Mark Broadbent's 2011 blogGAR Entries

MAY 20 2011
blogGAR: The 2011 Airshow Season

So, the airshow season has begun. And despite doom and gloom at the demise of some of our military aircraft in recent months, and despite the various challenges our airshow organisers and aircraft operators are facing on several fronts, the coming months will provide a great amount of variety and interest across Europe.

Foremost in many enthusiasts’ minds is the Royal International Air Tattoo, this year celebrating its ruby anniversary. For me RIAT actually has one of its strongest flying line ups for a few years, with the kind of variety that has typified Air Tattoo flying schedules since 1971. There’s a particularly good line-up of fast jets. Two of these, the Austrian Air Force Saab 105OE and the Italian Air Force Tornado IDS, have not displayed at an airshow here for years. An Austrian 105 last flew at an airshow in the UK six years ago, and it was back in 2001 (at Mildenhall) that an Italian ‘Tonka’ last displayed at a UK event. RIAT is providing some interesting aircraft this year and, who knows, there may be further surprises in the bag.

There’s more to big military-focused airshows than RIAT, though, and here in the UK Yeovilton Air Day and Waddington are both shaping up nicely. ‘VL’ has the public flying debut of the new AW159 Wildcat, there are Aeronavale Super Etendards and a Luftwaffe F-4F on static and based on previous years, there's still potential for additional foreign military items to be added to the flying line-up, too. Waddington International Airshow 2011 has the only UK appearance of the Thunderbirds during their six-country, five-week European tour as well as Luftwaffe and Italian Typhoons.

In mainland Europe the big Turkish Air Force Anniversary Airshow at Izmir is promising an eclectic selection of military aircraft including appearances by the Pakistan Air Force, which is sending its ‘Sherdils’ aerobatic team (on their first European visit) plus a solo JF-17 ‘Thunder’ and F-16. Izmir will host the Thunderbirds’ first European display – they are also attending the Belgian Air Force 65th Anniversary Airshow at Koksijde, to which many European nations have committed assets.

AIRPOWER11 at Zeltweg in Austria looks impressive, and within this biennial show’s mix of military and civilian aircraft from central and Eastern Europe there is due to be a first European visit by the colourful Saudi Hawks aerobatic team. On the historic side, the Meeting Aerien at La Ferté Alais is set to present its excellent fine mix of classic aircraft and the Hahnweide Oldtimer Meeting in Germany in September has been targeted by many enthusiasts for its mix of fine participants and lush setting.

Back to the UK, and the other large airfield-based airshows look up to their usual standard. Duxford and Old Warden will host their traditional events across the season – the newly-flown Polikarpov Po-2 at Old Warden has already captured the attention. Duxford is of course also home to Flying Legends, which this year has the P-38 Lightning and F-4U Corsair from the Red Bull Flying Bulls at Hangar 7 Salzburg and the return of the ‘Horsemen’ P-51 Mustang display team at the top of the bill – but they will be just some of a number of very special items at a show that always delivers. Contrasting with these larger shows will be the more intimate displays at places like Rougham Air Display & Classic Car Show and Little Gransden Charity Air & Car Show, which have deservedly become ever more popular for their no-hassle, laid-back atmosphere, photographic opportunities and more intimate surroundings.

Of course, amid all this talk of the shows the work the air display acts themselves undertake can get forgotten – and whether they’re military or civilian, the performers will certainly be working hard as ever this year. Their efforts and those of the various functions required to run successful air displays – flying directors and control committees, emergency services, ground exhibitors, volunteer staff, commentary teams and many others – shouldn’t be forgotten.

The Cosford Air Show 2011 and the Shoreham Airshow 2011 will be presenting their usual big mixes of UK military participants, historic aircraft and civilian aerobatics. Both have the Vulcan, with Shoreham also presenting its signature Battle of Britain ‘scramble’. Dunsfold Wings and Wheels, which had its first well-received two-day event last year, will again present another large and varied display. The Cotswold Air Show, which in 2001 presented a memorable 15-ship formation of Sir Sydney Camm’s design classic, will mark this anniversary with a diamond nine formation – the biggest number of Hunters in the air together since that show ten years ago. Expect Hunters at many other venues, too, with the five Team Viper Hunters due at a dozen displays.

This is the Hunter’s year, but the Vulcan will also be busy. Having already debuted at the Abingdon Air and Country Show, it’s currently scheduled for Southend Air Festival (Saturday), Isle of Man TT Festival, Ramsey, Cosford, Margate's Big Event (Saturday), Cotswold Airshow (Saturday), Waddington, Yeovilton and the Northern Ireland International Airshow in Portrush, with others to follow. Other classic jets like Newcastle Jet Provost Group's freshly painted T.3A - XM479, the Vampire Preservation Group's T.11 - WZ507 - at North Weald and the Gnat Display Team will also be displaying this year. East Fortune near Edinburgh, another museum show, will host the only UK flying display of Tony de Bruyn's OV-10 Bronco.

Contrasting with the classic aircraft are the many colourful aerobatic and barnstorming acts on the display scene. The likes of the Breitling Wingwalkers, SWIP Team, RV8tors, RedHawks Duo and The Blades (who, I am told, have developed a couple of new manoeuvres for their display this year) will all be busy. Look out for O'Brien's Flying Circus – Brendan O’Brien’s return to display flying last year with his Piper Cub crazy flying and trailer top landing act brought back a barnstorming style not seen in the UK for some years, and he will be visiting a number of venues with it this year. Patrouille Reva, an unusual French display team flying AcroEz aircraft in an aerial ballet, will be displaying at the Blackpool Airshow in August, the first UK appearance of the team for a few years.

Blackpool will be one of a dozen seaside airshows round the British Isles. Many of the local authority-funded events are looking as fulsome as previous years, despite public sector spending cutbacks. Southend is the first the weekend after next, to be followed by Margate, Swansea (the Wales National Airshow), Southport, Sunderland, Blackpool, Rhyl, Eastbourne, Bournemouth, Portrush, Guernsey and Jersey. All will present their tried-and-tested formulas of a varied flying display combined with a day at the seaside, with Jersey no doubt maintaining its reputation for presenting some truly unique visitors. Sunderland, Eastbourne and Bournemouth will also again present their popular dusk displays. Sanicole Airshow in Belgium, one of Europe’s leading civilian air displays with a varied cast of participants from across the continent, will be repeating its Friday night sunset airshow that acts as a lead-in to the main display on the Sunday. On the same weekend you could attend the Royal Netherlands Air Force Open Dagen, at Leeuwarden this year, the last one for two years following plans announced last year.

The Paris Air Show at Le Bourget in June will host the aerospace world’s movers and shakers. The amazing Solar Impulse solar-powered aircraft will be in attendance, and the rumour is that Boeing might well announce a 737 replacement – or at least confirm that it will later this year. Another French event worthy of attention is the Mondial Air Ballons event in Alsace-Lorraine, Europe’s largest hot air balloon meeting. Across the border in Switzerland, a new show this year will be the Breitling Sion International Airshow, marking the return of a venue that in the 1980s and 1990s hosted a major international air display. In October, Barcelona hosts Festa al Cel, which has gone up a notch in the last couple of years to become a very impressive display attracting and one attracting a range of participants from across Europe.

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2011-05-20 - Peter Fleetwood
Just wanted to thank you for a very helpful overview of the season, which has already sent me looking for more details on a few events. It is good to have information like that on the Bronco's only UK appearance, and nice to have an upbeat tone in the present potentially gloomy atmosphere.... Thanks again.

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