Airshow Season 2015 Review

Another year and another airshow season over where I returned to the Biggin Hill Festival of Flight and the Clacton Airshow after the great times I had their last year as well as many of my regular shows such as the Abingdon Air & Country Show and the Royal International Air Tattoo. 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 for the 2015 season was my third visit to the Abingdon Air & Country Show where the weather was less than desirable with frequent rain showers and low cloud which caused several items to cancel. One of the stars of the show making its first flying appearance at Abingdon was the highly manoeuvrable North American-Rockwell OV-10B Bronco which has been regular visitor in the static display of the show. Another new aircraft in the displays was the RotorSport UK Calidus which put on a very dynamic performance in the little amount blue skies we got during the show. The major highlight of the show was the first appearance of the Royal Air Force’s “Synchro Pair” featuring a specially schemed Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Supermarine Spitfire LF. XVIE as part of the commemorations of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Classic jets were also represented well in the show including the Gloster Meteor NF.11 from the Classic Air Force, visiting Abingdon for the first time as well being the first time a Meteor as appeared at the show. Some twin engine warbirds also participated in the form of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Douglas DC-3C Dakota III and Plane Sailing’s amphibious Canadian Vickers PBV-1A Canso A which flew consecutive displays near the end of the day. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight closed the show is graceful style with their Supermarine Spitfire LF. XVIE once again alongside their Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC.

Next was my first trip back to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford for the Duxford VE Day Anniversary Airshow on a very grey Sunday which was celebrating the 70th Anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe Day) as well as VJ Day (Victory over Japan Day) which marked the official surrenders that saw the end of the Second World War. The Anniversary itself was commemorated brilliantly with a special flypast which was led by the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” and flanked by a trio of North American P-51D Mustangs as well as the Fighter Collection’s Curtiss P-40F Kittyhawk Mk. II and Grumman FM-2 Wildcat, followed by Plane Sailing’s Canadian Vickers PBV-1A Canso A, Aces High’s Douglas C-47A Skytrain and a Beechcraft Expeditor 3NM. Britain’s jet age was also well represented in the flying display with the Classic Air Force’s Gloster Meteor T.7 which put on a great solo display. The show also marked some debuts in the UK airshow season including the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I which displayed alongside a pair of Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IAs and we also witness the first public display of the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Fury Mk. I which flew alongside the Gloster Gladiator Mk. I from the Shuttleworth Collection. The weather conditions improved greatly near the end of the day for the last three aerial displays which began with the pair of Agusta-Westland WAH-64D Apache AH Mk. 1s from the Army Air Corps performing a tactical attack demonstration, followed by a very noisy display by the Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 before the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows closed the show in their usual spectacular style.

The Biggin Hill Festival of Flight was the next show on my list in only its second year. It was also unfortunate that cloudy conditions all over the UK led to the cancellation of multiple items due to visit the historic airfield. The show was also one of the major events commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. We were fortunate enough to see the Royal Navy Helicopter Display Team, The Black Cats’ first use of the new Agusta-Westland AW159 Wildcat HMA.2 as part of their displays which were highly dynamic. More aerobatics followed with The Yakovlev who provide a very smooth and graceful routine. The first set piece to commemorate the Battle of Britain began with Airbus’s Messerschmitt Bf-109G-4 making its first appearance at Biggin Hill since its UK debut in 2010. It was soon joined by four aircraft from the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar featuring the Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. X and a trio of Supermarine Spitfires including an LF. IXC, a HF. IXE and an LF. XVIE which then spiralled into a variety of tail chases and dogfights along with pyrotechnics to showcase the aerial battles that took place during the war. The second segment of displays also commemorated the Battle of Britain and began with a spectacular performance by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows. The team returned shortly after their display, leading five of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s fighters consisting of a pair of Hawker Hurricane Mk. IICs and three Supermarine Spitfires including a Mk. IIA, an LF. VB and an LF. XVIE. The fighters then went on to fly a very graceful and sedate formation display. The segment was concluded by the Royal Air Force’s amazing “Synchro Pair” which featured the specially painted Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 and the Battle of Britain veteran Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIA. The show was appropriately concluded by a very spirited duet from the LF. IXC and HF. IXE Spitfires from the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar.

My second visit to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford was for the Sunday edition of the Flying Legends show which showcases warbird flying at its finest. The weather was relatively grim with some scattered showers and high winds that prevented more delicate aircraft from performing, however there was some clearer skies dotted throughout the day which allowed most of the aircraft to display. The flying was opened by the traditional tail chase of Supermarine Spitfires with this year’s number totalling eleven aircraft including the UK debuts of the Historic Flight Foundation’s LF. IXE from Seattle and Air Leasing’s Seafire LF. III. One of the best displays of days was provided by the pairing of the Fighter Collection’s Goodyear FG-1D Corsair and Max Alpha Aviation’s Vought F4U-7 Corsair which also flew in alongside the Collection’s Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat. The Fighter Collection also debuted their latest acquisition, the Curtiss P-36C Hawk alongside only other flying example of its kind, the Curtiss Hawk 75A-1 as well as the Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk IIB and Curtiss P-40F Kittyhawk Mk. II. Legends always has an impressive tail chase courtesy of the famous North American P-51D Mustang with four examples for this year’s show including Max Alpha Aviation’s “Dream Girl”, the Fighter Collection’s “Miss Velma”, Frederick Akary’s “Moonbeam McSwine” and the Norwegian Spitfire Foundation’s “Sharkmouth”. Airbus’s Messerschmitt Bf-109G-4 was also making its first appearance at Duxford and was flanked by a pair of Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchons from the Aircraft Restoration Company and Spitfire Ltd. Usually, this show doesn’t adhere to themes but this year saw a display segment revolving around the Battle of Britain and featured the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I leading a trio of Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IAs and the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. XIIA in some formation passes before they performed their own individual routines. The best performances at the show were courtesy of the Flying Bulls who flew a pair of gleaming warbirds in the form of their North American B-25J Mitchell and Lockheed P-38L Lightning together before they displayed separately with the Lightning putting on one of the best solo displays that I have ever seen. The finale for this year’s Flying Legends was the flypast of twenty four warbirds as part of the traditional ‘Balbo Formation’.

It was now time for biggest show on the UK calendar, the Royal International Air Tattoo which had a massively improved static display in both quantity and quality with quite few rare aircraft from all over the world. The home team provided one of the big highlights in the static park with the Royal Air Force’s latest acquisition, the Airbus A400M Atlas C.1 transporter which will soon replace the aging Hercules and hopefully participate in flying displays in the not so distant future. One of the smaller themes of the show the 35th Anniversary of the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment which was represented by a trio of Panavia Tornados adorned with special commemorative tail markings including a GR.4 from the Royal Air Force and pair of IDSs from the German and Italian Air Forces. One of the biggest highlight of the static displays was the Kawasaki P-1 from the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force making its European airshow debut. There was also some rarities from Europe including a two-seater Sukhoi Su-22UM3K ‘Fitter’ from the Polish Air Force and a pair of Northrop SF-5B Freedom Fighters from the Spanish Air Force. It was also great to see the Americans returning to the show with a variety of their aircraft including the UK airshow debut of the United States Air Force’s Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey and a Sikorsky UH-60+ Blackhawk helicopter from the United States Army.

The flying displays at the Royal International Air Tattoo were also filled with variety and rarity including a series of flypasts to mark the 35th Anniversary of the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment which consisted of a trio of Panavia Tornados including a GR.4 from the Royal Air Force and a pair of IDSs from the German and Italian Air Forces. The Japan Maritime Self Defence Force also participated in the flying display with a Kawasaki P-1, marking the first time a Japanese aircraft has performed in a European airshow. There was also a number of other impressive UK debuts including the French Air Force’s Ramex Delta tactical demonstration with a pair of Dassault Mirage 2000N nuclear strike aircraft, The United States Air Force’s Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey tiltrotor and the Hellenic Air Force’s strikingly schemed Lockheed-Martin F-16C Fighter Falcon. The Tattoo also commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain with a mass flypast consisting of multiple warbirds as well as several individual displays from the Bristol Blenheim Mk. I and the Messerschmitt Bf-109G-4. One of most anticipated displays of the show was the amazing performance from the Avro Vulcan B.2 which was making its final ever appearance at the Tattoo as part of its farewell tour. The iconic delta jet also marked this special occasion by flying a unique flypast with the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows and was a truly memorable moment in the airshow season.

I also made several trips to the coast for variety of seaside shows with the first being the Airbourne International Airshow on Saturday at the Eastbourne seafront. One of the highlights was Airbourne’s first look at the PZL-Mielec SBLim-2 from the Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron which flew a very smooth routine. The Royal Navy were also represented in the flying display with one their Westland Sea King HC Mk. 4s which put on a role demonstration alongside the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. However, it was the Avro Vulcan B.2 that stole the show in spectacular style with some impressive wingovers and the roar of its four powerful engines for the final time at Airbourne. Aerobatics were also a central theme in the flying displays with the Patrouille Reva standing out the most with their elegant aerial ballet. There was also some other new displays items never see before at Eastbourne including the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I and the Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron’s pair of De Havilland DH.100 Vampires having only performed as a solo last year. No seaside show would be complete without the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows who flew their usual amazing routine near the end of the show.

My second visit to the seaside was for the Thursday edition Clacton Airshow which I was attending for the second time. Rotary elements were once again included in the flying programme with a highly energetic display from the RotorSport UK Calidus and the long overdue return of the amazingly manoeuvrable Boeing Chinook HC.4. Some new aircraft for Clacton were also very entertaining to watch including the Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron’s PZL-Mielec SBLim-2 and the Duxford based Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” which looked fantastic arriving over the pier. The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows also made an appearance at the show with a great aerobatic performance but it was the final two jets that really made an impact with the raw power of the Avro Vulcan B.2 making its last display at Clacton and a highly dynamic display from the Royal Air Force’s frontline fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 which closed the show.

The third and final visit to the seaside was for a small series of flying displays at Folkestone which would commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The show was opened with a spirited display from the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. X. The Royal Air Force also participated in the displays with a very loud and intense performance from the specially schemed Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 and a low flypast from a Grob G-115E Tutor basic trainer. There was also an international element in the form of the energetic North American B-25J Mitchell “Sarinah” from the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight. We were also treated to three separate displays from a trio of Supermarine Spitfires including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s LF. IXE, Aero Legends’ HF. IXE and Peter Teichman’s PR. XI from his Hangar 11 collection which closed the proceedings.

It was now came to my last visit to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford for the Sunday edition of the Duxford Battle of Britain Anniversary Airshow, one of the major events that would commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The was kicked off with a demonstration of aerial dogfights that may have occurred during the famous battle and featured a pair of Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchons and the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Nord 1002 Pingouin II which were shortly chased off by a veteran Hawker Hurricane Mk. I and the Imperial War Museum’s Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IA. The Hurricane then joined up with some other examples of its kind including the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Mk. XIIA and the Shuttleworth Collection’s Sea Hurricane Mk. IB which all flew in formation with the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I before flying a tail chase and followed by the Blenheim’s solo display. Modern assets of the Royal Air Force was represented brilliantly by their Boeing Chinook HC.4 with a spectacular display of its capabilities. One of the more unusual displays came courtesy of a radar calibration demonstration which featured a strange combination of types including Mark Miller’s De Havilland DH.87B Hornet Moth, the RotorSport UK Calidus and the Shuttleworth Collection’s Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub towing a Slingsby T.6 Kirby Kite and a Slingsby T.13 Petrel. The biggest highlight of the show however, was the emotive and spectacular formation flypasts of seventeen Supermarine Spitfires which also included the first appearance of a recently restored HF. IXE. The fighters then went on to perform an amazing tail chase sequence which was closed with a solo display from the Old Flying Machine Company’s LF. IXB. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight then took centre stage with a spirited formation display featuring six of their merlin powered fighters including a pair of Hawker Hurricane Mk. IICs and a fourship of Supermarine Spitfires consisting of the veteran Mk. IIA, an LF. VB, an LF. IXE and an LF. XVIE. The fighters returned later in formation with the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows who then went on to close the show in fantastic style.

Coming to end of the 2015 airshow season, I found myself back at Old Warden Aerodrome for the Shuttleworth Uncovered Airshow which feature a great variety of vintage aircraft both in the air and on the ground. The show was opened by The Red Devils Parachute Display Team, making their first appearance at this vintage airfield and made for an unusual but entertaining start to proceedings. Visiting and homebased warbirds are always a high point in any show and this year saw Kennet Aviation’s Supermarine Seafire F. XVII alongside the veteran Hawker Hurricane Mk. I and the Shuttleworth Collection’s Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk. IB flying in formation as well as in impressive solo displays. Air racing was also represented in the proceedings with the Shuttleworth Collection’s pairing of the De Havilland DH.88 Comet “Grosvenor House” and Percival E.2H Mew Gull which flew together and individually. Kennet Aviation also provided their North American AT-6D Harvard III which put on an energetic routine and also flew several passes alongside the Shuttleworth Collection’s Percival P.56 Provost T.1. Aerobatic action was excellently demonstrated by a visiting Extra EA-330SC in the hands of expert aerobatic pilot, Mark Jefferies. A new vintage warbirds on the display circuit and making its first appearance was a Bristol Scout C Replica which looked fantastic against the evening skies and was later joined for several formation passes by the Shuttleworth Collection’s Bristol F.2B Fighter which then performed its own display alongside the Bristol M.1C Replica. The star of the show was the Avro Vulcan B.2 making its final ever public display at a UK airshow and arrived alongside BAe Systems’ Avro Anson XIX. The cold war jet bomber performed one of its finest and noisiest routines within the confines of Old Warden’s airspace which marked the end of the Vulcan’s flying displays.

This year’s airshow season has been full of many wonderful displays and unique moments and hopefully the 2016 season will surpass all our expectations.

For more photos from the 2015 season you can check out the albums on Flickr

You can also follow me on Twitter

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