2011 UK Airshows

APR 19 2011
Airshows >> UK: Abingdon Air and Country Show 2011 - Preview Vulcan, XH558 AACHF Scout

Who can forget Abingdon last year? For a whole host of reasons Neil Porter probably wants to in all honesty, but it was to the great credit of him and his team that the show went ahead at all.

A quick recap (and you can also check out the PlanesTV video below), courtesy of the man himself: "Well, as many Abingdon regulars know, we had the plug pulled from us with regards to operating any fixed wing aircraft from the airfield just prior to the 2010 show.

"So, apart from the anger and frustration everyone was feeling, we were left with no choice but to quickly re-organise the whole flying display programme - almost overnight! We were still trying to set up the remaining infrastructure while making new plans to send some of the acts to nearby RAF Brize Norton and Oxford Airport or arranging direct transits to Abingdon to display and depart.

"All this meant additional expenditure as I then decided to expand the flying display to try and make up for the lack of assets on the ground (no static aircraft), and even getting the helicopters in was hard work!"

As I said in my review of the 2010 show, Defence Estates' decision to cancel fixed wing operations due to the alleged unsuitability of the runway seemed at the very least like "heavy handed and last minute beaurocracy" and to see VGS Vigilants happily operating from the airfield the day before the show merely rubbed salt in to what was still a very open wound.

"Technically, we have shown over the years, the useable area of the main runway (we don't use the starter strips due to surface delamination) is in almost exactly the same condition as it was when we operated everything from microlights & props through to light jets (Hawks for example) and even up to the C-17 Globemaster safely," says Neil.

Merlin HC3A ZJ990/AA Jet Provost T3 XM479

"We go to meticulous lengths to ensure the airfield and operating surfaces including the runways are fit for purpose which includes FOD sweeps and visual checks.

"We also have a wealth of support from many professionals, both serving and retired, who also give up their time and give advice, which has astounded us as proved in 2010.

"RAF Benson has used Abingdon frequently since the RAF vacated the airfield back in 1992 and uses the site for training with its Puma and Merlin helicopters. Also, the (aforementioned) based 612 VGS flies its Grob Vigilant fixed wing motorgliders most weekends, and Abingdon hosts visits from other types such as the odd Chinook and Apache and even the occasional C-130 conducting NVG (night vision goggle) sorties.

"An annual inspection is carried out by both the based VGS and the Central Flying School and we observe the airfield's condition over the course of the year with our specialists too. Defence Estates has also started carrying out its own checks but it seems to result in a conflicting outcome somehow."

While the situation has not been completely resolved for the 2011 show, the news is at least better than last year as Neil explains:

"We have managed to reach a compromise with Defence Estates this year so although there will be no jets or heavies operating from the airfield during the show, we are allowed props and helicopters on the ground. This is a vast improvement over 2010, and there will be more on the ground and a multitude of types in the flying display."

Team Osprey G-BUTX Bucker Jungmeister

He's certainly not wrong there, and confirmed displays include seasonal debuts for three of the 2011 Royal Air Force training aircraft - Tutor, Tucano and Hawk - and the possibility of flypasts from some (or hopefully all!) of VC10, C-17 and C-130; all dependent on operational commitments, obviously.

The BBMF is sending a Spitfire and the display will see participation from a host of civilian acts with regulars like the Pembroke and Vampire, through to the renamed Glider FX & SWIP teams. The Bucker Jungmeister will be something new for Abingdon in so far as a biplane display goes, as well as Team Osprey and its three Yaks, the Harvard will be a welcome sight not seen anywhere near enough at UK shows and Neil McCarthy's Jet Provost will be debuting its new paint scheme.

With the addition of the Princess of Wales Army Freefall team, who will jump from a Skyvan, and the traditional show opening flypast from the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust EC135, once again the show's main benefactor, there's real variety there.

WV740 Pembroke Shorts Skyvan G-BEOL

But there is one item we've not mentioned yet isn't there? What could that be I wonder?

"Our star this year is undoubtedly the first appearance in 2011 of the mighty Avro Vulcan," says Neil. "This is something I have been working on for the last two months to see if it was viable for the show.

"My view is that it's not gong to be around for too much longer and this is probably our best chance ever to secure it for Abingdon, especially with the aircraft being ready early this year. We really hope it will pull in more paying punters which in turn obviously generates more money and a better donation to the local Air Ambulance.

Flt Lt Shaun Kimberley, 2011 Tutor Display Pilot

"The Vulcan is one of my personal favourites so I'll also be able to tick another item off my own 'wishlist', which adds to the likes of the RNLAF F-16 last year, RAF Jaguar and Polish Naval M28 Bryza in 2005, bringing the first jet back to officially land on-site in 2003..the list goes on."

On top of an approximately four hour flying display the static this year is still coming together but, all being well, could comprise the likes of Team Merlin and a Puma, both from RAF Benson, and of course most of the flying display (prop) aircraft including Tucano and Tutor which will be alongside the beautiful OV-10 Bronco owned by Tony De Bruyn, another Harvard, RAF 612 VGS Grob Vigilants and an RAF King Air from Cranwell. Around 25 light general aviation types will also be on view, weather permitting.

While a pair of United States Army UH-60 Blackhawks had planned to attend from SHAPE, one of the Show's most loyal supporters, this is now in doubt for operational reasons however.

Vampire T11 WZ507 / G-VTII

Abingdon is very much a family show and that is reflected in the pot pourri of ground based entertainment which forms the 'country show' element of the day. This has also grown this year and will include a bigger craft tent, Punch and Judy show, thatching demonstrations, ferret racing and Oxfordshire based rock guitarist Rick Chase will be performing live music. Rick is also Chief Engineer for Peter Vacher's locally based Hurricane by the way! Arena displays, AT&T Williams F1 Car, a small farmers' market, vintage cars and the Abingdon MG Car Works Rally complete the list.

There will also be an Official DVD / Blueray available of the show from PlanesTV.

Hard to argue with any of that for a show of Abingdon's size and, in all honesty, hats off to Neil and his team for going ahead at all, especially as I haven't even mentioned the weather for the 2010 show yet either. Crikey it was cold! Absolutely freezing, with rain in the morning and only the briefest spells of brightness in the afternoon, I'm sure everyone will be hoping for something a little more seasonal this time round. See you there!

G-TWST Silence Twister SHAPE UH-60

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2011-05-06 - Dunk
This is a great show, the organisers do a cracking job, shame they have lost so many participants late on, and the weather is yet again going to be against them. I am sure the punters will still flock in given the Vulcan factor.

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