2012 UK Airshows

JUN 22 2012
Airshows >> UK: Review - Dawlish Air Show 2012

Year on year, despite the financial uncertainty the show has to deal with, Dawlish comes up trumps. The 2012 show was to feature a bumper flying programme - the largest yet - featuring many stalwarts of the UK airshow scene, and all put-together on a shoe-string budget in comparison with many other events; a testament to the tireless work put into organising the show by Kev Wills and his team.

The change of date, from the traditional August carnival week, to June, also brought about a change of format to the show, with the event held over two days, incorporating Armed Forces Day on the Thursday, with the main event taking place on the Friday.

The Thursday provided an opportunity for the public to meet and greet some of the display pilots and crews that would take to the air the following day, as well as plenty of additional attractions, including the ever popular pilots' party and fundraising that took place during the evening. All of these help raise the all-important funds, without which, the show could not survive. It certainly proved a popular addition to the event, with the locals coming out in healthy numbers and enjoying the exhibits on offer, despite pretty dreadful weather.

On the subject of the weather, it would be fair to say Dawlish was due a good year, having endured rather grim conditions since 2010, with 2011 being affected particularly badly. Sadly, not even the new date could bring a change of fortune with the weather Gods - unseasonably strong winds, and largely overcast conditions prevailing throughout, save for an occasional appearance by the sun, making things less than comfortable for spectators and pilots alike.

With the winds affecting much of the country, it was inevitable that many of the lighter acts would have to cancel their displays on safety grounds. This amounted to the loss of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, RAF Sea King and Tutor, the RedHawks, the Breitling Wingwalkers and Dragon Rapide, which was also forced to cancel the planned Pleasure Flying from Exeter Airport.

In spite of these setbacks, however, the organisers managed to maintain a largely fluid display with those acts that were able to participate. Special mention must go to The Blades and the SWIP Team, both of which faced a tough task battling through the winds just to make it to Dawlish, let alone display!

Returning to Dawlish after making their first appearance at the show in 2011, The Blades are always good value, with their varied routine featuring a range of impressive and unusual manoeuvres that push the aerobatic envelope of their Extra 300 aircraft. In contrast, the SWIP Team run their pair of Silence Twisters through a rather more gentle, but no less impressive, sequence making for an extremely graceful display.

John Beattie has become a real Dawlish favourite, having displayed a range of types from Kennet Aviation’s stable of vintage aircraft at Dawlish over the years. It was hoped that he would display the mighty Douglas Skyraider this year, but technical problems with the aircraft put an end to that. A shame, as it would have been a fantastic sight to see such a brute flown over the bay.

Not one to disappoint, however, John instead jumped into Kennet’s T-6 Texan, an aircraft that doesn’t tend to get too many airshow outings, which is a shame given how well it performed at Dawlish, flying a classic sequence.

The UK armed forces are ardent supporters of Dawlish, with this year’s show seeing a healthy contingent of aircraft from the RAF and Royal Navy. Making their Dawlish debut were the Royal Navy Black Cats, flying a pair of Lynx HMA.8 aircraft, one of which was painted up in the familiar, and rather fetching display scheme. As ever, the team put on a superb show that fully demonstrates the Lynx’s agility, and which proved very popular with the appreciative crowds.

Further Royal Navy participation came in the form of a familiar participant at Dawlish, the Sea King HU.5 from 771 NAS at RNAS Culdrose, which performed a demonstration of its primary role of Search and Rescue in conjunction with a lifeboat from the RNLI, at Teignmouth. It was hoped that its RAF counterpart, the HAR.3, would perform a similar role demonstration, but sadly the wind prevented the aircraft from getting to Dawlish – it was too blowy to even open the hangar doors at Chivenor on Friday morning!

The same can be said of the RAF Tutor display, sadly, but the other three training types were on hand to perform their displays. Opening proceedings was Flt Lt Jon Bond in the Tucano. Fittingly, ‘Bondy’s’ display aircraft for this season is painted in a striking Jubilee-themed colour scheme, adding a much needed splash of colour to an otherwise, largely grey afternoon.

Following on immediately after the Tucano was Flt Lts Ian Birchall and Marcus Eyers in the King Air, which performed a typically spirited display for what is essentially a small airliner, this including one or two close passes to those gathered on the hill. Completing the trio of trainers was the Hawk, flown by Flt Lt Phil Bird. It was hoped Dawlish would see the debut display of the superb new colour scheme for this season, but it wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, this year’s display looks equally good in a black jet as it does in red white and blue, with the dirty pass into a slow loop being a particularly enjoyable element of the routine.

Of course, no show at Dawlish is complete without an appearance by the crowd favourite Red Arrows. They were sadly missed at last year’s event, having been beaten by the weather. Even with the strong winds, there were no such problems this time round, with the Reds arriving over the town, from crowd rear, to rapturous applause and cheering from the gathered masses.

Following the awful events the team endured last year, the Reds are flying a reduced seven-ship display for 2012. Whilst the dynamic element of the display suffers a little, the routine as a whole is as tight, precise, and well flown as ever. One fitting touch is the inclusion of a memorial pass in honour of Jon Egging and Sean Cunningham, whereby Reds 4 and 5 trail red smoke in tribute to the two pilots who so tragically lost their lives in 2011.

The Red Arrows epitomise everything that is special about the Dawlish Air Show. The natural amphitheatre provided by the bay and its surroundings mean there really is no better venue from which to watch a Reds' display.

Despite a few weather-induced setbacks, Dawlish once again put on a successful and entertaining display. As ever, the show relies entirely on donations to sustain itself, so hopefully those who came down to enjoy the show put their hands in their pockets, bought a souvenir programme and threw a few quid in the buckets.

That way we can all enjoy this wonderful event again next year.

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2012-07-01 - keith clegg
i was there on the day and have to say your write up hit the nail on the head well done and thank you.it should encourege people to come back next year.we are hopeing 4 a small display here in minehead on aug 15th

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