I decided that during the weekend of Airbourne that I would attend the Combined Ops event at Headcorn Aerodrome on the Saturday. The line-up scheduled to display at the show looked very strong with the pair of Avro Lancasters being the biggest draw. I cannot fault the flying display in terms of entertaining because everything that did fly was fantastic. But several items apparently due to display didn’t show up and the nothing was said about it in the commentary. Another criticism aimed directly at the commentary was the severe lack of up to date information in regards to when visiting aircraft were due to display leaving the flying programme very spaced out. Nonetheless it was a very enjoyable affair.
Among all the vintage vehicles there was also some aircraft on static display with a replica Hawker Hurricane Mk. I and a Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIA appropriately among some of the wartime displays. There was also some interesting visiting aircraft including an Auster AOP.5, an Aviat A-1B Husky, a Boeing-Stearman N2S-5 Kaydet, a Cessna 120 and an aerobatic Sukhoi Su-29. A Duxford based De Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide from Classic Wings was also present and offering pleasure flights to paying customers.
Throughout the day we were also treated to some scale model flying which included a number of different types including a Spitfire, a pair of Bearcats, an EA-300, a Chipmunk, a P-47 and a Corsair.
The flying eventually got underway with a spectacular display from Peter Teichman’s North American P-51D Mustang “Jumpin Jacques” making full use of the crowd line and allowing much closer look at this iconic fighter in flight than at most venues.
Next up was Rob Davies who took off in his LET C-11 to give a dynamic demonstration of this famed training aircraft. This example actually being a Czech production version of the Yakovlev Yak 11.
We next came to a more sedate but nonetheless impressive display by a Piper J-3C-65 Cub which gave a masterful demonstration of its handling characteristics.
At this point is where one of the large gaps in the programme occurred which left us to view some of the aircraft movements including some parachutists being taken to height by Headcorn’s resident Cessna 208A Caravan I and a formation take-off by a local De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth II and Piper L-18C Super Cub.
Later were treated to some flypasts by some more noisy aircraft on their way back from Eastbourne. The first was The Gnat Display Team with their pair of Folland Gnat T.1s who flew in formation before turning and breaking at crowd centre.
The second flypast came from the Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron’s De Havilland DH.100 Vampire FB.52 which did some impressive turns during its brief appearance.
Finally we got to the main reason I was here, the two Avro Lancasters with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s B.I and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s B.X which were also joined by a pair of the Flight’s Supermarine Spitfires featuring the LF. XVIE and PR. XIX. After a few formation passes, the Spitfires put on a very entertaining synchro display before the Lancasters come in loose formation, radiating the sound of eight Merlin engines which was truly unforgettable. The finale pass with all four British icons was also an incredible sight.
At this point I had to leave the event but I did witness the Douglas DC-3C Dakota III of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight perform on my way back to the car park as well as a flypast by a Westland Sea King HAR Mk. 3A from the Royal Air Force.
The event had some very entertaining displays and was worth attending but the organisers really need to keep the show flowing a lot better. I intend to return in the future and hope this local event gets better year after year.
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