We have once again come full circle with the Abingdon Air & Country Show once again opening the airshow season for 2016. This year will be a challenge for display pilots and airshow attendees alike with the new CAA regulations that have been put in place since the tragic airshow crash at the RAFA Shoreham Airshow last year. These new safety guidelines did effect some of the displays in my opinion but did not detract from the fantastic entertainment that the show provided.
The static display for this year was particularly varied despite several late cancellations and an annoying case of paperwork issues (i.e. Joint Helicopter Command). Modern military from the UK was represented by the Royal Air Force with a pair of trainers in the form of a Grob G-115E Tutor T.1 from the Oxford University Air Squadron and a Grob G-109B Vigilant T.1 from 612 Volunteer Gliding Squadron which would be making its final appearance at Abingdon due to many of the Gliding Squadrons being disbanded. The Army Air Corps also had a presence with one of their Westland Gazelle AH Mk. 1s as well as the Army Historic Aircraft Flight’s Saunders-Roe Skeeter AOP.12.
The star of the static display was courtesy of the Belgian Air Component who provided one of their new NHIndustries NH90 TTH multirole helicopters and marking the first time this particular rotary type has landed at Dalton Barracks.
Other helicopters were also dotted around the static displays including the Gazelle Squadron who sent two of their Westland Gazelle HT Mk. 3s alongside their Guimbal Cabri G2 which they use for training purposes. The Chiltern and Thames Air Ambulance also made a special appearance with their new Eurocopter EC135 T3 and Castle Air sent a Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III which also gave pleasure flights throughout the show
Fixed-Wing aircraft were not to be forgotten with Bronco Demo Team’s North American-Rockwell OV-10B Bronco making a welcome return to the show. Parked up next to the Bronco was the unusual shape of the rarely seen Helio H-295-1200 Super Courier in military camouflage markings. Arriving late for the static display was the Miles M.38 Messenger 4B from the Shipping and Airlines collection at Biggin Hill which was unable to perform in the flying display. There was also the usual gathering of familiar aircraft shapes including an Auster AOP.5, a trio of De Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk Mk. 22s, the Oxford Gliding Club’s Glaser-Dirks DG-505 Orion, a pair of Scottish Aviation Bulldogs, a SIAI-Marchetti SF.260AM and a Yakovlev Yak 52.
The flying displays were opened by the take-off of Invicta Aviation’s Shorts SC.7 Skyvan 3A, which contained the Jump4Heroes Parachute Display Team along with a few members of the RLC Silver Stars Parachute Display Team who represent the Royal British Legion and Royal Logistics Corps respectively. The larger number of parachutists descending alongside a pair of them trailing a particularly large Union Jack flag provided a great start to the show.
Up next was one of the stars of the show in the form of the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I making its first appearance at Abingdon as well as its first display of the season. This classic warbird put on a great performance for the crowds before departing back to its home base at Duxford.
One of several aircraft returning from last year’s show was the RotorSport UK Calidus in the hands of the talented Peter Davies who put on a very entertaining display which featured some highly dynamic manoeuvres incorporating plenty of smoke.
A rare and unique type on the UK airshow circuit for this season was the Curtiss-Wright CW-12Q Sport Trainer, courtesy of the Shipping and Airlines collection at Biggin Hill which put on a surprisingly energetic display over the skies of Oxfordshire.
Sticking to the training theme was the Percival P.56 Provost T.1 in a stunning silver Royal Air Force training scheme, flown by Si Wilson. The display began with some high altitude aerobatics before descending to perform some low passes.
The Royal Air Force arrived promptly with their only contribution to the flying display in the form of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s pairing of their Supermarine Spitfire LF. XVIE and Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC. The two fighters performed very gracefully both as a pair and during their respective solo displays and even concluded their segment with further formation flypasts before returning back to Coningsby.
Another World War Two fighter then took to the skies in the form of Peter Teichman’s Curtiss P-40M Kittyhawk Mk. III from his Hangar 11 collection. The new regulations appeared to significantly affect the usually punchy routine performed by this aircraft but was nonetheless a great part of the flying display if somewhat less impactful.
Next up was the first of two aerobatic displays with one of the Silence SA1100 Twisters from the Twister Aerobatics Team. The elegant aircraft put on a highly entertaining performance with a great combination of both graceful and dynamic aerobatic manoeuvres as well as a clever use of the smoke system.
Displaying next was the biggest aircraft at the show in the shape of the Canadian Vickers PBV-1A Canso A from Plane Sailing which performed a short but impressive routine and showed off this amphibious aircraft’s various landing configurations.
More aerobatics were performed next by a striking Pitts S-1S Special flown by Lauren Richardson in a series of exciting manoeuvres that showcase why this classic biplane is still a very popular addition at airshows today.
A more sedate display appeared next in the form of Kevin Hale’s Auster AOP.6 which put on a series of gentle circuits in the air despite the weather starting to close in with low cloud.
Due to the cloudy conditions now present, it was down to the rotary elements to conclude the show with Terry Martin’s Westland Wasp HAS. 1 displaying first with some impressive manoeuvres for the vintage maritime helicopter.
The Army Historic Aircraft Flight took centre stage for the finale with duet of ex-military helicopters including the Westland Scout AH Mk. 1 which appeared on static display last year and the Agusta-Bell Sioux AH Mk. 1 making a welcome return to the display circuit after many years absence. The pair performed a synchronised routine before splitting up to put on their own individual displays which were all quite close to the crowd line, giving us a great view of these rare rotary types.
This year’s show was unfortunately affected by many cancellations and certainly lacked some of the bigger display items that has been seen at Abingdon in recent years, it still had some fantastic highlights including the debut of the Bristol Blenheim Mk. I as well as some fantastic displays from the rotary elements with particular praise for the Army Historic Aircraft Flight’s Agusta-Bell Sioux AH Mk. 1 and Westland Scout AH Mk. 1 which bought the day to a satisfying finish. I hope to return to Abingdon in the next year for even more flying display delights.
You can also follow me on Twitter