The RAF Cosford Air Show took place on Sunday 10th June 2018, attracting about 60,000 people to the event. The theme was 'RAF100' which celebrates the centenary of the founding of the Royal Air Force.
The Royal Air Force was formed on April 1st 1918, after the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), making it the world's oldest independent air force. The RAF Cosford Air Show along with the Northern Ireland International Airshow at Portrush and the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford have been selected to celebrate 100 years of the Royal Air Force.
A considerable amount of organising was required to exhibit 100 aircraft in the static display, which were presented in chronological order, showcasing the development of aeronautical design and capability over the past century and the history of the Royal Air Force. Many of these aircraft had to be transported by road to get to RAF Cosford and other aircraft were removed from the RAF Cosford Museum and displayed outside.
The thrilling six-hour flying display included many RAF aircraft of the past and present, as well as foreign participation, which made for the best flying display ever seen at a Cosford air show. The weather also helped as it was warm, sunny and dry which made for a pleasant change at Cosford, although the hazy sun at the start of the display did make photography extremely challenging.
The air display started at about 12pm with the RAF Falcons parachute display team
who jumped out of their Dornier 228 aircraft at 9,000 feet.
We then saw the Great War Display Team
with their replica World War I aircraft. They displayed with the Royal Aircraft Factory Be.2c, Royal Aircraft Factor SE.5as and the Avro 504. The Be.2 entered service with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in February 1912, the high-performance SE.5a much later in March 1917 and the Avro 504 was introduced in 1913, later becoming a trainer aircraft.
The first of the foreign jet aircraft was up next with the impressive Belgian Air Force F-16
called 'The Dark Falcon' in its special paint scheme which was designed by the display pilot himself, callsign 'VADOR'.
Returning to the much slower bi-planes, we had the Tiger 9 Display Team
which normally consists of nine Tiger Moth aircraft, but today we had just eight aircraft, which was no less impressive. The de Havilland Tiger Moth was a 1930s biplane and used by the Royal Air Force as a primary trainer.
Displaying next was the Hawker Fury I
followed by the Hawker Hurricane I
. The Hawker Fury was a fast and agile Royal Air Force biplane fighter which served in the 1930s, while the Hawker Hurricane was a single-seat monoplane fighter which was introduced in December 1937. The Hurricane was vital for the Royal Air Force during World War II with its eight, wing-mounted Browning machine guns and high speed compared to the RAF's biplane fighters.
Returning to fast jets, we had the Polish Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum
, but before performing its display, it made a pass in formation with the Hurricane. It must not be forgotten that Polish fighter pilots, as well as other nations, fought in the 'Battle of Britain', in Royal Air Force service. The MiG-29 then went into its impressive aerobatic display, showing the manoeuvrability and power of this large fighter jet.
Next, was the Bristol Blenheim
which was a British light-bomber aircraft, introduced in 1937. This aircraft was originally developed as a civil airliner (Type 142) and the Air Ministry was so impressed by its performance that they ordered a modified version, as a bomber for the Royal Air Force.
The 'Flying Bulls' displayed their Bolkow Bo-105
helicopter next and put on an incredible aerobatic display. The Bolkow Bo-105 is a light, twin-engine helicopter, developed in Germany and is the first rotorcraft that can perform aerobatic manoeuvres, such as inverted loops.
The next display was the Spitfire PR.XI
which was a photo-reconnaissance variant of the Supermarine Spitfire. These Spitfires were designed to be very fast with a top speed of 417mph at 24,000ft and were equipped with cameras to photograph enemy positions. The guns were removed to lighten the aircraft and the aircraft were usually painted light-blue for camouflage against the sky. This particular Spitfire has recently been restored to flying condition and had its first post-restoration flight in May 2018.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) brought along their Boeing B757-2K2
aircraft to display at RAF Cosford. The RNZAF use these aircraft for delivering equipment, medical evacuation, troop movements and as a VIP transport. This large aircraft looked very impressive as it flew around RAF Cosford before departing.
The Avro C19 Anson
was up next in its new paint scheme for the 2018 RAF Centenary. The Anson was a British twin-engined, multi-role aircraft that was introduced in 1936, serving in a variety of roles, but during WW2 many were used as multi-engined trainers in RAF service.
Appearing from behind the crowd-line was the hugely popular Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
which consisted of the Avro Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane and the Dakota. For this special RAF Centenary year they have adopted the new 'Trenchard formation', which is named after Hugh Montague Trenchard, a British officer, who was instrumental in establishing the Royal Air Force.
The Belgian Air Force A109 helicopter
then took to the air for its display. This helicopter is used in various roles, including light transport, medical evacuation, search-and-rescue, and military roles.
The de Havilland Chipmunk
is a tandem, single engined aircraft that was developed and manufactured by Canadian aircraft manufacturer 'de Havilland Canada'. Large numbers of these aircraft served with the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Air Force and other nations as their standard primary trainer. The Royal Air Force received 735 Chipmunks which were all built in the United Kingdom by 'de Havilland' and the RAF replaced the Tiger Moth biplane with this aircraft which they operated from the 1950s until being replaced by the 'Scottish Aviation Bulldog' aircraft.
The world's only flying Bristol 171 Sycamore
helicopter made its first appearance at a UK flying display when it displayed at RAF Cosford. This helicopter has been restored to airworthy condition by the 'Flying Bulls', who are based in Austria. The Sycamore was the first British designed helicopter to enter production and served with the Royal Air Force between 1953 and 1972 in a number of roles including VIP transportation.
The Jet Provost
is a British jet trainer which was operated by the Royal Air Force from 1955 to 1993. It was developed from the earlier piston-engined Percival Provost basic trainer. A heavily armed version of the Jet Provost was developed for ground attack and marketed as the Strikemaster.
Another helicopter to display was the Westland Whirlwind HAR10
which also displayed at last year's RAF Cosford Air Show. The Whirlwind was a British license-built version of the American Sikorsky S-55/H-19 Chicksaw helicopter. The Royal Air Force used these helicopters in the 'Search and Rescue' role, and painting them bright yellow. The Whirlwind would later be replaced by the Westland Wessex and then the Westland Sea King in this role.
The Percival Pembroke C1
is a British twin-engined light transport aircraft and served with the RAF from 1953, replacing the Avro Anson, until 1988 when they were replaced by the Hawker Siddeley Andover.
Next, we returned to the foreign fast jets with the French Air Force Rafale C
wearing its special paint scheme and putting on a very energetic and powerful performance. The Rafale is a French twin-engined multi-role fighter aircraft designed by Dassault Aviation. The aircraft that displayed was a Rafale C which is a single-seat aircraft operated by the French Air Force. The French Navy operate the Rafale M which they use on their aircraft carrier, 'Charles de Gaulle'.
Two Gazelle helicopters
were up next, the blue Gazelle AH.1 (G-ZZEL/XW885) and red & white Gazelle HT.2 (G-ZZLE/XX436). The Aerospatiale Gazelle is a French single-engined, five-seat helicopter which was used for light transport, scouting and light attack. It was built in both France and the UK through a joint manufacturing agreement with 'Westland Aircraft'. The AH.1 version was built for the British Army, while the HT.2 was operated as a training helicopter by the British Fleet Air Arm, from 1972.
The main highlight of the display, for many, was next, as the Red Arrows
flew in from behind the crowd, trailing red, white and blue smoke. Unlike last year, when the Red Arrows had to fly on a different display axis at Cosford, this year's display was flown much closer to the crowdline, which made for a far better display. As the weather was so good they were able to perform a full display. The Red Arrows fly with nine Hawk T.1 aircraft, although on the day of the show, due to technical problem with one of the aircraft, it was nearly reduced to eight aircraft, but they managed to display with nine aircraft in the end, even if one of the Hawks did not have any smoke. The Red Arrows Aerobatic Display Team is the public face of the Royal Air Force and they assist in recruitment to the armed forces, act as ambassadors for the United Kingdom at home and overseas as well as promote the best of British.
The Squirrel HT1 is being replaced by the new H135 Juno helicopters
in the basic rotary wing training role, based at nearby RAF Shawbury. The Juno is equipped with a modern glass cockpit which will bring helicopter training into the modern era. Two Juno helicopters displayed at Cosford (ZM506 & ZM501) but it was originally intended that one H135 Juno and one H145 Jupiter helicopter would display, however there was a H145 Jupiter on static display at Cosford. The H145 Jupiter is to replace the Griffin HT1 in the advanced rotary wing flying training role and three of these aircraft are based at RAF Valley.
We then had a flypast of a Tornado GR4
which was a welcome sight as the Tornado will be retired from the end of March 2019. The Tornado GR4 is capable of engaging all targets on the modern battlefield with a variety of weapon systems. It features a variable geometry wing which can be swept forwards to improve manoeuvrability and landing capability or swept back to improve high-speed performance and stability at low level. It also uses reverse thrust so that it can land on short runways. As the Tornado retires it will be replaced by the Typhoon FGR4 and the new F-35B Lightning II aircraft.
Next, we had the mighty RAF Chinook
helicopter display. The Chinook is an American twin-engine, tandem-rotor, heavy-lift helicopter. In RAF service they are primarily used for trooping, resupply and battlefield casualty evacuation. They can be operated from land or from sea bases into a range of environments from the Arctic to the desert or jungle. RAF Chinooks are based at RAF Odiham and the fleet is comprised of the Mk.4 and the Mk.6 which is fitted with digital glass cockpits and a digital automatic flight control system. As usual, the mighty Chinook put on an impressive display at Cosford showing its amazing manoeuvrability for such a large helicopter.
Returning to RAF training aircraft, we saw a display from the Grob Tutor
which is used by the Royal Air Force for elementary flying training and had a flypast from the new Grob Prefect
which is replacing the Grob Tutor. We then had a flypast by the Tucano T1
which provides basic fast jet training to the RAF and RN aircrew. From 2019 the Tucano will be replaced by the new 'Texan II' aircraft. Four Hawk T.2
jets then flew past in formation. The Hawk T.2 has replaced the Hawk T.1 at RAF Valley which operates them in the advanced fast jet training role.
Next we had a flypast of the A400M Atlas
which entered service with the RAF in 2014 and provides tactical airlift and strategic oversize lift capabilities, complimenting those of the smaller C-130 Hercules and larger C-17 Globemaster III fleets. The Atlas as well as the Hercules and C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft are all based at RAF Brize Norton.
Last to display was the impressive Typhoon FGR4
. The Typhoon is a highly capable and extremely agile multi-role combat aircraft. It was initially deployed in the air-to-air role as the Typhoon F.2 but now has a potent, precision multi-role capability as the Typhoon FGR4. The Typhoon ended the display at around 6pm.
After the air display has finished it is sometimes a good idea to have a good look around the museum, static aircraft and stalls as there is usually a rush of people getting into their cars and causing a lot of traffic congestion. With so many people at this event and the fact that there was a serious accident, which happened at 4.50pm on Sunday, closing the main A41, then this was always going to cause delays. Cars leaving the show were directed to the M54 rather than the A41.
This was the first of the RAF100 air shows to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Air Force and both the static display aircraft and the flying display were spectacular and will live long in the memory.
Thanks to the RAF Cosford Air Show organisers for a excellent show and for all their hard work.
Article & photos by Dave Key - www.militaryairshows.co.uk