Cotswold Airport - Kemble to you and I - has built an enviable reputation amongst airshow goers and organisers alike for its well rounded line-ups, but it's unquestionably the Classic Jet connection for which Kemble is considered synonymous.
The weather across the two days of the show was markedly different, with Saturday's cold, biting, on-crowd wind and largely overcast conditions giving way to stunning, almost unbroken sunshine and a considerably warmer feel for day two. Of course, one of the pitfalls of day-specific advanced ticket sales - albeit at preferred rates - is that the weather can easily come back and bite you, and you couldn't help but feel a little sorry for those committed to attend on the Saturday.
Looking at the programme on Friday afternoon and hearing of the cancellations of both the static Royal Air Force C-130J Hercules and C-17 Globemaster - the last named for entirely understandable operational commitments - I couldn't help but feel that the show lacked some of the spark of recent years. 2007 and 2008's line-ups were each able to boast the RAF's highly acclaimed but short-lived "Role Demo", while in 2009 the Sea Vixen and Vulcan (both aircraft that are still not ready to embark upon the 2010 display season) featured in the flying display.
RAF participation in general terms, though still well supported, was also down on previous years, with the Red Arrows, Typhoon, Tucano, BBMF and, on Saturday only, a single flypast from a Tristar, partaking in the flying display, while Kemble stalwarts, VC10, Hawk, Merlin and Griffin were joined by a Grob Tutor in the static park.
What had seemingly become something of a permanent fixture at Kemble, the Hawk Display from 4 FTS at RAF Valley, found itself on duty in France, and another present in each of the two years that the display has existed, the King Air from 45(R) Sqn, was having a weekend off.
Maybe it was more noticeable coming, as it did, off the back of the superb line-up that RAF Cosford - which itself had been the subject of much criticism over participation in recent times - had assembled just a week before. With Tornado GR.4 and Harrier GR.9 role demos back on the circuit for 2010, as well as the excellent Typhoon and Spitfire paired sequence, it really did hit home just what a shame it is that they're only set to feature at the biggest events, because any one of them would've made a massive impact here.
Kemble events are also well known for what is often referred to as "Kemble Moments" - in essence unusual formation flypasts. 2008 saw a pair of Tornado F.3s in diamond formation with two of Delta Jets' Hunters, while 2009 featured two, both involving a Delta Jets Hunter, initially with Air Atlantique Classic Flight's Meteor and later with the Rolls-Royce Spitfire PR.XIX. It was curious, therefore, that none of this was on offer this year….
So those were my preconceptions, but I have to say that what was on offer was hugely varied, provided me with a few 'firsts' and was thoroughly enjoyable, even on Saturday when the weather was less than ideal.
Somehow I'd always managed to miss Team Viper during their debut season in 2009 and, while some of the reports I'd heard were not especially complimentary, I have to say that I thought they were very good indeed - particularly on Saturday, where their routine was extremely tight and tidy. It certainly sounds as if there are some interesting things afoot for the team too!
Making a welcome return to the circuit - and passing under quite a few radars while doing so - was Brendan O'Brien and his Flying Circus. Commencing with a 'crazy flying' sequence, Brendan then attempted to land his modified Piper Cub (shortened wings for increased roll rate) on top of a trailer being towed down the runway. Unfortunately the crosswind made it all but impossible on each of the show days - though he did at least touchdown on it on the Sunday, albeit without the clamps locking the aircraft down - but we did witness a successful practice on Friday.
Making their public display debut at the show were The Renegades, a civilian parachute team made up of members of the resident UK Skydiving organisation. The An-2 Club's aircraft, HA-MKF, acted as jumpship for Saturday's performance, while Invicta Aviation's Shorts Skyvan, G-BEOL, was utilised on Sunday. For an act making their debut they were pretty good, and were well received by the crowd.
The Royal Navy Black Cats have new personnel for 2010 and Lt Becky Frater has taken over as Black 1, becoming the first female member of the team in the process, while Lt Chris Chambers has come in as the new Black 2. It may well have been related to our position close to crowd-centre, but this year's routine seemed to offer a lot more photographic opportunities than in recent years - and responsibility for that couldn't even be attributed to the weather, as Gareth and I both commented on how impressed we were in the murk during the team's Friday practice!
Like so many other shows this year, the headline theme was the 70th anniversary of that most important of aerial conflicts, the Battle of Britain, although serviceability issues and, on the Saturday, out of limits crosswinds at RAF Coningsby scuppered the plan somewhat.
Indeed, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight had been scheduled to attend each day with their Dakota, a Spitfire and a Hurricane, but alas only the Spitfire made it through on Saturday, while only the Dakota was able to display on the Sunday - though the silver Mk IXe Spitfire was at least present on the ground.
A special set-piece to commemorate the anniversary had also been planned, comprising of Jon Corley in Air Atlantique Classic Flight's Anson, Carl Schofield in Peter Vacher's Battle of Britain veteran Hurricane Mk 1, Peter Teichman in his own Hangar 11 Hurricane Mk IIB 'Hurri-bomber', along with the obligatory 'bad guy', who always seems to be Clive Denney, in an Me108! As it turned out, despite the best efforts of those at Coventry, the Anson could not be made serviceable in time and so was replaced by the collection's Rapide (known as a Dominie by the RAF) instead - a more than capable stand-in.
The set piece began with the Rapide taking to the skies and performing a series of passes up and down the length of the crowdline before being set upon by the Me108 - complete with pyros - as it worked its way up and down the airfield. The '108's arrival signalled the appearance of the two Hurricanes, which taxied out, took off and set about dealing with this hostile intruder - which of course they did with great aplomb.
With the 108 no longer in the picture, Messrs Schofield and Teichman claimed centre stage, initially with something of a tail-chase, and then later with individual displays of their respective aircraft. Sunday was the first opportunity I'd had to see 'Pegs', Teichman's charge, display in sunshine and it really was a joy to behold with countless loops and topside passes against the stunning blue backdrop.
And of course, who could forget the magnificent looking Tucanoes from 1 FTS at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, themselves painted in a superb camouflage colour scheme in acknowledgement of the significance of this year. Flt Lt Tom Bould once again put on faultless displays each day, and I just love both of his stall turn manoeuvres.
A significant proportion of the commentary was given over to coverage of the anniversary during Sunday's show, with Dilip Sarkar, author of some 30 books on the battle and recipient of the MBE for services to aviation history, providing fascinating comment and insight at several key points, as well as during the lunch break.
With Cotswold Airport playing home to Delta Jets, themselves operators of the type perhaps most associated with the airfield today - the Hawker Hunter - the 2010 event once again featured a strong presence from the Classic Jet community; although not quite as comprehensive as had been planned, with Air Atlantique Classic Flight's Meteor still experiencing nosewheel issues that had prevented its attendance at RAF Cosford a week earlier.
Come Saturday afternoon no less than eight variants of Jet Provost and Strikemaster could be found on the flightline, as well as Air Atlantique Classic Flight's pair of Venoms - the only airworthy examples in the UK - the Vampire Preservation Group's Vampire T.11, and the black Hunter T.7 belonging to Delta Jets. Naturally, all flew, although the Jet Provost 'four' evolved into just two solos (Neil McCarthy in the Newcastle Jet Provost T.3A and John Dodd in Air Atlantique Classic Flight's T.5 - an aircraft that only received its permit the day before the show) on Sunday.
As someone who primarily considers himself to be a photographer, light - rightly or wrongly - plays such an integral part in my enjoyment of a show, and if Saturday was good - as it was - Sunday was just phenomenal! Andy Cubin's display in the Hunter just looked amazing against the blue. You would not believe how many times I've photographed that aircraft and almost always in grey skies or from a position where the light wasn't particularly favourable - certainly never in such good conditions as we were treated to on Sunday; the same goes for the Newcastle Jet Provost too!
Of course, Cotswold Airport is not just home to Delta Jets, and newly resident Spitfire Mk 1 AR213 (flown by Jonathan 'Flapjack' Whaley on Saturday and Phil 'Pod' O'Dell on Sunday), C-47A Skytrain N1944A (captained by Andrew Davenport), as well as one of Ultimate High's Extra 300s (flown by Mark Greenfield) all also took their places in the flying display. Anyone who's been to Kemble before will know that the Classic Jet connection extends beyond airworthy airframes too, and it was particularly nice to see the specially marked Canberra PR.9 taxied up and down the runway prior to each day's flying.
From the general public's point of view the undoubted star of the show was Flt Lt Tim Clement, 2010's 29(R) Sqn Typhoon Display Pilot, whose weekend was a busy one, taking in additional displays at Margate on Saturday and the MotoGP at Silverstone on Sunday. It has been noted already, but TC really does seem to make the Typhoon roar louder than any of those that have gone before him, and, unsurprisingly, his routine received rapturous applause from a highly appreciative crowd. TC clearly appreciates the whole PR 'thing' too, and it was great to see him not only taxi in waving to his admirers, but also rush over to the crowdline to meet some of them after shutting down. The looks on the faces - both young and old - said it all.
Display teams did feature quite prominently in the flying programme and, returning to their spiritual home, the Red Arrows were as popular as ever, all but closing the show on Saturday and opening the flying display on Sunday. They were particularly slick during the latter performance; a tremendous testament to the hard work and dedication of the team following their unfortunate, yet at the same time extremely lucky, accident during pre-season training in Greece. It was great to see Flt Lt Mike Ling, this year's intended Red 6, on the ground with the team and looking so well following his enforced ejection.
Saturday was a particularly busy day for the Swift Aerobatic Display Team and their arrival provided a rather unusual photographic opportunity, with both Silence Twisters flanking the Pawnee tug and Swift glider. After breaking ranks, the Twister Duo, flown on this particular occasion by Pete Wells and Guy Westgate went straight into their routine, while Ian Gallacher (in the Pawnee) and Mike Newman (in the Swift) climbed to altitude for the start of the glider element. Mike - a highly competent aerobatic glider pilot in his own right - has been Guy's protégé for some time and we can probably expect to see an increasing number of appearances by him as the season progresses.
The honour of closing the show on Sunday fell to the Jez Hopkinson-led Yakovlevs, a four-ship comprising three Yak-50s and a single Yak-52. Prior to this year's Cosford Airshow I'd only seen the team display once - here at Kemble in 2009 - and they've made a real impression on me with their extremely graceful, tight, smoke-trailing routine.
And so, Cotswold Air Show 2010 drew to a close. What on paper had, arguably, looked a little light actually ended up providing a highly entertaining, impressively varied, jam-packed, nigh-on six hour flying programme. Yes, another modern fast-jet routine would have been nice, but that shouldn't detract too much from what was otherwise a very well choreographed and executed display.GAR wants to interact with its readers so if you have a question for the author or a comment to make on this feature, please click on the button below. The best comments will appear right here on GAR.
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2010-07-02 - Ian Gallacher
I enjoyed my day and it was great to catch up with Karl.
2010-06-29 - roger cyster
Having been going to Kemble since the inception of this show I thought that there was something lacking this year.
Booked in advance for 3 people for the Saturday & arrived at 7.45, tickets portion taken when we arrived so left other piece of ticket in car only to be told you can't come in without it; a rather annoying start.
I thought as did my friends that there were too many gaps between participants, though the Typhoon display was good as were the Arrows, but no Hawk, Chinook &, i may have missed it, no reason given for the lack of the static aircraft as mentioned in your report.
As i am an aircraft engineer for BA i can quite understand the lack of serviceabilty of some aircraft but at least it would have been nice to be told why.
It was also pointed out to me on the way out - which again i thought was poorly organised - that it is cheaper to go to Biggin Hill !!
Off to Duxford for Flying Legends so hope that is a good show.
Sorry one last gripe, the same every year a lack of public convieniences !!
2010-06-29 - grahame foskew
Thanks for the mention of our An-2, HA-MKF. Great weekend. Well done Glen and the team.
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