The 2014 airshow season was finally upon us and I found myself at the first show of the year, the Abingdon Air & Country Show which I first attended last year. Thankfully we were once again treated to glorious clear skies and hot weather despite the sunburns I inevitably got by the end of the day. The show is a very casual affair with a lot of non-aviation related entertainment and ground displays including a T-55 tanks which fired off a few round prior to the flying display. There was also a wide variety of static aircraft that attended the show including the Royal Air Force’s Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin HC Mk. 3A from RAF Benson and a home based Grob G-109A Vigilant T.1 as well as an international visitor in the form of a Royal Netherlands Air Force’s Pilatus PC-7 Turbotrainer. Other privately owned aircraft present on the static display including a Max Holste MH-1521C-1 Broussard from the Eggresford Heritage Flight, a privately owned Noorduyn AT-16 Harvard IIB and Nord 1002 Pingouin II with perhaps one of the highlights of the static display was the pair of ex-military Westland Gazelles flown in by the newly formed Gazelle Squadron. A special mention should also go to Tony de Bruyn who suffered serious injuries after a crash during a display rehearsal in 2012. Thankfully he has recovered from his injuries and flew into Abingdon on a recently restored North American-Rockwell OV-10B Bronco as part of the Bronco Demo Team which took pride of place in the static park. Leading up to the show there were several cancellations which were swiftly replaced but unfortunately the Midair Squadron’s Hawker Hunter T.7 cancelled on the day due to paperwork issues.
The Royal Air Force kicked the flying display off to a great start with a single flypast by a Lockheed-Martin C-130J-30 Hercules C.4 from nearby RAF Brize Norton who have supported the show on numerous occasions.
Historic flying from the Royal Air Force was up next and demonstrated by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Supermarine Spitfire LF. IXE making its first appearance in its now paint scheme depicting ML214 5J-K which was flown by Squadron Leader Johnny Plagis of No. 126 Squadron in 1944 to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings. The Merlin powered fighter put on a great performance was one of two Spitfire displays we had at the show.
Rod Dean made another welcome appearance with his Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1 and putting on a great demonstration of manoeuvrability and skill.
Peter Teichman returned to the show this year with his Supermarine Spitfire PR. XI from his Hangar 11 Collection and put on an outstanding display that showcased the aircraft to full effect.
Our first aerobatic team of the day then took to the skies, the TRIG Aerobatic Team who flew their brightly coloured Pitts S-1D Specials. The team flew a dynamic routine with plenty of loop[s and rolls which were further enhanced by the use of smoke.
Another training aircraft came up next to display and was our last contribution from the Royal Air Force. This was the Shorts Tucano T.1 making its first display for the 2014 season in a new livery in commemoration of the First World War Centenary with the Royal British Legion’s Poppy and “Lest We Forgot” showing prominently on the aircraft which put on one of the finest Tucano displays I’ve seen in the last few years.
Moving onto classic jets, we were due to have a formation display with two BAC Jet Provosts but due to a tyre replacement on one of the aircraft there was a delay which let to us getting two consecutive solo displays. We started with Jet Aerobatics’ T.5 which was closely followed by Neil McCarthy’s T.3A who both flew some great photogenic performances and despite the obvious similarities between the two routines they each stood out and kept the crowds enthralled.
Making a rare appearance outside of Old Warden was Peter Holloway’s Fieseler Fi-156A-1 Storch which was bought in as a late replacement. This aircraft proved to be one of unlikely stars of the show with an impressive display of its slow speed and short take off and landing capabilities.
A new display for Abingdon this year was The Renegades Parachute Display Team who put on a very entertaining spectacle as they descended after jumping from Invicta Aviation’s Shorts SC.7 Skyvan 3A.
The oldest aircraft displaying at the show was David and Mark Miller’s De Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide which also a late replacement. This classic twin engine biplane was making its first appearance at the show and displayed very gracefully with some impressive flypasts.
More biplanes were present with our second aerobatic team, the Breitling Wingwalkers who have returned to Abingdon time and time again with their pair of Boeing-Stearman Kaydets. Both the aircraft and the glamorous Wingwalkers themselves performed a spectacular display and are always an entertaining part of the flying programme wherever they are.
Kennet Aviation provided us with another training aircraft in the form of a North American AT-6D Harvard III which is always a popular warbird to see airshows and the pilot in this case, John Beattie displayed the aircraft excellently and showed off the great handling characteristics of this aircraft.
As we approached the end of the flying programme we were given a single flypast by the Royal Air Force’s Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin HC Mk. 3A which was present in the static park.
The finale for the first show of the season was a new aircraft for Abingdon and its first display of the season after being restored and debuting last year. This was the Midair Squadron’s English Electric Canberra PR.9 which arrived in grand style and now displays a classic 1950’s style livery in shining silver. The display was phenomenal with great demonstrations of its manoeuvrability for such a large aircraft and was concluded with a single fast pass before departing back to Kemble and thus ending the show.
With the show at an end there was many amazing displays with the Canberra being the undoubted star of the show but the TRIG Aerobatic Team and the BAC Jet Provost T.3A are also worthy of mention. Overall the show was an excellent way to start the season and I look forward to returning to Abingdon next year, hopefully with more fantastic weather.
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