Gareth Stringer takes a look back at his 2013 airshow season, with the help of a few images from along the way.
I make no apologies for saying that it is that time of year. It’s a November afternoon and, while we have yet to experience any properly cold weather, the rain is coming down, the leaves are coming down, it’s grey and dingy and well, it’s that no man’s land period of time where you look forward to the next airshow season and pass the time by looking back at what’s just been. At least I do.
As ever, I really enjoyed it. Overall, there was lots to admire from an aviation perspective, a huge amount of fun from a social perspective and, from a professional point of view, some really rewarding work too. Each show had highlights from each of those categories – no question.
Abingdon was where it began for me, via a visit with the RV8tors to an Air League event at Bicester, and it was a sparkling day in beautiful early summer sunshine, a really lovely few hours with some excellent flying and in excellent company. Nearly 10,000 attended the show this year, a triumph for organiser Neil Porter and, while I am sometimes a little loathe to pick favourites when a show has been so entertaining overall, Pete Kynsey’s display in Hawker Hurricane R4118 was absolutely unforgettable. A great start to the season.
RAF Cosford Airshow turned into a royal occasion and I remain hugely indebted to the 2013 Army Air Corps Attack Helicopter Display Team for allowing me the access to photograph Captain Wales’ airshow début from such close proximity.
This year’s team, like their predecessors, handed GAR a number of excellent opportunities throughout the season, and it was a real pleasure to once again find myself allowed to spend some time with the Apache, which is always impressive. GAR’s readers seemingly never grow tired of the AH-64 either and we will no doubt catch up with the 2014 team in due course!
We, my colleague Gordon Jones and I that is, fried in the sunshine with the AHDT, and the RAF Tucano Display Team, at RAF Waddington a few weeks later – it was extremely hot air-side, and totally bereft of shade, but well worth it!
Actually it was scorching at Waddington all weekend, and by Sunday afternoon, after four days of it, Gord and I bailed and hit the road. I made it home just as Andy Murray was winning the men’s singles at Wimbledon, so that was an extraordinary weekend all round!
Another highlight from RAF Waddington International Airshow was interviewing Capt Martin ‘Jet Lee’ Spacek, the Czech Air Force’s Saab Gripen display pilot. It’s always gratifying when a project you have been working on for a while comes together and Martin was brilliant – and needn’t have worried about his English, which he was beforehand – it is certainly better than my Czech! I look forward to seeing him return to the UK in 2014.
I recovered from the Lincolnshire heat with a few days at home and then it was up early the next Saturday morning and off to Somerset for RNAS Yeovilton’s International Air Day. Amazingly, the heat wave was unrelenting and it was roasting again – even hotter than it had been the previous weekend and, with the sun in our faces, myself, Kev Wills and Gavin Weaver sat there cooking for the day. If you put your camera down in the sun it rapidly became too hot to pick it back up again! Gord headed off to find a place outside to shoot and, thinking about it, I haven’t seen him since. Hope you’re okay, Gord!
This was another day where longer term plans came to fruition and I interviewed Belgian Air Force F-16 demo pilot Capt Renaud ‘Grat’ Thys as soon as the event’s spectacular, and noisy, Commando Assault had come to an end.
It was a most enjoyable interview with an excellent interviewee. Next year is Grat’s third and last as the BAF F-16 display pilot and I know he is already looking forward to heading back to the UK in what will be the F-16’s 40th birthday year, and we hope to bring you more on that before the start of next season.
I was actually quite glad to get home on the Saturday night of Yeovilton as, although it made it a very long day, it did mean an extra day at home before RIAT. This, for me, is a working weekend now and was my second year working in the Press Office, from Thursday morning through to Sunday night. It’s a volunteer thing and I must admit that being part of the Media Liaison Group is absolutely superb – a great bunch of people to work alongside for a few, very busy, days each year, but with plenty of laughs. This time round I came home with a few pictures, lots of great memories, a top-up of the airshow tan, and a plastic gecko, which now ‘lives’ on my desk. What more could you want?!
I was also able to welcome two mates who were bringing Eurofighter Typhoons to an airshow for the first time and that was a pretty cool moment, especially as they arrived within about 20 minutes of one another on what was an extremely hot Thursday afternoon. Dan Hayes of course was the Tucano display pilot and H-S was supporting him for much of the 2011 season, and it’s great to now see them both on the frontline. Well done, chaps!
After RIAT I took a breather in terms of attending events and got stuck in with my work for Dawlish Air Show. This is largely PR and website related, but essentially involves helping Kev Wills and the team with anything that needs doing.
We had a superb airshow this year with sparkling weather, a visit from an AAC Apache (which I am proud to say I sorted out) and tens of thousands of visitors to the town. We do it all again on 23 August 2014 and are making plans already. No time for the camera at Dawlish – so the two images below were both taken on my mobile! Dawlish is hugely reliant on volunteers incidentally, and if you would like to get involved next year please do get in touch.
Overall then, an excellent summer. I didn’t attend vast amounts of shows but spent the best part of two weeks at Waddo, RIAT and Dawlish alone, the majority of which was for work, one way or another.
It’s all good though and I am looking forward to doing more next year – with the Great War centenary, D-Day 70th, Red Arrows’ 50th and the F-16’s 40th all likely to play a big part. I can’t wait.
Finally, a few weeks ago I attended the British Air Display Association end of season symposium at Shrivenham and it reminded me of how many people I should thank for making the season what it was – for me, anyway.
I will no doubt have missed people out, but here’s an attempt to name as many of them as possible….in no particular order:
Noz, Fyvie, Kirbs, Stew, Chuck, Jamie, Phil, Grat, Martin, Alister, Andy, Donna, Rich, Kev, Jenny, Emma, Ali, Jo A, Matt, Emma, Megan, Perty, Lingy, Dave, Gaz, Dave, Cerys, Laura, Rosie, Dan, H-S, Bondy, Jules, Gav, Angus, Sammy, Ralph, Charles, Bill, Bruce, Jon, Swiss, Richard, Jane, Dazza, Shaggy, Neil, Tom, Fran, Jim R, Pete, Kelly, Alexei, Yvonne, Keith, Chris J, Fiddy, Jirak, Dave W, Ian S and all my GAR colleagues.
See you in 2014!