2011 UK Airshows

JUL 01 2011
Airshows >> UK: Cotswold Airshow 2011 - it's a review Jim, but not as we know it.

OK, it's not actually a review as such. We honestly didn't feel that with Gareth's role as a co-commentator, our involvement with the souvenir programme and, new for this year, a partnership with the show conducting official photography, that a straight review was something we should do.

It's all about prejudice you see. It makes some people perversely happy to shadily suggest that we might be biased, a suggestion which both horrifies and amuses everyone we work with, we hasten to add, so, for the avoidance of doubt, this is not a review!

What we thought we'd do instead was hear from some of those who took part and tell you, more generally, what we got up to over the weekend.

Of the GAR team, Karl and I were the first to arrive, on Friday morning. More specifically, Karl was the first to arrive as I was late, something he seems to think I'm quite good at. There was one visit we conducted where he was hopelessly late, but I'm actually struggling to remember which one it was so we'll move swiftly on!

The day promised one thing - a soaking. The weather forecast was nothing short of horrific and one or two phone calls while I was en route to the Cotswold Airport did nothing to allay what was apparently inevitable. The Hawks would be arriving early from RAF Valley in a bid to beat the weather, the same went for Linton's Tucanos and also the Vulcan from Doncaster. Having just about dried out from Cosford the week before it seemed like I was set for another drenching - welcome to summer!

But, miracle of miracles, the rain didn't arrive. Well it did, but not until about 15.00 which was much later than we were expecting it to. I'm not sure why we always trust forecasts of awful weather but look upon those promising good conditions with a raised eyebrow at the very least; that's just human nature I suppose, but at one point the clouds broke and the sun came out - incredible!

Before the heavens did decide to open we witnessed the aforementioned arrival of three Shorts Tucanos, including Flt Lt Dan Hayes' display aircraft, Flt Lt Jules Fleming's painted Hawk with a spare for the weekend and, of course, Vulcan XH558. Rather bizarrely the Vulcan performed a practice over the crowd side of the airfield which would have been interesting had it been 24 hours later, and I'm still not entirely sure why that was, but we weren't complaining! The Black Cats arrived from Yeovilton, as did the DHFS Squirrel and Griffin and Mark Grimshaw in a Gnat - it was all coming together.

Shortly after landing and refuelling, Jules decided to go for a practice, and it was as she was rolling out having landed that the winner of 'Arrival of the Day' turned up. Enter, from crowd right, Jonathon Whaley in Miss Demeanour. He surprised us to be honest, but none more so than Jules who was taxying in at the time and commented afterwards what a great photograph it would have made! Sadly I barely even managed to get my camera to eye level before he'd flown through!

Despite the big grin on his face as he dismounted, it was clear at this point that Miss Demeanour was struggling with a rogue fuel leak, and I managed to spot a drip of fuel while we were discussing it with Jonathon. A quick phone call to Hunter Flying at Exeter who recommended defuelling the aircraft so their engineers could take a closer look, so off went Jonathon again, a practise display the best way to use the remaining fuel and our first sighting of the visually extensive, albeit totally harmless, venting issue.

And with that the rain started to fall. With the Dutch Hunters yet to reach to their stop-off at Manston, which was reporting a 700' cloud base, and Team Viper stranded at Exeter we decided to do what any sane people would have done - checked in the hotel and went to the bar!

Highlights of the weekend - co-commentating once again, the success of Meet The Pilots with the RAF Presentation Team, the Hunter formation, Dan Griffith in the Meteor, spending time with so many friends and colleagues, numerous laughs and, most of all, the outrageous cocktail that Greg Marsh (brother of Elliott) purchased when they visited the hotel on Saturday night! See you next year!

Much like Friday, rain was forecast for Saturday. The one positive thing was that it was supposed to be showers rather than a continual damping like that which had blighted Cosford a week before.

We were on the bus to the airfield at 0800 for the aircrew briefing when the five Hunters of Team Viper were spotted in the distance in formation. The heavens opened literally as the team arrived into the Kemble circuit from Exeter, their journey having been delayed due to Friday's inclement weather conditions.

Word was such in the met brief that it seemed inevitable that some display items would be lost to the weather, but, as it turned out, it was actually quite pleasant between the showers, of which there were only a couple (although I did get absolutely soaked by one of them - primarily as I ended up chasing someone's umbrella across the ramp before delivering it back to them!), and everything that was programmed to display was able to; the jet black clouds even provided some rather striking backdrops at times.

It was great to see that the two Dutch Hawker Hunter Foundation aircraft were finally able to get across to the airfield early on, and what good looking examples they were of the type responsible for providing the main theme of the show.

It's probably fair to say that Jonathon Whaley and Miss Demeanour were treated to bluer skies than almost any of the other participants on Saturday's billing, and they combined quite superbly to make the absolute most of it. At one point, as Flapjack dived in from the left, the whole aircraft was completely engulfed by its own portable cloud. It was just a shame that it was a bit too far away to provide any useable shots.

The Cotswold Airshow lunch break is not everyone's cup of tea but it was nice to be able to get down to the RAF Presentation Team wagon during the break in proceedings where the RAF element of 'Meet the Pilots' was being hosted. It was my first chance to see the operation in action and, judging by the crowds gathered listening to the aircrew, first talking and then answering questions from the audience, it was a massively popular addition to the programme and something that was hugely engaging for those getting involved.

It was during the lunch break that that heaviest downpour came, but it didn't last long and the sun was shining once more for the start of the second part of the programme.

Due to costs and the fact it would have taken up a massive chunk of the budget, Vulcan XH558 displayed on the Saturday only. Getting airborne from the still damp runway, she kicked up a not inconsiderable amount of spray as she prepared to leap into the air - and boy does she leap! After seeing her displayed at a number of venues without taking off and landing, it's easy to forget just how impressive a sight it is to witness her take-off, assisted, no doubt, by the massive weight concession over when she was still an active military asset.

One interesting point, and it's one that came as a surprise to many, was that Sunday's crowd was significantly bigger than Saturday's - and by some margin too. Was it down to Saturday's marginal weather forecast, or people preferring to see the Red Arrows and Tornado GR.4 Role Demo slated for the Sunday rather than the Vulcan?

It's always worth watching the cartridge start of the Venom, and there were two crackers over the course of the weekend. On both occasions the first attempt failed, meaning that there was quite a lot of fuel in the system when the second attempt was made. As the photo shows, who says the Venom doesn't have an afterburning engine?!?

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) contribution was very enjoyable too with Spitfire AB910 flying alongside the Dakota for the early part of their slot, before the former performed some very graceful aerobatic manoeuvres.

Finally, who can forget the Hunter 8-ship? OK, so it wasn't the much hoped for nine, but that shouldn't detract from what was still a fantastic spectacle and a fitting tribute to the aircraft in its 60th year, despite the clouds' best efforts to spoil it.

Back at the hotel, Flapjack showed us some footage from a video camera he had mounted on top of Miss Demeanour, and I think it's fair to say that it looked even more impressive from up there in amongst it!

My weekend highlights? The Hunter formations, obviously, Saturday's solo from Miss Demeanour, Lt Cdr Chris Gotke in the Sea Fury and just the overall ambience of the place. I know it's been said many times before in Kemble/Cotswold Airport event reviews here on GAR, but it really is a friendly, welcoming place.

The most frustrating part of the weekend? Having to wait until after the conclusion of Sunday's flying programme for their to be any real breaks in the cloud. It happens so often at airshows in the UK. Maybe it's time for someone - other than The Shuttleworth Collection and a couple of seaside shows - to take a punt and stage an event that starts and finishes later? Likewise, the fact that April's been arguably the nicest, most consistent weather month of the year for the last few, hasn't gone unnoticed either!

This was my first Cotswold Airshow and, with the lure of Hunters reaching into double figures, I'd booked accommodation in Swindon for two nights so I could attend both days of the show. With a line-up chock-full of classic jets, it wasn't one to miss!

The room in the Swindon hotel that my brother Greg and I were staying in was "snug" to say the least; I'd be surprised if you could fit a bus ticket between the 'twin' beds... Still, it served a purpose. With only a 20-30 minute drive to the airfield, we opted to leave a little later on Sunday morning, stopping to refuel at Costa Coffee on the way. Swindon certainly has one up on Telford in that it boasts a stupendous drive-through Costa; a small step towards the introduction of portable Costa outlets at public events, one hopes...

In truth, I wasn't really feeling up to it on Sunday morning. Saturday's show had been a blinder - a slick flying display, perfectly reasonable weather conditions between the showers with some sunny intervals and a tremendous array of excellent flying displays across the board, be it the belting 'Miss Demeanour' opening solo that reminded me why I love aviation and concurrently reminded everyone in attendance why it's great to be alive (!), or the impressive formation styling of the Ultimate High Extra 300 and Bulldog pair (a sequence that would benefit from having a few minutes trimmed from the running time), and everything in between. The eight-ship finale was the icing on an already diabetes-inducing cake.

I suppose what I'm getting at is that Saturday had ticked all the boxes on the 'what makes an enjoyable day out?' checklist and then some, leading me to question whether I even needed to return on Sunday. It may sound strange, but I didn't think Saturday's show could really be improved upon, and being completely honest, I was right. Sunday's show lacked the punchy flow of day one, with some lengthy gaps between items (that primarily seemed to stem from the undercarriage 'issue' experienced by the Gnat) not helped by the overcast and generally quite gloomy conditions that hung over Kemble until the last half an hour or so of the flying programme - more on that later.

It didn't help that I'd fallen off the wagon (having been "off the booze" for around 18 months) in style the night before, leaving my head a little south of woozy with a mild hangover that could only be cured by a breakfast buffet raid at our hotel in Swindon. For those of you who've noticed an unintentional trend forming in my airshow reviews of late, mine was a full English with all the trimmings, and a fine breakfast it was too! Greg mortified me by returning to our table with a dry slice of wholemeal bread, a hash brown and a lone sausage, the sum total of his breakfast. The aforementioned manly Caribbean Delight cocktail on Saturday night was pushing it, but this was a step too far!

Essentials out the way, we hit Kemble shortly after 10am, parking up behind the Dominie line in the staff car park - prime airshow car parking real estate right there! - and set about touring the static again. The line of classic jets stretching down the cross runway was damn impressive, supplemented by demobbed airline fodder and a couple of gems in Martin Baker's and the locally based, unpainted and recently flown, Meteors. Three Meteors on the ground, in a row: superb! I'm just disappointed that I don't have a shot of the Martin Baker machine with its covers off. Maybe next time...

After catching up with Karl and Gareth, and being ribbed by another Gareth for my choice of Top Gun-style reflector shades, it was time to pick a spot on the line to watch the morning's flying.

I must admit to having been a bit sceptical about the model aircraft displays, having seem some rough examples in my time, but the 'Baby Wingwalkers', US Coast Guard C-130 and Hunter were all terrific models, flown excellently by their owners and a nice prelude to the flying display proper.

The morning slot was concluded, appropriately given their historical links with the airfield, by the Red Arrows. This was the first time I'd seen them in action in 2011, and they seemed to be up to their usual standards, though I'm not sure I'm all too keen on the new twinkle rolls. Don't get me wrong, they look impressive, but they don't really fit with the rest of their display and seem a little out of place, falling somewhere between the big, arcing formation passes and the "high octane" opposition set pieces of the second half.

As the morning rolled into the afternoon, it became clear that the weather wasn't going to do what the met men had said; instead of breaking into glorious sun, it remained dull and cloudy for the vast majority of the afternoon, which didn't exactly help to lift my spirits! Thankfully the rain held off - a good thing, as my umbrella had been viciously slaughtered on Saturday, leaving it mangled beyond recognition - and we did see the sun towards the end of the day. It's a bit of a gut punch when the clouds disappear about 10 minutes after the flying comes to a conclusion, leaving the rows of departing cars perfectly lit...

That isn't, of course, to say that the flying wasn't all excellent. Personal highlights have to be the Sea Fury T.20 solo, a real stormer of a routine that is up there with the best of warbird routines; the Meteor and Venom, exhibiting the old school charisma and graceful dynamism that the 1950s and '60s classic jets possess in spades and the finale - with seven Hunters on Sunday - was a fitting end to a top weekend of flying.

The Wings Venture C-47 Skytrain display was also quite fantastic with plenty of photographic opportunities for the ever growing DSLR brigade and, at the other end of the spectrum, the Black Cats have never looked as good as they did from my vantage point next to the commentary box at crowd centre. Problem is, their impressive mirror formation work is lost on those anywhere other than crowd centre, but there's little they can really do to combat this without restructuring the entire sequence and losing part of what makes the Black Cats such a fine act.

Unfortunately, the gaps really sucked the life out of the afternoon for me and while I couldn't fault the individual participants and their displays, overall it just seemed to fall a little bit flat compared to the previous day's programme. That is no fault of the organisers, I must add - these things are, by the very nature of flying displays, unavoidable.

It probably sounds like I was down on the event and I want to stress that it certainly isn't the case - it was a cracking weekend spent in top company, surrounded by some of the loveliest aircraft out there. While Sunday didn't quite hit the mark, Saturday was as good a flying display as you'll see this year by my reckoning.

Bring on next year, I'll be there with bells on!

Displaying at Kemble was a great privilege, especially bringing the Hawker Sea Fury into an airshow with so many other Hawker-designed aircraft. I wish we had the opportunity to get the Sea Fury in with some of the Hunters as that would have been a great tableau of generations. Kemble is a great venue for displaying the aircraft at its best, due to the lack of restrictions around the airfield.

She is a jet even though she has a piston on the front! We run in at 330 knots and then display around 250. Hawker got the aircraft exactly right with its spring tabs; making it light and predictable throughout the envelope. The only issue is the visibility on the ground but that's a small price to pay for the orchestra that sits in the front. I am so privileged to have the opportunity to not only fly the aircraft but also display it, which in turn will hopefully inspire the younger generation to join the Fleet Air Arm.

Kemble has always been a special place for the RAF let alone the RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Whilst famous for its days as the home of RAFAT it is synonymous with the RAF of yesteryear. It is always a pleasure to return to the Cotswolds where we can be assured of a warm welcome and a 'homely' airshow.

Not the easiest of weekends with the weather bring somewhat breezy, let alone having a Gnat with undercarriage issues! Nonetheless we had a great weekend and look forward to returning in September.

I really enjoyed the whole Cotswold Airshow experience. I thought we were very well looked after, the organisation was fantastic and, for me, the flexibility was great to see throughout the day, particularly as I had to take part in Margate as well.

There was also a great 'family' type atmosphere. On the Sunday, despite still not being able to quite get my full show in, it was the one I've most enjoyed yet. Everything just seemed to work out for me.

A great show! The organisation was of the highest standard and I must say well done to all concerned. As for taking part in the Hunter's 60th anniversary celebration well, that was a completely fantastic experience, history in motion.

For me, this was the first time I had been to the Cotswold Air Show at Kemble. I really like the concept of the show as it is not too large and I felt it had the feel of a local event with a little bit of international flavour. To me this was a show with something for everyone; from enthusiasts, to mums and dads, to kids.

There seemed to be a friendly team organising the show, again probably helped by it not being too big. This particular 'Meet the Pilots' concept was a first for the RAFPT and the interaction we had with the public and the RAF display crews was excellent. Hopefully, something we can build on for next year.

I was delighted to attend and work at the Cotswold Air show this year as part of the RAFPT. Aside from working at the show I also had the opportunity to have a good look around and this gave me the chance to see what else was on display apart from the spectacular flying programme. There were loads of things to do and see, from WWII re-enactments to remote-control car racing and plenty of things to appeal to all ages.

For me it was a very successful weekend both on a professional and a personal level, and I would recommend this show to anybody.

It went very well I thought and, in some ways, especially in terms of attendance, we did better than expected bearing in mind the weather forecast. Saturday we were down on walk-ups, almost certainly due to the rain that was predicted, but Sunday was very busy.

None of the flying disappointed either. The Hunters were a central and essential theme, and, while it was a shame we didn't manage the nine-ship, for reasons beyond our control, everyone who participated did brilliantly. It was great to see the two Dutch aircraft, especially as they both flew in the 50th anniversary celebration, and also Jonathon Whaley in Miss Deameanour, the only pilot who flew in that one and this year's formation.

Another highlight was having three Meteors at the show but really it is unfair to pick any other individual item out as the whole thing went so well.

The show wouldn't happen without the volunteers and they were, as ever, superb for the whole event, well deserving of a huge pat on the back. Two former volunteers also helped in other ways this year with Flt Lt Pete Towill flying in the RAF Merlin in (Pete worked with me on the first ever show here) and Ross Priday helping to arrange for Commandant Central Flying School to bring a Red Arrows' Hawk in for the static - a great coup.

All of the ground entertainment worked excellently and I was very pleased with the layout this year and how well the build went in the run up to the show. Again, the volunteers worked so hard and actually got it all done ahead of schedule! Additions like the lunch time vehicle parade and the presence of Williams F1 went down very well too.

Overall then, another successful show, I think, and we look forward to doing it all again soon!

So then, that concludes our coverage of the 2011 Cotswold Airshow. We hope everyone who attended the show enjoyed it, and don't forget that prints and gifts of almost all of the imagery - and some - can be purchased through the Official Cotswold Airshow Print Store.

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2011-07-04 - Pete Buckingham
I've been volunteering at Kemble's airshow events for some years now, and it is always an amazing experience working for Glen. The events have grown over the years, as have the volunteer team. This year was especially pleasing to work with quite a few new faces on the team who all thoroughly enjoyed the experience! Great memories of the best June event we have done so far - Kemble will always be a special place for many - and the atmosphere every year is amazing! Great non-review written here!

2011-07-02 - Alan Longstaff
Great report guys. Karl you really are trying to tempt me with a picture purchase aren't you, but which one to choose!

As a particpant, I would like to say what an enjoyable show Kemble was. Everyone is really helpful and friendly and the displays this year were amongst the best I have seen, especially the Sea Fury running in on the Saturday - poetry in motion. Just wish I hadn't been so 'cool' that I didn't run up when it taxied in to park next to the Venom on the Sunday - it would have been the icing on the cake to stand next to it and just listen!

A very big thank you to Glen, the staff and all the volunteers for another fantastic weekend. Can't wait for next year!

2011-07-01 - Greg Bishop
Two thumbs-up!! WOWWOWWOW!!

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