Charles Cunliffe reports from the RAF Cosford Air Show 2018 Media Day for Global Aviation Resource.
The only remaining Royal Air Force airshow, at RAF Cosford, returns again on Sunday 10th June, this year celebrating 100 years of the RAF. On the 17th April 2018, the Air Show organising team opened the doors to RAF Cosford to invited local and national media for their annual press launch.
Looking back, the 2017 show was a huge improvement over 2016’s installment, not only an improvement in weather, but also a vastly increased contribution on both the flying and static display front. Through years of relationship building, the team managed, to name but one example, to deliver an Italian Air Force A-200 Tornado solo display last year which was a real crowd-pleaser, and the organisers have most definitely continued to build on these relationships in 2018, with an impressive line-up in the offing. On the other hand, the alternate display axis used by the Red Arrows and Typhoon display in 2017 was a major negative issue with both the public and enthusiasts alike.
Wing Commander Mike Cook, OC AE&MTS and Chairman of the 2018 airshow outlined what will make the RAF Cosford Air Show 2018 so memorable: “We are trying to achieve 60,000 visitors this year on what we think will be a phenomenal event. The highlights for this year’s show are a six-hour flying display, four themed villages that commemorate and celebrate our service, corporate partners will be here to showcase their contribution to the Royal Air Force and finally 100 aircraft in the static line-up to celebrate the entire history of the service from its formation right up until the present day.”
To correspond with the event’s ‘RAF 100’ vision, the participating aircraft will be spilt into four different ‘Vintage Villages’ spanning the 100-year history of the Royal Air Force. ‘Policing the Empire’ will focus on the inter-war years but also how the service was formed during WWI, with the chance to get up close and personal with historic airframes and re-enactors. The second village will be “World at War” with aircraft from the WWII, including Spitfires & Hurricanes representing a Battle of Britain fighter dispersal alongside an operations room re-enactment. This period will go up to 1950 to include the Berlin Airlift, with a C-47 on static. “Age of Uncertainty” follows, looking at the Cold War, the centrepiece of which will be a line-up of jet interceptors such as the English Electric Lightning, F-4 Phantom & Tornado F-3. Finally, the modern-day RAF will be shown in the “New Millennium” zone including a mock-up of an F-35 Lightning II.
Station Commander of RAF Cosford, Group Captain Tone Baker, said “It’s a massive privilege for me to be Station Commander of RAF Cosford during the Royal Air Force’s 100th year, and Cosford’s 80th year and the Air Show will be a highlight of the year.” The Station Commander spoke of how, in the early eighties, he went to his first ever airshow at RAF Cosford, which he credits for his passion for aviation and his personal driving force to make the 2018 show a truly fantastic show.
Wg Cdr Cook explained what will make the 2018 event extra special: “100 years ago the Royal Air Force was formed, in 1918. We are celebrating, as a service, our 100th year. We have the great honour this year of being one of the ‘gold’ events for the RAF 100 celebrations; by that we get to put on a bigger and better show this year. RAF 100 means this year is a way of commemorating those individuals and events throughout the 100-year history of the Royal Air Force that we are proud of as a service. The RAF 100 campaign is designed to inspire as a technological service, to promote a career in the Royal Air Force to aspiring young people. This airshow is for absolutely everyone, but what makes the RAF Cosford Air Show perhaps different to other air events is we focus very much on the show being a family occasion. This is an event that will be able to be enjoyed by grandparents, right through to the youngest children in a family. The airshow is in such a privileged position to be located next to the RAF Cosford Museum, it allows us to really focus on the commemorative side of the RAF with a museum that focuses on the heritage of the service.”
The airshow already boasts an impressive line-up of ex-RAF aircraft types for the flying display, including the UK display debut of Red Bull’s wonderful Bristol Sycamore. Warbird aficionados are well catered for with types such as ARCo’s Blenheim, Spitfire I from the IWM and Hurricane I from Air Leasing all confirmed for displays too. At the press launch, organisers announced the news that all of the Royal Air Force’s solo display assets would be performing at the show, including a rare four-ship display from the Battle of Britain Memorial Display, known as “Trenchard Formation”.
I sat down with Peter Reoch, Operations Manager at RAF Cosford Air show, to discuss his thoughts and aspirations for the 2018 show. “The sole theme of this year’s Air Show is RAF100. So, in the flying display we’ve got an increased number of RAF marked warbirds many of which haven’t been seen at RAF Cosford before. These will be flown in chronological order during the flying display to help showcase the development of the Royal Air Force over the last century. RAF Cosford will focus on its own “Cosford 80th” celebrations later in the year. But as you’ve seen today we have a new special tail design applied to one of the Jaguar ground instructional airframes, one side of which celebrates Cosford’s 80th anniversary. This jet will be on static display in a photogenic location on Sunday 10th June.”
The special tail design adorned to Jaguar XX835, unveiled at the media day, was designed by Marc Porter of the RAF Cosford Graphics Studio. The tail design is different on each side of the Jaguar T4. The port side celebrates the centenary of 238 Squadron (RAF Cosford’s resident airfield training squadron) with the three headed hydra seen on the unit’s insignia. The starboard side of the tail is adorned with an attractive logo for RAF Cosford’s 80th anniversary.
With the show being the RAF’s 100th anniversary, Peter believes this has had a greater effect on attracting more participants to the show. “RAF100 was of course the focal point of our invitation letters when they were sent in September last year. So far, we’ve had a very positive response with new nations already confirmed. Come June we should have significant number of international military contributions at the Air Show both in the air and on the ground.” (see below)
Although the 2017 show was probably the most memorable in recent years, Peter acknowledges that the 2017 edition of the show wasn’t flawless and the organisers are looking to improve. “I think most people from the enthusiast community recognise that a major negative from the 2017 event was the alternative display axis used by the Red Arrows and Typhoon. This was a key priority for us to fix for 2018. I’m pleased to say after a number of meetings with both teams, the plan currently is that they all display items will use the standard display access along the runway. Of course, there are always other small issues and we look to continually improve the show year on year. All comments received post event through the visitor survey or feedback on social media are evaluated by whole air show team and we then work together to see how these issues can be rectified.”
At the press launch, organisers also revealed that ticket sales for the event are going well and encouraged those who wished to attend to purchase tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. We’re certainly looking forward to Sunday 10th June to see how the Royal Air Force’s only official air show of the year celebrates RAF100 in style.
At the time of publication, the complete list of aircraft due to participate at the airshow, both on the ground and in the air, is as follows: