Gareth Stringer reports from a sparkling Abingdon Air & Country Show where blue skies, quality flying and a plethora of attractions brought thousands to the Oxfordshire airfield.
What a day! I am sat here still feeling a little flushed after basking in the sunshine at Abingdon, actually, truth be told, my face is pretty much glowing and my neck is quite sore! That’s a small price to pay though when I got to spend the day enjoying all that Abingdon had to offer and with so many friendly faces.
The forecast was spot-on, with the early morning overcast conditions breaking up as the day progressed, leaving the three and half hour flying display to take place in largely blue skies, interspersed with a few fluffy clouds along the way. Glorious conditions.
As I said in my preview for the show, organiser Neil Porter could have considered himself a little unlucky, losing as he did what would have normally been guaranteed Royal Air Force participation (Tutor, Tucano, Hawk, King Air), but I am quite sure that he’s absolutely delighted with how things panned-out. An estimated 9000 people came through the gates and that will undoubtedly result in yet another healthy donation to the Thames Valley Air Ambulance.
It’s not the longest air display going, but very much one where quality reigns over quantity, and judging by the chat on Twitter throughout the day, the former attracted a host of enthusiasts as well as the general public, all of whom will surely have enjoyed an excellent day out.
With a host of ground attractions and visiting aircraft, including RAF Merlin and aircraft from the Dutch and Belgian air arms along with the Polish Navy, there was plenty to keep everyone occupied in the hours running up to the display which, after an appearance from the Thames Valley Air Ambulance EC135, opened with Will Hilton making his airshow début in one of the SWIP Team’s Silence Twisters, at just 19 years old! It wasn’t that long ago that Will was a car park volunteer at Abingdon, so it shows what can be achieved and he put on an excellent performance.
The RV8tors opened their season proper with the kind of precision formation aerobatics you would expect from pilots with the experience levels of Alister Kay and Andy Hill, and were followed by Peter Teichman in P-51D “Jumpin Jacques” which sparkled in the beautiful weather.
Pete Kynsey was on stellar form in Peter Vacher’s Hurricane Mk I R4118 and would have been a highlight for many, while the Harvard (Clive Davidson) and Bulldog (Rod Dean) were very welcome, and less frequently seen, items on the programme. The Breitling Wingwalkers also made their 2013 UK début after a long winter away in China and Australia and, as ever, left the audience spellbound as the girls performed atop Dave Barrell and Martyn Carrington’s Stearman biplanes.
The T-28 Fennec was displayed in its usual uncomplicated way with a series of excellent fast and low passes, and the Dakota, as it always does, made use of Abingdon’s display line extremely well. From the same era, the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Avro Lancaster looked absolutely stunning in the afternoon light, which accentuated the lines of the bomber spectacularly.
Jet aficionados weren’t left feeling totally unloved as both the Folland Gnat and Hunting Jet Provost Mk 5 performed solo displays. It’s always interesting to see the Gnat as a solo and I think it’s fair to say that while Kev Whyman’s display was varied and enjoyable, it would certainly have benefited from some smoke, the small size of the jet making it impossible for this photographer at least to capture successfully! Dan Arlett’s JP5 solo was extremely spirited and possibly one of the best I’ve seen in recent years, with an excellent combination of fast and slow passes, rolling manoeuvres and a knife-edge pass. Good work, Dan!
And that wasn’t all, for the largest jet of the day appeared courtesy of the Royal Air Force, from nearby RAF Brize Norton. We only got one pass from the Tristar, but what a pass it was, with the aircraft performing a low-approach and overshoot. Great stuff and a huge credit to Neil Porter for securing the aircraft, and to the RAF for its willingness to get involved.
All that remained was for Captain Eddie Brown of the Army Air Corps to close proceedings in the Lynx AH7, alongside co-pilot Captain Alex Cramphorn. This might be the final display season for the aircraft with the new Wildcat entering service and if that turns out to be the case then Eddie will be ensuring she doesn’t go quietly. Back-flips, rolls, hesitation pedal turns and pirouettes – the routine has got the lot and left everyone applauding at the end of what had truly been an excellent afternoon.
Not a great deal to complain about then from my first event of the 2013 airshow season. Watching flying like that in those conditions is always fun, and if the weather was the biggest star of the show, we can only hope that all the organisers have booked it!
Huge thanks to Neil Porter and his team for an excellent day out and very well done to you all.