2012 Articles

SEP 21 2012
Airshows >> UK: RAFA Shoreham Airshow 2012 - Review

It’s fair to say that the organisers of the RAFA Shoreham Airshow were dealt a bit of a duff hand by the weather Gods this year, with some downright grotty weather bringing with it a very low cloud base and generally dull conditions on Saturday while Sunday was on the verge of a washout until a break in the rain saw flying commence early afternoon. Despite the usual UK airshow weather-based moans, Shoreham was, as ever, a very entertaining day out with some excellent individual displays scattered throughout the flying programme.

The RAFA Shoreham Airshow’s main theme for 2012 was the 100th anniversary of the Central Flying School and there was certainly a sizeable gathering of RAF training types in attendance, ranging from the likes of the venerable de Havilland Tiger Moth to the present day solo demonstrations from the Tucano, Hawk and King Air. Shoreham’s anniversary celebrations really spanned the last 70 years, with the earliest trainers present being the nine de Havilland Tiger Moths of the Tiger Nine team, the 21st century reincarnation of the Diamond Nine Tiger Moth team who graced the UK airshow circuit for many years.

Taking us through the decades hence were the de Havilland Chipmunks of the Red Sparrows display team, flying a sedate sequence of formation passes, followed by a fine solo routine by the Scottish Aviation Bulldog, two aircraft really synonymous with RAF training until as recently as the 1990s. Kicking the power up a notch was a duo display, and subsequent solos, by the Newcastle Jet Provost Group’s Jet Provost T3, in the hands of its owner Neil McCarthy, and Heritage Aviation’s Jet Provost T5, piloted by Dan Arlett of Team Viper fame. The individual displays in particular were very smoothly flown.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, and in a sequence unique to the RAFA Shoreham Airshow, was the simultaneous launch of two EON Olympia 2B gliders, towed aloft by gliderFX’s Piper Pawnee. The two EON gliders flew a really quite lovely sequence of close formation wingovers and high altitude passes before landing almost in formation – a very unusual and well-received act, certainly.

Bringing the CFS100 theme into the present day were the three RAF trainer displays by the Tucano T.1, Hawk T.1 and King Air B200. It is worth noting that the Tucano and Hawk seemed closer and more impactful than ever before, perhaps in part due to the nature of the flat displays they were forced to fly by the low cloud. Unfortunately, the King Air lacked the punch of its single-engine fighter pilot trainers, with the 2012 routing being distinctly disjointed compared to previous years.

Representative of one of the types trainee RAF pilots may eventually end up flying in frontline service are the Tornado GR.4s of XV(R) Squadron, whose role demonstration was sadly downgraded to only two passes (fewer than hoped for due to fuel concerns). While this was understandable, there was an air of disappointment rippling through the crowds when the team’s commentator announced that the GR.4s would only be flying by twice; this was only exacerbated when the Tornados disappeared into the distance to reposition for their second run, during which a number of spectators near me could be hear questioning why that time couldn’t have been spent making another flypast. The final, low-level high-speed run was as impressive as ever, but it all felt a bit flat given the pre-show advertisement of the full role demo.

Of most interest to your author was the sizeable historic aircraft contingent assembled at the RAFA Shoreham Airshow 2012. Heading the bill was the traditional Battle of Britain ‘scramble’ and dogfight set-piece, this year incorporating three Spitfires, two Hurricanes, the Hispano Aviacion HA-1112 Búchon and Messerschmitt Me-108 (the Nord Pingouin, for the purists). As we’ve come to expect from Shoreham, the battle sequence was expertly choreographed with pyrotechnics and action aplenty during the initial airfield attack; less dramatic was the more sedate mock-dogfight between the pair of Hurricanes – the Historic Aircraft Collection’s MkXII, flown by Dave Harvey, and Peter Vacher’s MkI, in the hands of Carl Schofield – which seemed to lack some of the impact of previous years for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on.

This was all eclipsed, in my opinion, by the superb Spitfire three-ship display which followed, opening with a couple of vic-three formation passes before the trio split into a tail-chase which saw John Romain, flying the absolutely beautiful MkI – perhaps the finest warbird currently gracing the airshow circuit – leading Charlie Brown in HAC’s MkV and Dave Ratcliffe in the Aircraft Restoration Company’s twin-seat MkTIX.

The Spitfire cavorted around the breaking skies, finally enjoying a gentle dappling of sun, flying tight barrel rolls and graceful wingovers in a lengthy sequence that was rounded off by a sublime solo display by John Romain (a man surely destined to be remembered in the same class at the Hannas, Greys and Hintons of the world, if indeed he is not already), demonstrating just what a manoeuvrable machine the pure MkI is; a real master class in warbird flying, which drew a large round of applause from the aircraft park upon John’s shutdown. One elderly gentleman’s cry of “Beautiful flying, sir” as John exited the aircraft said it all.

Additional historic aircraft content came courtesy of the Old Flying Machine Company, whose Spitfire MkIX and P-51D Mustang duo is always a highlight at any airshow. On this occasion, Brian Smith in Spitfire MH434, perhaps the most famous of the surviving Spitfires, led Alister Kay in ‘Ferocious Frankie’; somewhat restricted by the cloud base, Brian and Alister flew a flat display, but my word, what a display it was, with plenty of low sweeping passes and close banking passes. Formation flying at its most exemplary.

Peter Teichman has always been a strong supporter of the RAFA Shoreham Airshow and 2012 was no exception, with the Essex businessman bringing on this occasion the Hawker Hurricane MkIIb and P-51D Mustang from his Hangar 11 Collection at North Weald. While Peter’s display in the Hurricane was, again, a little restricted by the weather, his Mustang routine came towards the end of the programme when the clouds had lifted and the sun tried valiantly to burn through the milky evening light.

Further ‘heavy iron’ over Shoreham this year included two Duxford regulars in the shape of B-17 Flying Fortress ‘Sally B’ and its hangar two north stable mate, Plane Sailing’s Catalina. The B-17 is always an impressive sight when displaying at a smaller venue such as Shoreham and she was flown beautifully over the weekend; she’s a flying memorial many take for granted, and one which we cannot afford to lose. Those mournful Wright Cyclones evoke so many emotions as she banks past, it’s hard not to just put the camera down and soak it all in.

Sadly, poor weather meant that the crowds were denied an appearance by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Avro Lancaster, with the Lanc’ and Hurricane curtailing their routine after two passes, leaving the stage to the Spitfire MkV which, it must be said, flew a very punchy display with a bit more verve than usual. It seems a shame that the other two aircraft departed so soon, as the Spitfire ended up displaying in the first of the day’s sun – while there’s no question that these aircraft shouldn’t be risked, one does wonder whether canning their display was perhaps a little premature.

The third four engine heavy bomber at Shoreham was, I suspect, the one that many people had come to see. Yes, that (in)famous old gal, Avro Vulcan! ‘558 was on fine form at Shoreham, with a terrific ‘Vulcan howl’ directly in front of the crowd during one of the 360 degree orbits and, on three occasions, vapour burst from the wing tips and over the upper surface of the aircraft – very impressive, and not something I’ve seen before! The Vulcan teamed up with The Blades’ four Extra 300s for a loose formation flypast on the Sunday, something which has happened several times in the past but never before in public.

As often happens, once the Vulcan had departed, the crowdline began to thin quite dramatically; no bad thing really, given the number of people who needed to get out of the car park and indeed, an hour or so later and any traffic had seemingly subsided. Maybe that’s the real Vulcan effect; it’s a very effective car park clearer!

In contrast to the Vulcan’s power (which, thankfully, was in abundance at Shoreham – not so the case the following week at Duxford) were a trio of trainers from the USA and Germany. Heading the pack was Richie Piper in his Ryan PT-22 Recruit, an aircraft enjoying a busy year with many airshow appearances up and down the country over the last few months. The Ryan has bags of charisma as an airshow ‘act’ and Richie’s display is certainly one for the historic enthusiasts to watch, with about as my dynamism as you could expect to see from a PT-22!

Also impressive was Will Greenwood’s mildly aerobatic outing in the Bücker Bestmann, again joined by Alex Smee in Gordon Brander’s silver Bücker Jungmeister. While Will has perhaps toned down the wingovers that wowed me at Abingdon, it’s still a very flowing and photogenic display. It’s great to see lighter vintage aircraft like this being booked at airshows large and small; as a huge historic aviation enthusiast, displays like this are right up my street!

Turning the clock right back to the early days of aviation and the air combat over Europe during 1914-1918 were the Great War Display Team, an act deserving of such much more praise than they receive. These guys put on a brilliant swirling aerial cavalcade, keeping the action flowing at all times and creating the illusion of a sky full of frenetically dogfighting aircraft. At a smaller airfield like Shoreham, they’re pure poetry in motion. It’s also worth noting that ‘Aircraft’ magazine editor, RIAT/Duxford commentator and journalist Ben Dunnell provided some of the finest commentary I’ve heard for the GWDT; get that man at Old Warden!

Elsewhere in the packed programme – starting at shortly after 10.30am and continuing until gone 5.30pm, not bad for what is either the UK’s biggest small show or smallest big show! – were some of the UK’s finest civilian aerobatic display teams, including the aforementioned Blades, The Matadors, the SWIP Team, gliderFX, the TRIG Team, the Redhawks and the Breitling Wingwalkers. There’s no denying the skill and charm of each act, but in all honesty, at this point in the season there’s very little to say about them that hasn’t already been covered in previous reports!

Notable amongst the aerobatic displays, which were indeed all of the highest calibre, was Justyn Gorman’s tremendous display in the American Champion Decathlon; not something you’d necessarily associate with aerobatics, but Justyn proved just how versatile this aircraft is with a display incorporating all manner of manoeuvres usually reserved for the more traditional aerobatic types. Hesitation rolls, negative G half-cubans, stall turns, knife-edge passes; this was really something else. Take a bow, Justyn!

RAFA Shoreham Airshow 2012 was an entertaining day, no doubt. While the flying programme is geared more towards the general public, the mix of participants is always very varied and although there’s a creeping familiarity with some of the acts by this time of year, the quality is such that even the most hardened airshow goer can appreciate watching the displays one more time. For the families, there’s an awful lot going on around the showground (military vehicles, music, fun fairs, trade stands, food outlets and general airshow entertainment), particularly important on days where the weather batters the running order into submission!

Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in /var/sites/g/globalaviationresource.com/public_html/comments/displaycomments.php on line 8

Global Aviation Resource's photographic and written work is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without express written permission.

If you would like to discuss using any of our imagery or feature content please contact us.