Airshow Season 2014 Review

Another year and another airshow season over where I returned to the Abingdon Air & Country Show and the RAFA Shoreham Airshow after the great times I had their last year as well as my first trips to the Combined Ops and Clacton Airshow alongside a new event for 2014, the Biggin Hill Festival of Flight.  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 that I attended was the Abingdon Air & Country Show which was once again bathed in glorious sunshine with clear skies for the entire day. Kicking off the start of the event was a flypast by the Royal Air Force’s Lockheed-Martin C-130J-30 Hercules C.4 from nearby RAF Brize Norton. British aviation was also well represented and included a display from Peter Teichman’s Supermarine Spitfire PR. XI as well as classic jet action from a pair of BAC Jet Provosts which were due to perform a pairs routine but a technical snag led to two consecutive solo performances with Jet Aerobatics’ T.5 and Neil McCarthy’s T.3A. Several items were unfortunately cancelled leading up to the show but were replaced with some equally impressive aircraft including Peter Holloway’s Fieseler Fi-156A-1 Storch, D & M Miller’s De Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide and Kennet Aviation’s North American AT-6D Harvard III. The final display was the undoubted star of the show, the English Electric Canberra PR.9 from the Midair Squadron which put on an amazing display during its first visit to Abingdon.

The next show of the year that I visited was also the first of three shows held at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. This was the Duxford D-Day Anniversary Airshow which was commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings. Opening the show was a series of flypasts by a variety of modern and vintage gliders and their tug aircraft that were led by GliderFX and their Marganski MDM-1 Fox with Graham Saw’s Letov LF-107 Lunak which both performed an aerobatic display to conclude the segment. There was also a special formation to commemorate the landings in one of the few appearances it made with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Supermarine Spitfire PR. XIX and the Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 specially painted with invasion stripes. After a few flypasts together, the frontline jet then roared into action with a spectacularly noisy display. Spitfires were also represented in the show with a fourship tail chase sequence which included the Fighter Collection’s LF. VB, the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s LF. IXC and a pair of Mk. IXTs from the Aircraft Restoration Company and Air Leasing and appropriately enough the latter three aircraft actually flew operations during D-Day. Another Merlin powered display which was making a welcome return was the Old Flying Machine Company’s popular pairing of North American P-51D Mustang “Ferocious Frankie” and Supermarine Spitfire LF. IXB, both resplendent in invasion stripes. The modern equipment of the British Army was also present with the Army Air Corps impressive demonstration of their Agusta-Westland WAH-64D Apache AH Mk. 1 which also bore a special nose scheme to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the First World War. The French Air Force also contributed to the flying display with their national aerobatic team, the Patrouille de France who put on a fantastic display of dynamic manoeuvres and formation flying. The show was closed by the aircraft most synonymous with the D-Day Landings, the Douglas C-47A Skytrain where we saw four examples of this vintage transporter including two of which that came all the way from the United States of America. All four of these aircraft flew during D-Day and during their display dropped off The Red Devils Parachute Display Team of the British Army before flying some very emotive flypasts to conclude the show.

A new event for the 2014 season was the Folkestone Airshow which featured a variety of displays over the weekend although the Sunday had a significantly thinner line-up due to clashing with the RAF Cosford Airshow. The show was opened by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows who were performing their first public displays in their 50th Anniversary season. More aerobatics were also represented by The RV8tors who put on a very dynamic aerobatic routine. Classic jets were also featured and included an impressive display by the Midair Squadron’s English Electric Canberra PR.9 and Hawker Hunter T.7 making their debut as a pair as well as the BAC Strikemaster Mk. 82A who also put on a great performance. The Army Air Corps’ Westland Lynx AH Mk. 7 also attended the show with its amazing aerobatic display in its final appearance over Folkestone due to the type’s imminent retirement. Richard Goodwin also performed at the show in his powerful Pitts S-2S Special with a spectacular aerobatic routine. The show was closed on the Sunday by Peter Teichman’s unique and stunning Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIB and put on his usual entertaining performance in this classic British icon.

Another new event for the season was the Biggin Hill Festival of Flight which was held at London Biggin Hill Airport and celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Red Arrows. Despite the generally gloomy weather, the show put on a variety of entertaining aircraft displays including some old favourites often featured during the Biggin Hill shows of yesteryear. The Royal Navy made a contribution to the flying programme in the form of The Black Cats with a solo Westland Lynx HMA.8 which put on an impressive demonstration of the naval helicopter. Some Biggin Hill favourites were also present in the form of The Blades aerobatic team who put on one of their finest displays as well as the Duxford based Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” which was a very welcome sight over the airfield. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were also part of the flying programme with the Douglas DC-3C Dakota III and a pair of Supermarine Spitfires including the D-Day veteran LF. IXE and their newest addition to the fleet, the LF. XVIE. Another popular part of the shows at Biggin Hill was the Battle of Britain Dogfights and this year consisted of a trio of warbirds including the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchon and the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s pairing Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. X and Supermarine Spitfire HF. IXE which all contributed to this impressive set piece. The show was closed in the evening by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows with a truly stunning display before joining up for a formation flypast with the Old Flying Machine Company’s Supermarine Spitfire LF. IXB which then performed a solo display to conclude the show as it did in the hands of Ray Hanna years ago.

I also returned to the Royal International Air Tattoo once again which featured the operational theme of ‘Partnership 2014’ as well as the 50th Anniversary of the Red Arrows. The show also incorporated the 40th Anniversaries of the BAe Hawk and the Lockheed-Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The static display was much more varied than last year and featured several rare visitors and UK debuts as well some aircraft we may not see again due to retirement. One of the aircraft coming close to the end of its service life was the Transall C-160D of the German Air Force which was parked next to an aircraft that has many years of service ahead of it, an Alenia C-27J Spartan from the Lithuanian Air Force. The highlight of the static display was certainly the pair of Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair IIs from the Hellenic Air Force including an A-7E and a TA-7C which were making their last appearances outside of Greece before the type is retired from active service. The show also featured a total of seven examples of the Lockheed-Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons from Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway as part of the jets 40th Anniversary. It was also great to see the Americans returning to the tattoo with a small number of aircraft including a McDonnell-Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle from the United States Air Force and the UK debut of the United States Navy’s Boeing P-8A Poseidon. Another debut for the show was the recently built Textron AirLand Scorpion which is being marketed as a light attack and reconnaissance aircraft.

The flying display at the Royal International Air Tattoo was truly phenomenal with a variety of display teams and fast jets. One of the best solo jet displays of the day was courtesy of the Turkish Air Force with their brightly coloured Lockheed-Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon which was part of the celebration of this fighter’s 40th Anniversary. Making their debut at the tattoo was the Polish Air Force’s pair of Sukhoi Su-22M4 ‘Fitter’ strike aircraft that performed a role demonstration full of noise and power. The Italian Air Force provided a large number of flying displays this year and two of them were particularly noteworthy, the AMX International A-11A and the Panavia Tornado IDS which are part of the Reparte Sperimentale Volo. The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows displayed on all three days of the show and on the Friday led a the team leaders of the Breitling Jet Team, the Il Frecce Tricolori, the Patrouille de France and the Patrouille Suisse in a special formation to celebrate the team’s 50th Anniversary. The Swiss Air Force also provided a number of aircraft for the flying programme to celebrate its 100th Anniversary with their frontline fighter, the McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18C Hornet standing out the most with a great display of its capabilities. The show also payed tribute to the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings with the formation of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Supermarine Spitfire LF. IXE and the Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 as well as solo displays by both aircraft.

My second visit to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford was for the Duxford Flying Legends show which despite having a large amount of cancellations due to bad weather across Europe put on a very enjoyable show. The show was opened by the traditional mass formation and tail chase of Supermarine Spitfires which included a fourship of Mk. IAs which performed a formation display before a pair of LF.VBs, an LF. IXB, an LF. IXC, a Mk. IXT, an LF. XVIE and an FR. XVIIIE began their display sequence. One of the visiting aircraft that did make it to the show was the Lockheed L-1049F Super Constellation which made two graceful flypasts. The Fighter Collection then took centre stage with a quartet of naval warbirds including their Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat, Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and Goodyear FG-1D Corsair and performed a formation pass before separating into three consecutive display sequences. There was also a very energetic performance by a trio North American P-51 Mustangs including the Old Flying Machine Company’s “Ferocious Frankie”, the Fighter Collection’s “Miss Velma” and Frederick Akary’s “Moonbeam McSwine”. The two Duxford based Mustangs then flew alongside the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” before the famous resident put on its own display which was then followed by another American bomber, the North American B-25J Mitchell from the Flying Bulls which performing at Legends for the first time. Returning after debuting last year was Jan Friso Roozen’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIA which put on a very dynamic display despite the murky conditions. The show was closed by the traditional mass of warbirds, The Balbo Formation which consisted of nineteen aircraft whilst The Joker was played by the Fighter Collection’s Hellcat.

I also paid a visit to Airbourne which is held at Eastbourne seafront and had a wide variety of aircraft including one of the highlights of the 2014 season. Although the weather was mixed throughout some of the days we were still able to enjoy some of most popular display acts such as the amazing Boeing Chinook HC.2 and the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows who performed on all four days to commemorate their 50th Anniversary. The stars of the show were 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 including an LF. XVIE and PR. XIX where they performed some sublime flypasts over the sea. There was also some classic jets in the flying display which were making their first displays over Eastbourne including the Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron’s De Havilland DH.100 Vampire FB.52 and the Midair Squadron’s English Electric Canberra PR.9. More jet action was also provided by the Royal Air Force with their Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 which performed a spectacular demonstration of its power and manoeuvrability. The show was closed on the Sunday by an amazing pyrotechnic night-time display by Brenden O’Brien’s modified Piper J-3C-65 Cub from O’Brien’s Flying Circus.

In between my visits to Eastbourne I attended the Combined Ops event at Headcorn Aerodrome which was bathed in some great sunny weather and featured a small and unfortunately spaced out flying programme. The first part of the flying programme featured three consecutive warbird displays including Peter Teichman’s North American P-51D Mustang “Jumpin Jacques”, Rob Davies’ LET C-11 and a very dynamic Piper L-4H Grasshopper. During a particularly large gap during proceedings we saw multiple passes by Classic Wings’ De Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide giving paying customers pleasure flights. Classic jet action was represented by some flypasts by The Gnat Display Team and the Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron’s De Havilland DH.100 Vampire FB.52 who flew in after displaying at Airbourne. The main reason most people were attending the show then flew in for a spectacular display, the pair of Avro Lancasters. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s B.I and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum B.X were also joined by the Flight’s pair of Supermarine Spitfires including the LF. XVIE and PR. XIX which also performed before the Lancasters took centre stage.

I yet again visited a new show in 2014, the Clacton Airshow which despite being smaller than other seaside shows had a good mix of aircraft types and combined with the good weather and relaxed atmosphere led to a very enjoyable day. The show featured two very different rotary aircraft with the Royal Air Force’s Westland Sea King HAR Mk. 3A search and rescue demonstration to open the show as well as a dynamic performance by a RotorSport UK Calidus from Gyro Air Displays. We were also treated to a seldom seen appearance by the Supermarine Spitfire PR. XIX from Rolls Royce. One of the major stars of the show was the mighty Avro Vulcan B.2 which put on a powerful and noisy demonstration which was then by the pair of Avro Lancasters. The two British bombers were also joined by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC and Supermarine Spitfire PR. XIX which also performed as a pair prior to the Lancaster’s display. Aerobatic action was also represented with a stunning performance by Richard Goodwin in his Pitts S-2S Special before the show was closed by the Royal Air Force with a noisy rendition from their Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4.

This year’s RAFA Shoreham Airshow had one of their best line-ups in recent years to celebrate the show’s 25th Anniversary along with some other important aviation milestones. A new feature at this year’s event was the themed flying display segments such as a tribute to De Havilland with the pairing of D & M Miller’s De Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide and Peter Greenyer’s De Havilland DH.90A Dragonfly. Concluding the remote control model section during the lunch break was a fantastic aerobatic performance with Chris Burkett’s Extra EA-300S alongside Mike Williams flying a remote control replica Extra EA-300. The Battle of Britain was also touched in the programme with a trio of British warbirds including the Fighter Collection’s Gloster Gladiator Mk. II, Peter Vacher’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. I and the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IA who flew in formation before flying their own routines. The two major themes that were featured at the show were the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings which was represented by an aerial demonstration of fighters and transporters simulating the aerial component of the landings whilst the Great War Display Team with their eight replicas commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the First World War. The Fighter Collection also provided a tribute to the aircraft used by the United States Navy which was reduced to an impressive solo display by their Goodyear FG-1D Corsair and regular Shoreham visitors, The Blades closed the show on Sunday in spectacular style in the clear blue skies.

My final visit to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford was for their last show, The Duxford Airshow which followed no particular theme and had a very varied line-up and actually featured quite a few classic jet displays. Opening the show was the impressive duo of Jet Provosts including Jet Aerobatics’ T.5 and a T.5A formally of Kennet Aviation. More jet action was presented by the two Folland Gnat T.1s of The Gnat Display Team who also put on an entertaining routine. There was also plenty of Duxford based warbirds to enthrall the crowds including the Fighter Collection’s trio of naval types, the Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, a Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat and Goodyear FG-1D Corsair as well as performance by some British icons featuring a quartet of Supermarine Spitfires (two Mk. IAs and two LF. VBs) and a Hawker Hurricane Mk. XIIA. World War One fighters were also represented by the aerial ballet of the Great War Display Team and their eight replica aircraft. We returned once again to The Gnat Display Team who flew in formation with the Avro Vulcan B.2 for several passes before the might delta jet put on a very noisy display. The show was then closed by an amazing solo display by another classic British jet, the Hawker Hunter T.7 which is owned by Graham Peacock.

We now came to the final show of the year, the Shuttleworth Race Day Airshow at Old Warden Aerodrome which is home to the Shuttleworth Collection. This year’s show revolved around classic air racing with a wide variety of aircraft used for racing and the usual mix of Collection favourites. The show also featured some regular visitors who displayed near the start including Graham Peacock’s Hawker Hunter T.7 which opened the show and Peter Teichman’s impressive display in his North American P-51D Mustang “Jumpin Jacques”. The main racing theme also included the 80th Anniversary of the MacRobertson Air Race which was commemorated with some flypasts of types that actually participated in the race. The tribute was led by the Collection’s De Havilland DH.88 Comet “Grosvenor House” which took part and won this famous air race and has only recently returned to the air and also performed a stunning solo display. The other aircraft in the flypasts were a De Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide, a Desoutter I, a Miles M.3A Falcon Major, a Miles M.2W Hawk Trainer and a De Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth. Some world record holders were also present in the display. Both the Collection’s Percival E.2H Mew Gull and a Vans RV-7 are the former and current holders respectively of the England to Cape Town record. The pair were also joined by a replica Mew Gull where all three flew together before flying their own routines. The Shuttleworth Collection also presented some entertaining displays with a trio of their warbirds including the Westland Lysander Mk. IIIA, the Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. IB and the Gloster Gladiator Mk. I. We also bore witness to a Mock Air Race with a total of nine aircraft including the rare Spartan 7W Executive and Miles M.2L Hawk Speed Six with the overall winner of this handicapped race being one of the two Chiltern D.W.1s. The Collection’s RAF S.E.5A and Bristol M.1C Replica were both types used in the early times of Air Racing and displayed great routines in the evening. The weather was calm enough for the Edwardian aircraft to fly or hop with the Deperdussin Type A Monoplane racer closing the show with some hops down the runway.

This year’s airshow season has been full of many wonderful displays and unique moments and hopefully the 2015 season will surpass all out expectations with one of the major themes being the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

For more photos from the 2014 season you can check out the albums on Flickr

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