UK Airshows

MAY 02 2012
Airshows >> Preview - Abingdon Air and Country Show 2012

So, after what always feels like an incredibly lengthy off-season, and in the midst of what must surely be the wettest drought ever, we’re about to embark on another airshow-laden few months.

Many airshow goers will be heading to Old Warden or Abingdon this coming Sunday and it is the latter that I’m looking at here. Abingdon is one of those very social occasions that sees friendships being rekindled and provides a great opportunity to catch up with kindred spirits who have also been counting the days until the travelling circus that is the UK airshow circuit hits the road once more.

It is also a very fine family day out and one which always delivers excellent flying, coupled with a veritable potpourri of ground based activities. This of course is all due to the hard word of event organiser Neil Porter and his merry band of volunteers, and this year, Neil seems to have avoided some of the toing and froing with the airfield’s ‘owners’, which means more aircraft will actually be operating from Abingdon during the course of the show. That can only be good news.

As ever, the show gives most people a first look at some of the Royal Air Force’s performers for the season ahead, notably those from 22 (Training) Group. Let's start with the Tucano, and many of you will have seen a lot of Flt Lt Jon Bond’s spectacularly schemed display aircraft, in an online sense at any rate.

Believe me, it looks even better in the flesh and is one of those aircraft that marks an important anniversary, The Queen’s Jubilee. His display is impressive too and, if the weather allows a full routine, look out for one or two very eye-catching manoeuvres that you’ve never seen a Tucano perform before!

Sadly, Flt Lt Phil Bird’s display schemed BAE Hawk has only recently entered the paint shop at RAF Valley, so won’t be joining proceedings at Abingdon on Sunday. Phil will be there, however, albeit in a standard black Hawk, and he will be operating from RAF Brize Norton. We haven’t managed to get across to Anglesey as yet, so can’t provide a sneak preview of the routine this time round, but no doubt all eyes will be on Phil to see what he’s conjured up for the Hawk T.1’s final solo display season.

One familiar face returns to Abingdon as Flt Lt Shaun Kimberley begins his second season in the Grob Tutor, but with a new routine for 2012. When we last spoke, ‘Kimbo’ was saying that while he has less manoeuvres to fly this season, he does have twice as many flicks, and I’m sure everyone will enjoy seeing him put the UK military’s elementary trainer through its paces once again.

The Beechcraft King Air will also be in attendance this time round, making its Abingdon debut, and, in Flt Lt Ian Birchall, we have the man who has finally usurped four year airshow veteran Leon Creese from the role of display pilot! Ian, formerly a Nimrod pilot, was one of Leon’s co-pilots last year, so it’s not all new to him, and he’s joined in the aircraft by Flt Lt Marcus Eyers, who flew both C-17 and Shadow R.1 before joining 45(R) Squadron. Coincidentally, Marcus was on the flight deck with Chris Knight (a former Tutor display pilot), when they brought a C-17 into Abingdon for the 2009 airshow.

Neil has also assembled a more than creditable line-up of display aircraft alongside the designated RAF solos, including a Spitfire from the BBMF, Peter Vacher’s Hawker Hurricane, P-51 Mustang 'Ferocious Frankie', with Alister Kay at the helm, and C-47 Dakota 'Drag ‘em oot', with John Dodd doing the honours.

They will joined by The Classic Flight’s Avro Anson, Dan Griffith in the Bucker Jungmeister, which was stunning in 2011, a Bucker Bestmann, Miles Whitney Straight courtesy of Jez Cooke and the Breitling Wingwalkers' Stearmans.

One of last year’s stars returns, the T-28 Fennec, and, completing the confirmed display programme, we have Richard Grace & Dave Puleston in a pair of Pitts Specials, now displaying as The Trig Aerobatic Team. Just to add that, other than the RAF Hawk and BBMF Spitfire, all the aircraft should be operating from Abingdon on the day.

Neil is also hoping that nearby Brize Norton will chip in with a flypast from an RAF heavy or two, while the aforementioned flying display aircraft will be complemented by a number of static participants.

At the time of writing, this includes Royal Netherlands Air Force Pilatus PC-7, RAF Merlin, DH60 Moth, Tiger Moth and Chipmunks.

Other planned attendees are Bulldog, Zenair Zodiac, Luscombe, TB10, Auster, C172, Harvard, Stearman, Jodel and an Abingdon regular, Tony de Bruyn’s wonderful ex-German Air Force OV-10 Bronco.

Entertainment on the ground is extensive, and varied, including falconry demonstrations, ferret racing, Punch & Judy show, Formula One car, various kids' amusements, trade stalls & crafts, flight simulators, aircraft cockpits, Oxford Harmony acapella group and Viv O'Gara’s Irish dancers.

That's not all - vintage vehicles, live music by rock artist Rick Chase, Abbey Brass Band, arena displays, including an MG Car Works and vintage police car parades, World War Two encampment, Dukes of Hazzard 'General Lee' car and much more – phew!

Plenty there to keep anyone happy, I should think, and it all adds up to an attractive day out.

Crucially, and it's important not to lose sight of this, the event donates very generously to the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust, which is based at nearby RAF Benson. Almost £25,000 has been donated to date, and that's further testament to Neil and his team.

He has, as you can see, once again done very well to put together a strong show to get things up and running for 2012. One that will attract far more than just aviation enthusiasts and should, all being well, result in another healthy cheque for the air ambulance.

Let’s hope the weather plays ball and I look forward to seeing you there.

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