RAF Cosford Airshow 2017 Review (Flying)

This review of the RAF Cosford Airshow will cover the aircraft featured in the flying display which also revolved around the themes of Battlefield Support and International Co-operation. The weather was mixed throughout the day with some strong winds and dark clouds at one point but didn’t prevent anything from displaying.

The show was opened by a gentle formation parachute drop from the Royal Air Force Falcons Parachute Display Team who managed to perform even in the tricky conditions. The team jumped from a newly acquired Dornier Do-228-202.

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Dornier Do-228-202 & Royal Air Force Falcons Parachute Display Team

Next was an aerobatic demonstration by a solo Grob G-109B from The AeroSparx who was also filming the showground in 360° which was also being live streamed during its series of graceful loops and rolls. The performance was also enhanced by the impressive smoke system that was utilized by this motor-glider.

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The AeroSparx

The home team at RAF Cosford then took centre stage with some formation flypasts of four Grob G-115E Tutor T.1s from the Royal Air Force. The aircraft were from a variety of University Air Squadrons including Birmingham, Wales and Yorkshire where Air Cadets can get a taste of what flying is like.

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Grob G-115E Tutor T.1s

Some older assets of the Royal Air Force then arrived for their display in the form of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight who are celebrating their 60th Anniversary this year. The Lancaster was unable to attend as it had yet to fly since its restoration but the Flight was represented by four of their fighters including the Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC and a trio of Supermarine Spitfires featuring an LF. XVIE, an LF. VB and a Mk. IIA. The warbirds flew some excellent formation flypasts before performing a spirited tail chase sequence. The quartet then flew a graceful crossover at crowd centre before departing with a single formation pass to conclude a highly entertaining display.

More warbird action came from the Avro Anson XIX from the BAe Systems Heritage Flight, flying in from its base at Old Warden. The multirole aircraft flew a sublime routine with a series a flypasts showcasing the graceful lines of this wonderful aircraft.

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Avro Anson XIX

Our first taste of jet powered action then arrived courtesy of North Wales Military Aviation Services Ltd and Swords Aviation with a pairing of BAC Strikemaster Mk. 82A in Sultan of Oman’s Air Force colours and BAC Jet Provost T.52 in South Arabian Air Force colours. The display featured a series of formation passes as well as some tactical solo manoeuvres along with some explosive pyrotechnics which fit in well with the Battlefield Support theme.

A significantly quieter display took to the skies next in the form of a Schleicher ASK-21 glider which was towed up to height by a Scheibe SF-25C Falke motor-glider. The aerobatic glider descended with some great looping and rolling manoeuvres on its way down to the ground where it performed a perfect landing.

Search and Rescue demonstrations are a rarity at UK airshows since the retirement of the Sea Kings from Royal Air Force and Royal Navy service. But we were treated to an excellent demonstration from yesteryear by the Westland Whirlwind HAR Mk. 10 from Lift West in a striking yellow search and rescue scheme which was making its first flying display appearance at Cosford.

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Westland Whirlwind HAR Mk. 10

Next up was a series of stunning aerobatics from a variety of popular display teams and solo performers. First of up was the unlimited aerobatic prowess of The Blades with three of their Extra EA-300LPs which was then followed by the barnstorming antics of the Breitling Wingwalkers with their pair of Boeing-Stearman Kaydets complete with the ladies on the top wing. The highlight and conclusion of this segment was the Pitts S-2S Special flown by Richard Goodwin who put on a spectacular demonstration of aerobatics, showcasing why this classic aerobatic mount is still popular at airshows today.

The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows took the stage next with their nine BAe Hawk T.1As with a fantastically executed rolling display which was unfortunately marred by the restricted display line which meant people positioned to the far left of the airfield didn’t get a good look at the display (especially in terms of photography). This was also rather embarrassing for the Royal Air Force as the international visitors were not restricted by this new display line.

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The Red Arrows

The Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 from No. 29(R) Squadron was reduced to a fast flypast due to technical issues.

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Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4

The weather at this point in the day had now clamped down with some very wet and dark clouds. This however did not deter the United States Air Force from a performing a single fast and loud pass by one their jet bombers, the Rockwell B-1B Lancer. The bomber from the Air Force Global Strike Command of the 34th Bomb Squadron which is part of the 28th Bomb Wing.

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Rockwell B-1B Lancer

The British Army was up next with a modern look at Battlefield Support with the Attack Helicopter Display Team with their Agusta-Westland WAH-64D Apache AH Mk. 1 which began its routine with a tactical demonstration of how it provides support to troops on the ground who are under fire from the enemy, with some help from yet more pyrotechnics. The helicopter then demonstrated is great manoeuvrability before hovering at crowd centre in front of a ‘wall of fire’ to conclude this exciting display.

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Agusta-Westland WAH-64D Apache AH Mk. 1

American aviation was then shifted back into focus with a routine by the B-17 Preservation’s Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” consisting of some great photogenic flypasts. Before this vintage bomber concluded its display, the Boeing B-52H Stratofortress of the Air Force Global Strike Command arrived early for a flypast before turning back round for second pass once the B-17 had cleared the area. The modern jet bomber, a distant successor to the B-17 was from the 96th Bomb Squadron as part of the 2nd Bomb Wing.

The segment of American flying was concluded by a stunning solo display by Hangar 11’s North American P-51D Mustang “Tall In The Saddle” in the hands of Peter Teichman who put the ‘Red Tails’ fighter through its paces.

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North American P-51D Mustang “Tall In The Saddle”

One of the stars of the show took to the air next in the form of the Swiss PC-7 Display Team with their full contingent of nine Pilatus NCPC-7 Turbotrainers from the Swiss Air Force. The team put on one of the finest aerobatic performances I have ever seen with some flawless formation passes and solo aerobatics and quite frankly outdid the Red Arrows display in every way. The team were rightly awarded the Hartree Memorial Trophy for their precision flying in challenging conditions.

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Swiss PC-7 Display Team

Another international visitor and star of the show was the strikingly painted Panavia Tornado IDS from the Italian Air Force which performed a fast and noisy demonstration of its capabilities with some great aerobatic manoeuvres thrown in for good measure. The swing-wing jet is from the 311 Gruppo (311th Flight Squadron) which is part of the Reparte Sperimentale Volo (Test Flight Department) who were given the ‘Best Presented Aircraft’ award for the stunning scheme of the aircraft.

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Panavia Tornado IDS

The Royal Air Force returned again with the Grob G-115E Tutor T.1 from the Southampton University Air Squadron which put on a good demonstration of the manoeuvres all new RAF pilots must master in order to progress to fast and more powerful types.

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Grob G-115E Tutor T.1

The theme of Battlefield Support came full circle with the final two displays of the day, beginning with a special set piece based on the South East Asia Conflict in the 1970’s which once again featured some exciting pyrotechnics. The first aircraft up was the Antonov An-2TP ‘Colt’ from the An-2 Club representing a group of four Vietnamese aircraft that attacked a radar station in 1968. The actual conflict resulted in the aircraft being intercepted by an unarmed UH-1D which took down two of the An-2s with an AK-47. This helicopter was represented by a Bell UH-1H Iroquois from MSS Holdings which flew alongside the An-2TP in some loose formation flypasts. The set piece then moved onto more general battlefield support with the Iroquois being joined by another MSS Holdings helicopter, the Hughes OH-6A Cayuse. The pair of helicopters demonstrated the act of supporting ground troops before coming under fire by enemy forces. The sequence was concluded with the Bronco Demo Team’s North American-Rockwell OV-10B Bronco which provided fixed-wing support to the friendly forces with guns and bombs to neutralize the threat. The Bronco was also adorned with a poppy scheme and the words ‘Lest We Forget’ on the top wing in memory of those who died during the First World War.

The show was closed by the Royal Air Force with the impressive Boeing Chinook HC.4 from No. 18(B) Squadron which put on a dynamic display with some very tight manoeuvres further enhanced by the Chinook display teams enthusiastic commentator. And thus bought a great show to satisfying conclusion.

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Boeing Chinook HC.4

The show featured some great highlights in the flying display with the Italian Air Force’s Panavia Tornado IDS and the Swiss Air Force’s Swiss PC-7 Display Team being the standout stars of the show and the Battlefield Support set piece was also very well executed. It was also great to see the United States Air Force participating at UK airshows again with the flypasts by the Rockwell B-1B Lancer and Boeing B-52H Stratofortress. The show was certainly varied and entertaining despite tricky weather conditions and I look forward to returning to the show again next year for the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force celebrations.

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