As the only active Station to open its doors to the general public this year, RAF Cosford’s Air Show will fly the flag for the Royal Air Force in 2015. Gareth Stringer was at the event’s press launch to learn more.
Always a hugely popular event anyway, thanks the demise of airshows at RAF Leuchars (no longer an RAF base) and that at RAF Waddington (runway work but a very uncertain future), RAF Cosford Air Show currently finds itself standing alone as the centrepiece of the Royal Air Force’s events calendar for 2015.
Yes, a host of display teams and aircraft will criss-cross the UK and Europe appearing at other airshows and events, but in 2015 just one active RAF Station will open its doors to the general public – and that is for RAF Cosford Air Show on Sunday 14 June. That, in this author’s eye at least, is a sad state of affairs, and is something I have written about before, but the flipside of that discussion is appreciating the huge amount of time and work that goes into staging such an event and trying to get it right – and that is something that I believe RAF Cosford Air Show does, and is striving to improve upon year on year.
That much was clear at this week’s press event to launch the airshow, a well-attended gathering that gave the RAF and the Air Show team an opportunity to tell us more about this year’s event and the clear benefits it delivers.
Perhaps the biggest fundamental change is that the show is now operating on an advance ticket sale only basis, which should help ease traffic issues even more than last year (a definite improvement), as will the addition of a new, off-site car park on the other side of the railway adjacent to the airfield. With no ticket sales on the gate on the day, entry to the site will be quicker and easier, with the organisers able to plan for traffic and parking more definitively ahead of the event.
It’s not a popular move with some enthusiasts, whose decision on whether to attend is often solely weather-based and therefore made at the last minute, but the majority of visitors will be used to purchasing in advance and in truth, the system brings Cosford, and other airshows who use a similar approach, in line with numerous other outdoor events, such as festivals for example. And having said all that, tickets will be available online and can still be purchased on the day of the event via smartphone for example – assuming they haven’t sold out of course!
So, what can visitors to RAF Cosford Air Show expect to see this year? Well, the flying display is still evolving at this stage but expect a full range of RAF displays such as the Red Arrows, Typhoon solo, Typhoon and Spitfire synchro, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and Tutor, to name but a few. Various themes will be marked in the air and on the ground such as the 70th anniversary of VE-Day, with a host of warbirds taking part and complete with Victory Village in the showground which will take visitors back to 1945. Additionally, the 50th anniversary of the TSR-2’s cancellation will be marked (the aircraft will be on static display) along with the 90th anniversary of the all-important University Air Squadrons. The show is also planning a SAR (Search and Rescue) Meet which should attract a host of rotary assets.
An appearance from the Swiss Air Force’s F-18 Hornet solo display has already been confirmed and the team at Cosford remain confident of securing further foreign military participation, so let’s keep our fingers crossed for more additions.
The sight of the TSR-2 on static display will be a special one, and, following on from last year’s spectacular line-up of Harriers, indicates a strengthening bond between the airshow and the RAF Museum which is of course housed at RAF Cosford. This was well-marked at the press launch with the public début of the famous VAAC Harrier T4 after many years in storage at Boscombe Down. The aircraft is now part of the RAF Museum’s collection but will be on static display at the airshow too.
She was joined at Cosford yesterday by a number of civilian performers, such as the Zlin 526 from the new Czech Mates Display Team, which was ably displayed by Simon Wilson whom many you may recognise as one of the Royal Navy Historic Flight’s Swordfish pilots. The team will soon become a pair of Zlins and we look forward to seeing them display in the season ahead, for the aircraft is a noisy presence – a “Chipmunk on steroids” is how Simon described it to me and that is a very valid description in my opinion!
He was joined on the ground by Rich Goodwin’s Muscle Biplane – his massively modified Pitts S2S which was making her first public appearance wearing a brand new Union Jack paint scheme. Designed by Mirco Pecorari, Italian designer and the man behind AircraftStudioDesign, Richard’s aircraft is now as eye-catching as the display he flies, and he too will be appearing at RAF Cosford in June. Ian Gallacher was also on hand, flying an excellent display of glider aerobatics, while the Classic Air Force (which was making news for other reasons on the same day having announced the closure of its Newquay site) brought a gorgeous de Havilland Dove which flew some of the media to give them an aerial view of the site.
A Griffin also dropped in from RAF Shawbury, so the RAF was represented, while the Midlands Air Ambulance EC135 was also on-hand, in between call-outs, as were a number of classic vehicles and re-enactors who will form part of the VE-Day Victory Village.
I spoke to Air Show Chairman, Wing Commander Kevin Rayner, Officer Commanding No.1 Radio School stationed at RAF Cosford, and he doesn’t believe that being the RAF’s only airshow of 2015 has added too much pressure; it really does seem like business as usual, with a constant desire to improve the event:
“We do think our catchment area will change this year, with no airshow taking place at RAF Waddington, and switching to a two-day airshow is something we have considered in the past, but we have to consider how well we could deliver that and at the moment we can deliver what we do because we have a large training population here. Moving to a two-day event would, we think, add some extra stresses that we don’t think we can fully manage, so we want to just maximise what we have got and to keep doing that very successfully.
“We have got a great flying display coming together but static / ground displays are hugely important here obviously, and have won us awards, and we are well aware of how popular they are with visitors to the show. Our runway is quite short and we don’t have much hard-standing for visiting aircraft, so we turn to the RAF Museum and look at different aircraft types to try and deliver something that perhaps other events can’t.
“This is an event of great importance for the RAF, there is no doubt about that. We know there are pressures on us all on a day to day basis, but we must retain a level of interaction with the general public and this is one way of helping them understand more about what we do and why we do it, by coming to the airshow and talking to people serving in the RAF. I’ll know we’ve succeeded this year if we have had a safe event, with great weather and few traffic issues! Ultimately people need to enjoy themselves when they are here and for the RAF to see how great the interaction with them was – then we can do it all again next year, and for all the right reasons.”
It’s hard to argue with that sentiment and, with an exciting line-up coming together, and the promise of more announcements in the pipeline, RAF Cosford Air Show looks like it will do a good job of flying the flag for the RAF this summer.
Adult tickets for RAF Cosford Air Show are priced at £22.00 with accompanied under-16s free of charge For more details on the event, hospitality packages and to purchase tickets, visit www.cosfordairshow.co.uk.
GAR would like to thank Peter Reoch, Marilyn Summers, Wing Commander Kevin Rayner and the entire RAF Cosford Air Show team.
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