With the second of the two remaining official Royal Air Force air displays rapidly approaching, Gareth Stringer takes a look at what’s in store at RAF Waddington International Air Show 2014.
You have to give RAF Waddington International Air Show Director Paul Sall and his team great credit, for they have once again managed to put together an excellent line-up for their event, and have seemingly lost none of the momentum that they have worked so hard to build-up in the past few years.
That RAF Waddington International Air Show is an event truly worthy of the official Royal Air Force stamp should be in no doubt either – set as it is in Lincolnshire, the spiritual home of the RAF, and promoting the work and capabilities of the servcie as comprehensively as it does, both in the air and on the ground.
We should also be glad that it actually does so, for with the demise of the airshow at RAF Leuchars, and with RAF Cosford lacking the space and infrastructure to host a show of Waddington’s scale, though they always put on a strong and well-attended event, it really does stand-alone from an RAF perspective.
Looking ahead to next weekend, Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 July, the first thing to say is that if you are planning on going, and have yet to purchase a ticket, you had better do so. Ticket sales have been excellent once again and there is no guarantee that any will be available for purchase on the gate for either day, so check out the website for details on how to buy them in advance, which you can do from some outlets right up until Friday 4 July.
This year’s airshow will mark a number of themes, namely the Red Arrows’ 50th display season, 65 years of NATO and also the role of ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) – very much the raison d’être of RAF Waddington with Sentry, Sentinel, Shadow and, in due course, Rivet Joint (Airseeker), all calling the station home.
Those themes will of course be reflected by the flying display programme which, as well as a full house of Royal Air Force solos and teams, will also include participants from the Royal Navy and Army Air Corps, actually making the show an important stage for all the UK’s Armed Forces.
It’s not all about the home team though and a number of visitors really do stand out, notably the Saab Draken from the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight. The jet, a two seat SK35C, only flew a few weeks ago following restoration, and its appearance is eagerly anticipated, as is the return of the Flight’s JAS37 Viggen which made such an impression last year.
Another returnee is SoloTurk, the Turkish Air Force’s F-16 display and one which was extremely well received at the show last year. Displaying the F-16 in its 40th anniversary year, SoloTurk has a new pilot in Captain Yusuf Kurt. Yusuf graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2003 and, after completing his flight training, was posted to 191st “Cobra” Squadron and the F-16 in 2007.
If he’s anything like as flamboyant as his predecessor, then SoloTurk is in very good hands, and the news that the team will be supported by Turkey’s sole Airbus A400M is a nice added bonus, though the aircraft won’t be on the ground for the weekend.
Another display which has already made an impression on mainland Europe this year is the Swiss Air Force’s F-18 Hornet solo. Two years ago Ralph ‘Deasy’ Knittel thrilled the Waddington crowds in the F-18, and Deasy will be back in Lincolnshire this year, as Team Coach to new display pilot Julien ‘Teddy’ Meister.
With Hornet, Viggen, Draken, F-16, and of course the RAF’s impressive Typhoon, the skies over Waddington won’t be short of noise this time round, and while not of the afterburning type, you can add Vulcan, Hunters, Gnats, Canberra, Red Arrows, Sentry and Sentinel to that list as well. Impressive stuff.
But, so much for those who like their jets, what if you’re partial to some rotary action?
Well, making its debut at the show, and one team I am very much looking forward to seeing, is Patrulla Aspa, flying five Eurocopter EC120s. Aspa, the Spanish Air Force’s Helicopter Display team, is based at Armilla AFB and will be making its first appearance in the UK.
They will join Chinook, Lynx, Apache, Merlin, Black Cats (Lynx and Wildcat) and Sea King in the flying display at Waddington, so helicopter fans won’t feel at all left out. The show is also one of the Apache’s designated events with pyrotechnics, so look out for some big bangs, and photo opportunities. Of note, an RAF Puma HC2 is due in for the static line-up, and that will be the type’s début Waddington Air Show appearance.
There are a few other gems in the static too, notably a P-8A Poseidon from VX-1 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, and the Turkish Navy’s CN235 MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). Beechcraft is bringing two T6C Texan IIs, there’s a USAF KC-135R from the Ohio ANG, Slovak L-39 and Let410, Dutch Chinook, Italian KC767 and C27J and a host of Royal Air Force equipment and privately owned aircraft, such as Excel Aviation’s Boeing 727.
Another non-military visitor is Tony de Bruyn with his brilliant OV-10 Bronco and Tony’s inclusion in the flying display is an excellent piece of news, coming as it does following his recovery from a serious accident two years ago. Welcome back to Waddington Tony, we look forward to seeing you.
The 70th anniversary of D-Day will also be marked with Lancaster, Dakota, Spitfire and Hurricane all due to appear courtesy of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (look out for something special), as is the ever-wonderful B-17 Sally B, from Duxford. For the full list of flying and static display aircraft – see here.
On the ground, expect a very full programme of events, attractions and activities, many of which have been designed to ensure that the Royal Air Force engages with visitors to the show as much on terra firma, as it does in the air.
Indeed, it is ‘RAF On Air’ that Paul Sall is perhaps most proud of. Located as usual in the main exhibition hangar, On Air is an interactive, multi-media presentation, with a stage and big screen. With BBC Radio Lincolnshire and the RAF Presentation Team hosting proceedings for the weekend, expect live interviews with display crews and other serving RAF personnel, dramatic video footage and all the information you could need about the modern day Royal Air Force.
Aside from that, Waddington delivers the usual raft of trade stalls, hangar exhibitions, craft fairs and fun – in other words, a huge amount for any family to see and do and most definitely a very full day out.
Let’s hope the weather sparkles like it did last year – as RAF Waddington International Airshow is all set to be another excellent event.