At a time when the base is providing assets in two theatres of operation the 1,800 personnel at RAF Waddington again pulled out the stops to provide a well attended International Airshow on 2nd and 3rd July 2011.
According to the Airshow website http://www.waddingtonairshow.co.uk/ 145,000 visitors and enthusiasts travelled to Lincolnshire to see a host of national and international participants. Despite the static parks being less well populated than in previous years, there was a good variety of types on display and the flying programme was over seven hours long and provided excellent value for money.
My opportunity to catch any of the flying during this year's Airshow was extremely limited as I spent much of my time in Display Hangar 4 volunteering on the Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire display stand. I managed to catch the opening of the show with customary flypast by a base aircraft, which this year was restricted to an 8 Squadron Sentry. This was closely followed by a higher level flypast of a 'future' Waddington airframe in the shape of an RC135V 'Rivet Joint' aircraft.
Further attempts to get outside to see more flying were severely restricted by the constant flow of visitors who were coming along to see the winning displays of aviation nose art panels and to sit in the cockpit procedures trainer that was on loan from the Newark Air Museum.
Sadly it had not been possible to delay the out of service date for the retiring Nimrod R1 fleet, but at least two airframes made it into the static park. Whilst the third airframe, XW665 that at one time had seemed destined for the Newark Air Museum was tucked away in part of Display Hangar 4, looking slightly forlorn in a partially dismantled state behind a wall of panels.
There seemed to me mixed views on the traffic flows during the Airshow weekend, but in the wider context of such a hugely popular Airshow most people seemed to have a reasonably good experience getting onto and off the base. Having flown into the Airshow on the Saturday morning using the Helicopter Shuttle Service that again operated from the Newark Air Museum; when I arrived the roads were certainly very busy, but all seemed to be moving.
Likewise I heard some whispers of some concerns about the timing of gates being opened on the Airshow preview and departure days. That said the stated opening times seem to have been adhered to and people ought not to have too many complaints; especially when the base's operational commitments are fully taken into account.
The following post-event synopsis came from the Airshow website. "A huge variety of aircraft filled the skies above RAF Waddington over the 2 days, from the roaring Thunderbirds to the might of the Vulcan there was something for all of the 145,000 visitors. The 16th air show held at RAF Waddington, opened with a flypast by a home-based Sentry from 8 Squadron. The show included over 7 hours of flying displays and 55 static display aircraft. Other flying display items performing this year included the Red Arrows, the Blades, the Royal Jordanian Falcons, the Belgian F-16 and on the ground Carol Vorderman presenting the 'RAF on Air' experience."
The 'RAF on Air' screen in Hangar 4 gave me and many other people the opportunity to get some close-up action footage without going outside. The stage facility enabled people to provide live interviews and is an innovation that will hopefully be expanded at future Airshows.
Group Captain Chris Jones, Station Commander at RAF Waddington, also made the following comment on the Airshow website: "I am absolutely thrilled with the success of this year's show. Given our ongoing operational commitments, I am immensely proud that RAF Waddington personnel have been able to mount such a spectacular show this year, and I am grateful for all the hard work that has gone in to making the event a resounding success."
2012 is Olympic Year in the UK and this will no doubt present its own challenge to Airshow organisers across the country. I don't doubt that organisers of the RAF Waddington International Airshow 2012 will rise to this challenge. The Airshow dates have been fixed for 30th June and 1st July 2012 and the website is already running details for next year http://www.waddingtonairshow.co.uk/
One new scheme that is being evaluated is the Friends of RAF Waddington International Air Show. At the moment the concept is still in an early planning stage, however you can register your interest in the scheme by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
So why not register your interest and help maintain the RAF Waddington International Air Show as one of the UK's top shows.
Finally, a big well done to the organisers and all of the base personnel who helped stage another successful RAF Waddington International Airshow.
Article & Photo Credits: Howard Heeley - Down To Earth Promotions