Airbourne 2015 Review

I found myself by the sea once again for Airbourne which promised a varied and entertaining line-up including the final appearance of the Vulcan at Eastbourne. There was also the unfortunate cancellation of the Belgian Air Component’s NHIndustries NH90 NHF which was due to make its UK flying display debut. I attended the show on the Saturday where the weather was pretty good throughout the day unlike Thursday which I couldn’t attend due to heavy rain which led to the flying displays being cancelled.

The show was kicked off with a display by the Royal Air Force’s ever-popular Boeing Chinook HC.4 which demonstrated the remarkable manoeuvrability of this large transport helicopter.

Boeing Chinook HC.4

Vintage aerobatics then came into view with Eastbourne regulars, the Breitling Wingwalkers with their pair of Boeing-Stearman Kaydets complete with the young ladies performing on the top wings who put on their usual entertaining barnstorming spectacle.

Breitling Wingwalkers

The first of several classic jets was up next with the BAC Jet Provost T.5 of Jet Aerobatics which flew a great routine as it has done in the past few years as a regular attendee of this show.

BAC Jet Provost T.5

Frontline fighters were the theme of the day with the Royal Air Force’s noisy display courtesy of the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 feature some very dynamic manoeuvres. The display was flown with a regular jet as the specially painted example suffered a technical fault at Biggin Hill.

Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4

Next up was a fighter of yesteryear in the form of the Duxford based Aircraft Restoration Company’s D-Day veteran Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IXT which flew a very spirited display over the sea.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IXT

One of the stars of the show was one of the first appearances of the PZL-Mielec SBLim-2 from the Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron which put on a very smooth and sedate routine. This jet is the Polish built version of famous MiG-15UTI and is painted to represent the aircraft flown by Soviet-Russian pilot and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

PZL-Mielec SBLim-2

Training aircraft from the past and present were represented by the pairing of Rod Dean’s Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1 and the Royal Air Force’s Grob G-115E Tutor T.1 which flew together for several passes before flying their own individual displays.

The Royal Navy came into focus next with one of their Westland Sea King HC Mk. 4 commando assault helicopters which demonstrated its capabilities along with a lifeboat courtesy of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. With the Sea King approaching imminent retirement so this may have been the last chance to see one display at Eastbourne, especially as the commando variants are currently being replaced by former Royal Air Force Merlin helicopters.

Westland Sea King HC Mk. 4

However it was the imposing Avro Vulcan B.2 that stole the show in its final appearance at Airbourne. The cold-war bomber put on a fantastic display with its famous wing-overs and tremendous ‘howl’ which grabbed the attention of everyone in the crowd before it departed in style with a steep and noisy climb.

Avro Vulcan B.2

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight have always been regular visitors to the show and provided their Douglas DC-3C Dakota III which flew an entertaining routine.

Douglas DC-3C Dakota III

A different style of aerobatics was performed by the France based Patrouille Reva with a pair of Rutan Vari-Ezes and a singular Rutan LongEZ whose routine is incredibly elegant with some formation manoeuvres and it was great to see this team return to the UK again.

Patrouille Reva

Another major highlight of the show was the Bristol Blenheim Mk. I from the Aircraft Restoration Company based at Duxford which was making its first appearance at Eastbourne and put on a fine performance of this Battle of Britain era warbird which is the only flying example of its type in the world.

Bristol Blenheim Mk. I

The Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron made their second appearance of the day with their De Havilland DH.100 Vampire FB.52 and De Havilland DH.115 Vampire T.55 and flew some great formation passes as part of their very graceful and dynamic display.

De Havilland DH.115 Vampire T.55 & De Havilland DH.100 Vampire FB.52

We then saw yet another Duxford based warbird in the flying programme in the form of the North American P-51D Mustang “Ferocious Frankie” from the Old Flying Machine Company which put on a splendid solo routine.

North American P-51D Mustang “Ferocious Frankie”

Advanced jet training took centre stage with the Royal Air Force’s pair of BAe Hawk T.2s who arrived in formation and demonstrated the manoeuvres the next generation of pilots will have to learn in order to advance to more advanced types.

BAe Hawk T.2s

Crowd favourites, The Blades arrived overhead to begin their masterclass in formation aerobatics with their four Extra EA-300LPs. The team was also sporting a new silver paint scheme for the 2015 season depicting their new sponsors, Belcom Cables.

The Blades

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight returned once again with a pair of their fighters featuring the Supermarine Spitfire LF. IXE and Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC which flew in formation before performing their own solo displays.

The highlight of any show is a display by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows and this show was no different. The team’s nine BAe Hawk T.1As flew a series of fantastic formations and aerobatic manoeuvres before breaking at crowd centre to conclude their routine.

The Red Arrows

Airbourne was closed by The Tigers Freefall Team of the British Army’s Princess of Wales Royal Regiment who dropped in from their aircraft and then landed on the beach. For first time at the show, two parachutists in wing-suits dropped in shortly after the rest of team landed and bought the show to a fitting conclusion.

The entire show was a wonderful success with many fantastic displays throughout the day with the Avro Vulcan B.2 and The Red Arrows providing some of the best displays of the day. It was also great to see the Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron back in the UK again as well as the shows first look at the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event despite missing the evening air display and I hope to return in 2016.

For more photos from this show check out the entire Airbourne 2015 – Saturday album on Flickr

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