Elliott Marsh's 2011 blogGAR Entries

JUL 29 2011
blogGAR: Elliott's Mid-Airshow Season Wrap-up

Here we are then, roughly half the way through the 2011 airshow season. It’s been a good ride so far, with a couple of standout events and nothing that’s slipped below ‘entertaining’. Moreover though, it’s been a fantastically social season with faces both familiar and new at events up and down the country. The company really has elevated some days that would otherwise have been a wash out (Cosford, I’m looking at you!) and I look forward to catching up with many of you again during the latter half of the season.

Looking back to the very start of the year, I started as I meant to go on with an enjoyable day at Headcorn in early January, the highlight of which was my first spotting of the locally-based Yak 18. This aircraft would make a superb team hack – one to look into, Karl?! Subsequent Headcorn visits yielded more positive results with plenty of flying from the Tiger Club locals in fair, if not sunny, weather. This “panning practice” is a fine way of satisfying the off-season shakes; in the middle of winter, you’ll be surprised how excited a Harvard or Stampe will make you!

The photographs of the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Spitfire MkV stem from a visit to the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne on the afternoon of one of the ‘Action Stations’ photoshoots (this was the same day that ‘Big Beautiful Doll’ left the UK; it only seemed right to combine the two!), where you can fly in a Jet Ranger alongside the Spitfire above the White Cliffs. While much of the action takes place in the distance, Capel actually offers a cracking vantage point of the final minutes of the flight as Charlie Brown flies low speed circuits over the memorial as the helicopters circle overhead. It’s just a shame that the wind was so strong, as standing on the cliff top shooting in a stiff breeze isn’t the easiest thing to do!

Another pre-season day out was a trip to Old Warden to watch the glider practices and validations, which preceded the training week that followed later in the month. Over the course of the three days of training week, I shot many of the Shuttleworth Collection’s aircraft in varying weather conditions and met up with GAR’s Paul Fiddian and Huw Hopkins, and our fellow ‘beardo’ Richard Judge (amongst others) over the week, making it a highly sociable ‘do’.

Late April took me to Damyns Hall in search of the Goodyear Blimp, now lost, tragically along with its pilot, Mike Nerandzic, following an accident in Germany. I had the pleasure of meeting Mike and spending a few minutes in his company one sunny afternoon while we waited for the Blimp to return from a flight over London. Following the Blimp’s arrival, I was able to shoot some “live-side” low passes from a Boeing Stearman flying wingwalking sorties, which were awesomely impressive at such close quarters!

The first airshow of the year was Old Warden on May 1st, but I covered that in extensive detail – and with almost 70 images! – in my review of the show, so I won’t add any further comment here. The season proper began for me at Abingdon, where everyone and his uncle was in attendance – indeed, it was a wonderfully social event and a day spent in top company. A varied flying programme included a good number of memorable routines – the Fennec, Jet Provost and Jungmeister spring immediately to mind – and the post-show departure of the Bronco was a very welcome addition to an already strong line-up for what is billed as an “Air and Country Show”.

On my way home from Abingdon, I had the (possibly crazy) idea of stopping at Heathrow to shoot some airliners in the terrific evening light. By the time I’d found a spot to park up, said light had dimmed considerably, but I still managed to fire off a few useable shots in some interesting conditions. Someone’s gotta do it...

The following weeks saw a solid, if unspectacular, Duxford airshow and a very soggy Cosford. While Duxford offered some very good flying despite the strong winds that battered the original printed flying programme into submission, it lacked that certain something needed to elevate an event to the next level. The ‘Hunterfest’ at Kemble that followed didn’t suffer from that problem, with a terrific weekend of classic jet action and a tremendous eight-ship Hunter finale that will live long in the memory.

At season’s end, it seems likely to me that the Cotswold Airshow will be regarded as one of the year’s premier events, and rightly so. A multi-layered programme that included model aircraft, parachutists, warbirds, classic jets, modern military, transports, trainers and helicopters gave the punters everything they’d want from a day out and then some. Not to mention that the craic on Saturday night – and a certain Caribbean Delight cocktail – was terrific. I’ll be back next year, without a shadow of a doubt!

A change of pace to the high speed jets was an enjoyable afternoon at Old Warden in July, albeit one which I felt somehow fell short of some recent Shuttleworth Collection events. I agree wholeheartedly with Huw’s sentiments that the mid-section of the show dragged and I came away with mixed feelings; on the one hand, you had the ever-wonderful Edwardians and a number of other nice displays from the local contingent but, in contrast, the middle segment of the programme left me longing for a bit more action.

Perhaps it’s a result of overexposure to the Collection in recent years, having visited a dozen or so times during the last 12 months on airshow days in addition to training week. Either way, I’ll be interested to see how I feel following the Collection’s forthcoming shows in August and September.

The biggest show of the year for me was Flying Legends; I discussed the show at length in my report, but it’s safe to say that the Saturday of this year’s show was my favourite event of the year thus far. Spending four days at Duxford in the company of great aircraft and great people reminded me why I love aviation – you won’t see aircraft and flying like that anywhere else in the UK, that’s for sure. So many great memories, so many great moments, both in the air and on the ground. Indeed, Sunday’s turnout of around a dozen “craic addicts” (to quote Huw) on the tank bank was mightily impressive, though our ever drifting circle may have been cause for irritation for some spectators... As impressive as the flying was – and it was as good as I’ve seen at that event – the people really made the weekend.

RIAT the following week was an interesting one. My brother and I arrived at Rhymes Farm (my first visit to that quite famous Fairford location) at 4pm on Saturday having driven up from London. The couple of hours’ flying we saw from that vantage point was spectacular and in brilliant blue skies and early evening sunlight. Kev Rumens’ Vulcan routine was a particular highlight, and the Tornado GR.4 role demo was proper fist-pumping stuff. It’s an undoubtedly great vantage point, but I think you miss out on the airshow atmosphere that make events like RIAT special. Still, as a quick-stop en route to my hotel, it couldn’t have been any better.

Sunday was spent inside RAF Fairford with Gareth, where we spent most of the day wandering around the static and catching up with people. I can’t really comment on the event in a traditional sense as I didn’t watch it as one normally would and, consequently, I missed a number of displays and watched many others whilst on the move while touring the static but from what I saw, the A-10, Chinook and Turkish F-16 all looked like winners.

I’m currently enjoying a much needed break from airshows, aviation and work (though that didn’t stop me from catching the BBMF Spitfire MkIX night stopping at Manston over the weekend – shame I didn’t have the camera to shoot the lovely low level, topside arrival directly overhead the TG Aviation flying club), spending my days sat by the beach in East Kent. However, the show will soon go on and August should see me attending Eastbourne, Rougham, Shoreham and Dunsfold (what was that I said about taking a break?), all leading up to early September’s big trip to Germany, where Paul Fiddian, Huw Hopkins, my brother and I will head out for the Hahnweide Old Timer’s airshow.

With a star-studded flying programme that includes Me262, EADS Me109, Nord Noratlas, Yak 3, Yak 9, Li-2, Sikorsky S-58 and an outrageously good smattering of other aircraft that are way too numerous to list here, how could it be anything other than awesome?!

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2011-07-31 - Neil McCarthy
Excellent round up Elliott

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