Another new event for the 2014 airshow season involved my return to London Biggin Hill Airport where I haven’t been since the cancellation of the Air Fair which I and many others surely miss. This year we have the Biggin Hill Festival of Flight which although not at the same scale as the shows of yesteryear turned out to be a wonderful show which was commemorating the 50th Anniversary of The Red Arrows as well as featuring a variety of old airshow favourites.
There was small static display within the main arena which featured a variety of rotary types including a Eurocopter AS355 F2 Ecureuil 2 from Network Rail and a Eurocopter EC145 from the Metropolitan Police alongside a pair of Westland Gazelles owned by The Gazelle Squadron.
The flying display was divided into three segments with hour long gaps between them to allow the local civilian airlines to operate around the programme. Opening the proceedings was The Raiders Parachute Display Team of the Royal Navy who were dropped by a Westland Lynx HMA.8 of the Royal Navy Helicopter Display Team, The Black Cats. Upon landing the parachutists then assembled for a salute before ending their display. The Lynx then returned for a solo display which featured a wide variety of manoeuvres and tactical skills that these helicopters utilise on the battlefield. A particular highlight was when the helicopter landed and rotated on the ground before ascending again.
Next up was a long held airshow favourite, the Breitling Wingwalkers with their pair of Boeing-Stearman Kaydets put on an impressive barnstorming display despite the cloudy conditions with plenty of smoke and stunning aerobatic manoeuvres all while the tow lovely ladies on the top wings also performed. The display was also enhanced the by enthusiastic commentary by Brendan O’Brien who was due to display but couldn’t due to technical problems.
Another aerobatic favourite took of next in the form of GliderFX which features a Marganski MDM-1 Fox being towed by a Piper PA-25-235 Pawnee B. The display featured some towing passes which incorporated rolls by the glider before ascending to height and releasing the Fox for a graceful aerobatic descent before making a perfect landing in challenging conditions.
The first warbird of the day was one of several visitors in the form of Peter Teichman’s North American P-51D Mustang “Jumpin Jacques” from his Hangar 11 collection. He flew a very entertaining routine with several topside passes and high speed turns.
Concluding the first segments of flying was The Matadors flying their two XtremeAir XA41s which are resplendent in their Red Bull colours. The team flew an outstanding display with some ridiculously close formation flying and dynamic solo aerobatics.
During the break we were treated to several successive circuits by a variety of vintage aircraft based at Biggin Hill and operated by Shipping and Airlines Ltd. The flypasts features a Rearwin 8500 Sportster, the world’s only flying Civilian Coupe 02, a De Havilland DH.87B Hornet Moth, a Curtiss-Wright CW-12W Sport Trainer and a Miles M.38 Messenger 4B.
The second display segment began in spectacular aerobatic style with The Blades who flew their fourship of Extra EA-300LPs in a new paint scheme as part of their new sponsorship with Local Letterbox. With clouds clearing and much improved conditions from earlier, the team put on a very energetic and enthralling aerobatic performance incorporating old and new manoeuvres. It is also noteworthy to mention that the team is comprised of ex-Red Arrows pilots making their appearance at this commemorative show very appropriate.
Warbirds became the next focal point in the display with an impressive display by the Duxford based Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” which was a regular visitor to Biggin Hill in the past. It was also good to have this iconic American bomber land and take off at the show rather than fly through as is common when visiting other shows.
Next up was a commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight who provided a three aircraft to display. First to perform was a pair of Supermarine Spitfires including the LF. IXE which is an actual D-Day veteran and the LF. XVIE which is painted with invasion stripes for this season. The duo performed a graceful synchronized display before landing and making way for the next item, the Douglas DC-3C Dakota III which also put on an entertaining routine before landing and thus concluding the second segment of flying.
During the break we were treated to some radio controlled model flying which featured a Canadair CT-114 Tutor, a pair of Sukhoi Su-26s, a Drone, a Hawker Hurricane, an Avro Vulcan and an Avro Lancaster.
The third and final segment began with more amazing aerobatic displays with the TRIG Aerobatic Team up first. The team flew an impressive and dynamic routine with their pair of Pitts S-1D Specials.
Sticking with aerobatics but from a different era was Anna Walker in her CASA 1-131E Jungmann which displayed flawlessly with plenty of fast paced manoeuvring which was first enhanced by the use of smoke.
We next turned to what Biggin Hill is most associated with, the Battle of Britain and appropriately enough a small demonstration of an airfield attack was performed. First up was the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchon which played the role of the aggressor aircraft. Soon after, the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. X was scrambled to intercept the enemy and was also shortly joined by its hangar mate, the Supermarine Spitfire HF. IXE. The Spitfire and Buchon then fought for dominance in a full aerial battle with the British icon becoming victorious and performing a victory roll to conclude this set piece.
Another contribution from the Royal Air Force was the impressive solo display of the Shorts Tucano T.1. We were also fortunate to have the specially painted example which commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the First World War.
With the sun setting it was time for the stars of the show to take off for their display. This was of course the nine BAe Hawk T.1As of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows who celebrating their 50th Anniversary. The team put on their rolling show that completely engrossed the crowd which looked absolutely stunning in the evening light and was certainly one of their finest displays to date.
This wasn’t even the end of the show as there was one more treat for the audience. Arriving from the distance was the returning formation of The Red Arrows leading the Old Flying Machine Company’s Supermarine Spitfire LF. IXB before the team returned for their break to land. This formation not only commemorated to the team’s anniversary but also to Ray Hanna who would often close the Biggin Hill Air Fairs in this particular Spitfire as well as the fact that Ray led the Red Arrows for four seasons (1966-1969). It was then highly emotive to see this Duxford based Spitfire close this show in graceful style with William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ playing in the background and thus concluding this fantastic event.
This new event has certainly been a rousing success in terms of the flying displays but will certainly need improving in regards to the traffic management and food stands as there were simply inadequate to cope with the number of visitors. The major highlight was obviously the displays from The Red Arrows and the Supermarine Spitfire LF. IXB as well as their special formation. Other displays worthy of mention include the impressive performances by The Blades and the visiting Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B”. I really hope with event at Biggin Hill becomes a regular fixture in the airshow season and I for one am looking forward to returning.
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