displays by American warbirds, starting with a Piper J-3C-65 Cub and a Piper L-4H Grasshopper which are operated by Frazerblades and the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar respectively. These aircraft were used as artillery spotters and were feared by the enemy forces as the areas they flew over would be shelled by the allied forces. The Cub was a highly successful aircraft during the conflicts but was also one of the least well known types and pair flew a tight but sedate display. The major highlight of the commemoration was the formation of the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” and the North American B-25J Mitchell “Sarinah” owned by the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight which represented the bombing missions conducted by the Americans. The two bombers flew in formation for several passes before performing their own solo displays. Next up was probably the most recognizable transport aircraft, the Douglas C-47A Skytrain which was used for transporting virtually anything to recovering troop gliders. The example we saw displays in operated by Aces High and is based at Dunsfold. Bringing this special commemoration to a close was a display by the second aircraft from the Hangar 11 Collection at Shoreham, the North American P-51D Mustang “Jumpin Jacques” which put on a fantastic display of speed and power and was a great way to end Shoreham’s tribute to the 8th Air Force.
American aviation was still present in the next display item in the form of Golden Apple Operations Ltd’s North American F-86A Sabre making a welcome return to Shoreham after a long absence. This classic jet performed a flawless routine with some wonderful low topside passes.
The Royal Air Force dropped in once again with the Royal Air Force Falcons Parachute Display Team jumping out of a Shorts SC.7 Skyvan 3A. The team descended in a stacking formation complete with smoke before splitting apart and landing right in front of the crowd line. I’m not usually that impressed with parachute displays but the Falcons certainly changed that.
The finale for the show was bought to us by the frontline fighter of the Royal Air Force, the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 which is one of the few frontline jets that can display in Shoreham’s airspace due to the built up areas. The Typhoon performed an excellent display that was very tight with plenty of afterburner and was a great way to conclude and excellent show.
The 2013 show really went all out with a huge variety of aircraft with the set pieces standing out most of all with both the 8th Air Force Commemoration and Battle of Britain Scramble. There was however other displays that stood out immensely such as the Douglas AD-4NA Skyraider and the North American F-86A Sabre. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the show and eagerly anticipate returning to Shoreham in 2014.
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