Airshow Season 2013 Review

Another year and another airshow season over where I returned to the Royal International Air Tattoo as well as my first trips to the Abingdon Air & Country Show and the RAFA Shoreham Airshow. There have been so many highlights at each show that I have composed a summary of each of them to give a little taste of the displays that were featured.

The first show I attended in 2013 was the Shuttleworth April Flying Day and having attended a show here before I knew what to expect. Unfortunately the weather was very grim, cold and windy which forced a lot of schedules displays to cancel but the organisers put on a very entertaining show with some new additions. The show was opened by the first visiting aircraft, Peter Teichman’s North American P-51D Mustang “Jumpin Jacques” from his Hangar 11 collection who put on a very energetic display. We also witnessed two unusual formations, the first being a pair radial engine aircraft in the form of the Shuttleworth Collection’s Comper C.L.A.7 Swift and Peter Holloway’s Ryan PT-22 Recruit. The second formation was a pair of aircraft used in army cooperation roles with the Collection’s Polikarpov Po-2 and the world’s only flying Auster AOP.11. The Collection’s Hawker Hind also put on an impressive solo routine and was a welcome late addition to the programme. The other two visiting display items were also very entertaining with Chris Burkett putting on a great demonstration of unlimited aerobatics in his Extra EA-300S and Bob Morecombe flying a classic trainer, a Boeing-Stearman PT-13D Kaydet in a spirited display. The show was closed by the Collection’s own Gloster Gladiator Mk. I which has returned to the air after some absence last year and bought this enjoyable show to an impressive end.

Just a week later I was making by first trip to the Abingdon Air & Country Show in thankfully much clearer and sunnier skies and although lacking big international items or afterburning jets that others shows enjoy, Abingdon was a wonderful little gem which shows often overlooked or underappreciated aircraft displays in a different light. The first display team, The RV8tors with their pair of Vans RV-8s put on a very vivid and tight performance. We were also treated by a flypast from a Lockheed TriStar C.2A from nearby Brize Norton, a type which is soon to be retired. There was also a lot of very impressive warbird displays including a very dynamic performance from Peter Vacher’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. I which is also a Battle of Britain Veteran and a very spirited and graceful routine by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Avro Lancaster B.I. Probably the most popular display item of the day was the Breitling Wingwalkers who certainly got the biggest reactions from the crowd and put on a perfect routine in the clear skies with their pair of Boeing-Stearman Kaydets. Classic jets were also featured with a very energetic display by Jet Aerobatics’ BAC Jet Provost T.5. The show was bought to a spectacular close by the only full military display of the day, the highly aerobatic Westland Lynx AH Mk. 7 from the Army Air Corps which was outstanding to watch with the unexpected barrel roll being a particular highlight.   

  The next show I attended was the first show being held at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. The Duxford Spring Airshow was commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the United States Army Air Force’s 8th Air Force’s Arrival in the UK. The display was opened by a stunning formation display by The Eagle Squadron which consisted of the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. X, Spitfire the One Ltd.’s Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IA, Commanche Fighters LLC’s North American P-51C Mustang “Princess Elizabeth” which was shipped all the way from the United States of America to attend the show and the Fighter Collection’s Republic P-47G Thunderbolt “Snafu”. The formation also joined up for a single flypast with Duxford’s most famous resident, the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” before the bomber put on its own display. There was also a new jet on airshow circuit that made its debut in the form of Graham Peacock’s Hawker Hunter T.7 which put on an impressive performance. More warbirds were also featured including a pair Douglas C-47A Skytrains with Aces High’s example and “Drag em oot” from Dakota Heritage Ltd as well as a solo display from the Fighter Collection’s North American TF-51D Mustang “Miss Velma” which represented the transport and fighter aircraft respectively that were used by the American forces. More classic jet action was provided by Golden Apple Operations Ltd.’s North American F-86A Sabre making its first display after being absent last year and displayed brilliantly. Bringing the show to close was the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows with their nine BAe Hawk T.1As who flew in formation with The Eagle Squadron before putting on their first display of the season which was absolutely spectacular.

A new event for 2013 was the South East (Thanet) Airshow which was held at Manston Airport and unfortunately suffered badly due to very windy weather conditions which force a lot of aircraft to cancel. The show was also poorly managed with possibly the worst traffic management I have ever seen. Despite this the show hosted a nice mixed variety of aircraft including the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight’s North American B-25J Mitchell “Sarinah” making a welcome return to the UK and putting on an agile and impressive display. There was also some impressive vintage aerobatics in the hands of Nigel Wilson in his Yakovlev Yak 52. A contingent of classic jets were also displayed including some great performances from the Avro Vulcan B.2 which was able to display as the weather cleared for a while as well as Jonathan Whaley’s Hawker Hunter F.58A “Miss Demeanour”. A new team to display circuit was also making its debut, the Red Star Rebels flew a pair of Aero L-29 Delfins with some additional pyrotechnics in an airfield attack scenario. More explosive action and more pyrotechnics were also provided by the Army Air Corps’ Agusta-Westland WAH-64D Apache AH Mk. 1 which flew a very dynamic demonstration of its abilities. As the weather started turning grey once again we were very fortunate that the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” from Duxford was able to display and put on a great performance in challenging conditions.

My second visit to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford was for the Duxford Flying Legends show which proved to be one of the most varied edition of the show yet. The show was opened by a solo display by the Fighter Collection’s Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat which was piloted by Stephen Grey who was performing his last displays as he was retiring this year. Returning since their last appearance in 2011 was The Bremont Horseman Flight Team who were flying Supermarine Spitfires for the first time including a pair of Mk. IAs which flanked the Fighter Collection’s LF. VB. A stunning duet was also performed by a pair of naval fighters in the form of the Flying Bulls’ Vought F4U-4 Corsair and Christophe Jacquard’s smoke-winding Hawker Sea Fury FB.11. The standout moment of the show was when the world’s only two flying Gloster Gladiators performing together for the very first time, with the Shuttleworth Collection’s Mk. I and the debut of the Fighter Collection’s Mk. II and was a truly amazing sight and a very impressive display. It was also great to see four North American P-51 Mustangs performing an intense and powerful tail chase which featured Commanche Fighters LLC’s “Princess Elizabeth”, the Fighter Collection’s “Miss Velma”, the Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis’ “Nooky Booky IV” and another debut in the form of Frederic Akary’s “Moonbeam McSwine”. We were also treated to another unique formation that featured Demon Displays’ Hawker Demon I, the Fighter Collection’s Hawker Nimrod I, the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Nimrod II and yet another debutant in the form of Jan Friso Roozen’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIA which flew a single flypast before the trio of biplanes performed together before the Hurricane put on a very dynamic display. There was also a great display by a Grumman TBM-3R Avenger from Switzerland that used to be based in the UK and put on a very nimble display despite the aircrafts size. Legends was closed by The Balbo Formation which consisted of twenty-one aircraft and this year the role of The Joker was performed by the Fighter Collection’s Gloster Gladiator Mk. II which was piloted by Nick Grey, the son of Stephen Grey which was very appropriate way conclude this fantastic airshow.

With my return to the Royal International Air Tattoo I decided to take more of a look at the static displays and despite the lack of participation and certainly smaller numbers there were several highlights dotted around the airfield. The Royal Air Force provided a Vickers VC-10 K.3 in what may be the last time to see this aging type before it is retired and then replaced by the new Voyager. A debuting air arm in the form of the Estonian Air Force was also present and as well as featuring in the flying display, they also sent an Antonov An-2T ‘Colt’ to reside in the static park. A rotary type also grabbed my attention in the form of the Finnish Army’s NHIndustries NH90 TTH with another example of this helicopter also participating in the flying displays. Several frontline jets were also very interesting including a pair of Dassault Mirage F.1CRs from the French Air Force and an “Arctic Tiger” Panavia Tornado ECR from the German Air Force. Finally there were two vintage types on the ground that drew my attention, firstly was the Lockheed L-1049F Super Constellation and the first public appearance of the Midair Squadron’s recently restored English Electric Canberra PR.9 which will hopefully be displaying in the future.

The Royal International Air Tattoo once again surpassed my expectations and featured a variety of unique displays. One that comes to mind was the tanker demonstration which featured the first flying appearance of an Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767A leading a pair of Eurofighter Typhoons, an Italian Air Force F-2000A which was also debuting and a Royal Air Force FGR.4 who together flew a single pass before separating later. The two Typhoons both put on solo displays later in the programme. The Finnish Army were also made their UK debut with a NHIndustries NH90 TTH and put on a great demonstration of this tactical transport helicopter’s abilities. The Italian Air Force also brought along their Alenia C-27J Spartan which demonstrated the awe-inspiring aerobatic capabilities of this transport aircraft with a series of loops and rolls. British aviation was also celebrated with a unique formation on the Sunday when I attended with the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows being led by the Airbus A400M Atlas for two flypasts. These two British built display items also performed their own individual displays. The 70th Anniversary of 617 Squadron and the Ruhr Dams Raid was commemorated by a single formation flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Avro Lancaster B.I and one of said squadron’s Panavia Tornado GR.4s whilst beforehand, the Lancaster also displayed alongside the Flight’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC and Supermarine Spitfire LF. XVIE. The show also had a brief commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of Military Aviation in the Netherlands with two solo displays from their aerobatic Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow and dynamic Lockheed-Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcon as well as a single formation flypast by the pair which tied in their individual routines. A final international debut was by the Estonian Air Force’s Aero L-39C Albatross marking not only the latest country participating in the Air Tattoo but also the first time an Estonian aircraft has displayed in the UK.

Another show I always return to was Airbourne and saw some familiar favourites as well as some unique display items. One of the best aerobatic teams of the day was The Matadors who fly a pair of XtremeAir XA41s and rather than being in their usual Red Bull livery, they were wearing colours depicting Dusty and Ripslinger of the Disney’s latest animated film, Planes and put on a very dynamic aerobatic routine. Another unique performance was by a pair of Dassault MD.315 Flamants from France who displayed a very graceful duet over the sea. The Royal Air Force were, as always very entertaining with the Boeing Chinook HC.2 being the only rotary item with a very intense display and well also welcomed back The Red Arrows who were absent from last year’s show due to a trip to Russia and by the crowds reactions they were certainly missed. There was also a very impressive display the Belgian Air Component’s Lockheed-Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcon which could perform on the two week days of the show and on Thursday looked fantastic in the bright blue sky. Classic jet displays weren’t to be left out with the Golden Apple Operations Ltd.’s North American F-86A Sabre and Jonathan Whaley’s Hawker Hunter F.58A “Miss Demeanour” both putting some energetic and dynamic displays.

I also made my first trip to the RAFA Shoreham Airshow which was commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the United States Army Air Force 8th Air Force’s Arrival in the UK, the 70th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force Association and the 70th Anniversary of 617 Squadron and the Ruhr Dams Raids. A new classic jet on the circuit debuted at the show in the form of the BAC Strikemaster Mk. 82A operated by North Wales Military Aviation Services Ltd and was a former mount of Team Viper when they flew four Strikemasters. There was also a trio of German training aircraft with a Heliopolis Gomhouria Mk. 6, a CASA 1-131E Jungmann and a CASA 1-133C Jungmeister who performed a series of formation passes before each displaying their own aerobatic routines. The show also feature their main set piece, the Battle of Britain Scenario which featured six aircraft this year. This included a pair of Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchons from the Aircraft Restoration Company and Richard Lake with the desert camouflaged example flying at the show for the first time, a pair of Hawker Hurricanes featuring Peter Vacher’s Mk. I and the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s Sea Hurricane Mk. X also making its debut appearance at the show. The scenario was complete with two Supermarine Spitfires, the Historic Aircraft Collection’s LF. VB and the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Mk. IXT. The display consisted of a variety of formation displays by the German duo and British quartet of fighters before breaking down to an explosive dog fight. Kennet Aviation made its Shoreham debut with an impressive display by their Douglas AD-4NA Skyraider which preceded the tribute to the 8th Air Force. As part of the tribute the Duxford based Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” flew in formation with the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight’s North American B-25J Mitchell “Sarinah” before they performed separate solo displays which were both very entertaining. Another aircraft making a welcome return to the show was the Golden Apple Operations Ltd.’s North American F-86A Sabre which put on a very fast and energetic display in the fading light. Closing the show in dramatic style was the Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 which in Shoreham’s smaller airspace put on a very tight performance with lots of noise and afterburner.

My final trip to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford was for the Sunday edition of The Duxford Airshow which was unfortunately marred by several spots of heavy rain and low cloud throughout the day. There was some fine aerobatic performances, the first being Mark Jefferies in his Extra EA-330SC with a very high energy display in some of the worst weather and in better conditions we witnessed Brendan O’Brien in his Piper J-3C-65 Cub as part of O’Brien’s Flying Circus where we witnesses some impressive crazy flying and a truck top landing. Another impressive section in the programme was a radial engine segment which first featured a formation routine with the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” and the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight’s North American B-25J Mitchell “Sarinah” before the Flying Fortress flew a solo display. The Mitchell then flew a duet with Groupe Fennec’s North American T-28A Fennec before splitting up and shifting to the final display of the segment where the Fennec flew fast and low passes alongside Radial Revelations’ North American AT-28D Trojan. The French Air Force also participated with their national aerobatic team, the Patrouille de France who fly eight Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet Es in a spectacular display. There was also a large number of Supermarine Spitfires that took part in a very enthralling tail chase sequence. These included Spitfire the One Ltd.’s Mk. IA, a pair of LF. VBs from the Fighter Collection and Historic Aircraft Collection, the Old Flying Machine Company’s LF. IXB, the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight’s LF. IXC and the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Mk. IXT. The final piece of international participation was performed by the Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron with their pairing of a De Havilland DH.100 Vampire FB.52 and De Havilland DH.115 Vampire T.55 in a very graceful routine. The show was closed in fantastic style by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows with their nine BAe Hawk T.1As.

The final show that I attended was back at Old Warden for the Shuttleworth October Flying Day which had a very nice selection of vintage aircraft. It was very good to see the Shuttleworth Collection’s Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. IB displaying again and a very impressive display at that allowing us to see the fighter in all its glory. An interesting set piece at this year’s show was a Mock Air Race which featured seven different aircraft including the Collection’s Comper C.L.A.7 Swift, a pair of Chiltern D.W.1s, a Miles M.3A Falcon Major, a visiting Miles M.11A Whitney Straight, the Collection’s Miles M.14A Magister I and Sir John Allison’s Miles M.65 Gemini 1A. The race consisted of three laps with the aircraft taking off at various points depending on speed and resulted in the blue Chiltern coming in first and the red Chiltern coming last. Returning after last year’s October show was Kester Scrope who performed a very good demonstration of unlimited aerobatics in his Zivko Edge 540. We were also treated to some interesting formation displays with the first being the locally based Avro Anson XIX and a visiting Spartan 7W Executive who flew in formation before displaying individually. The second duet featured the Collection’s Avro Tutor and Hawker Hind with the latter putting on a superb solo display which came pretty low to the ground at times. One of the Collection’s World War One warbirds also put on a particularly good display in the form of the recently restored Bristol M.1C Replica. Closing the main part of the show was the very noisy Hawker Hunter T.7 which put on an incredible display before the visiting aircraft departed. With calm weather conditions we were able to see one of the five Edwardians put on a display in the form of the Roe IV Triplane Replica.

This year’s airshow season has been full of many wonderful displays and unique moments and hopefully the 2014 season will surpass all out expectations.

For more photos from the 2013 season you can check out the albums on Flickr

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