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Waddington Airshow

Waddington Airshow
by John Bilcliffe.

To many enthusiasts scrolling through websites or magazines to check out the air show venues and dates of 2008, the name Waddington will cause automatic alarm bells to ring as the words weather and chaos will come flooding back (no pun intended) to last years show, and that rainy Sunday no one will ever forget who went to the show that day, what misery the weather can do when it decides not to play ball. So with that damp chapter now resigned to the past some positive thoughts can now be given to some of this year's expectation.

Although it is still very early to speculate as to what may eventually turn up for the actual show weekend as many of the bookings are still only provisional it is quite fun sometimes to play the Waddington air show, (what will turn up on the day game) prior to the event played by thousands every year. With a name so synonymous to the famous board game makers it helps keep the anticipation levels down. Play is simple and daily observation of what visitors may turn up combined with the weather forecast force the player to make the final decision to go for it or not to find out if he wins.


Boeing B-52 Stratofortress - photo by John Bilcliffe
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
Photo - John Bilcliffe

Having just checked the official show web site, a couple of items highlighted as provisional caught my interest and gave me a more positive outlook on this years visitors. These include the Vulcan B2 XH558 and the possibility of seeing her flying around the airfield would be the cherry on the icing after the struggle it has been to get her airborne. Another favourite for many will be the inclusion of the B52 also marked at the present as provisional in the flying programme, both landing and take off are worth recording on their own merit to those with cameras but those without will still carry the sight and sound of this massive bomber long after the show closes.

Thunderbirds Demonstration Team - photo by John Bilcliffe
Thunderbirds Demonstration Team
Photo - John Bilcliffe

Thunderbirds Demonstration Team - photo by John Bilcliffe
Thunderbirds Demonstration Team
Photo - John Bilcliffe

Whatever anyone says about the organisers they cannot be blamed for not trying when it comes to looking for interesting visitors to give the show a bit of pizzazz and flare to bring the enthusiasts in. One such occasion for me comes to mind during the 2000 show was the appearance of the USAF Thunderbirds Demonstration Team catching everyone's attention in their bright red flight suits with hats matching those worn by the puppets in the Thunderbirds '60s TV puppet show made famous by Gerry Anderson. Also appearing in the same show were two Skyhawks from the Singaporean Air Force who took time out from training at the Cazaux air base in France. The two seat trainer was designated a TA4SU from 150 Sqn and the single seater an A4SU from the same Sqn. What I do remember was both aircraft had been given a recent paint job and were a treat to photograph and record. Speaking from a personal point of view I'd only ever saw these aircraft in books such as the Observers series and as I don't travel great distances I probably would not have seen the type but for this opportunity. If that wasn't enough Spain's Patrulla Aguila gave a display in the same show in their CASA 101eps and are set to return this year.

Singaporean Air Force Skyhawk - photo by John Bilcliffe
Singaporean Air Force Skyhawk
Photo - John Bilcliffe

Patrulla Aguila - photo by John Bilcliffe
Patrulla Aguila
Photo - John Bilcliffe

Vulcan B2 (XH558) at RAF Waddington - photo by John Bilcliffe
Vulcan B2 (XH558) - photo by John Bilcliffe

Taking a different tack but with relation to mentioning about photo opportunities I recently went to an airfield a couple of hours from me some where down the M11, I don't want to mention any names as I still remember the old pack drills. Anyway the site is under civilian control and I asked if I could look at the aircraft in the hangars, as there were one or two gems to be seen in new paint schemes. I was then told this was no problem but photography of aircraft was restricted. Enquiring as to why this was restricted as the aircraft were not top secret the chap told me the owners of the planes didn't want anything negative said about them and he quoted me from previous enthusiasts having gained images displaying them later on web sites and then in return bite the hand that feeds them by running some of the aircraft down which are in mid stream of a paint job or repair.

No such problem at Waddington, the organisers encourage enthusiasts and I have often been asked what helps make the show work better for the anorak, enthusiast, or first time visitor. So that for me is another plus point about the show organisers taking pains to find out on a two way basis what brings people to the show. Taking a line out of Monty Python and now for something completely different. Prop fans may get a surprise as an invite for the Dutch based Constellation to make an appearance in the flying programme has been added, still provisional at the moment. Based at Lelystad airport in Holland the aircraft comes from the Howard Hughes era and scratching the surface about the planes construction, power is supplied by 4 Wrights Duplex Cyclone R3350 twin row 18 cylinder air cooled radial engines capable of 360 Mph at 20,000 feet, out running the Tomahawk P40 flying 357mph at 15,000 feet. Painted in a lovely scheme worn by the K.L.M from the 50s it certainly is one to mark down in the Diary to see and photograph. I just had a quick read about the ferry flight from America and at one point the crew had 3 sets of clothing on and were drinking freezing coffee, what dedication.

NATO E-3 Sentry - photo by John Bilcliffe
NATO E-3 Sentry
photo by John Bilcliffe
               Sentinel R1
 - photo by John Bilcliffe
Sentinel R1
photo by John Bilcliffe

A French A/F Mirage 2000 makes a welcome return this year and along with a Spanish F18 Hornet and Typhoon the fast jet section of the show looks good, with no sign of an F16 anywhere to be seen. Some new items have appeared on the listings site these include displays by an army Apache, Super King Air B200 and 45 minute role demo by the RAF. For post war jet fans such as myself a flying display will be given by the only acclaimed Vampire T11 and as with many other shows there will be quite a few jet provosts visiting. There is always a good cross section of differing types at the shows and now and again they can present good photo opportunities and at one show I was lucky enough to be standing at the fence taking photos of the DC3 G DAKK when I noticed the Belgian F16 roll onto the piano keys ready to display when the helicopter used by the Red Arrows just dropped down in front of me having pressed the shutter button a few times I have enclosed the result to show the mix.

DC3, Squirrel, and F-16 - photo by John Bilcliffe
DC3, Squirrel, and F-16
photo by John Bilcliffe
               French Mirage 2000 - photo by John Bilcliffe
French Mirage 2000
photo by John Bilcliffe

Apart from all the aircraft activity there are plenty of stalls and other attractions for those not interested in the main flying display as the organisers want this event to be a family orientated day and checking up on costs only 10 per cent of the funding goes towards the flying display costs, which reveals the high cost to support other necessities such as toilets which I'm reliably told is one of the most expensive utilities, something to ponder as you spend the proverbial penny. Talking about money it will be hoped to claw back some of the losses of last year especially as a lot of tickets were refunded thus having a domino effect in not being able to harvest some of the ticket and programmes funds back to some of the many charities the event supports, these include the RAF Benevolent Fund and RAF Association amongst a few local ones. Although the main reason for staging the show as a recruiting tool and good occasion for the RAF to open its doors to the public, 2008 celebrates two milestones, first is the 90th Anniversary of the RAF forming on the 1st April 1918 and the other time marker is 100 years of powered flight in Britain with the honour being given to Samuel Cody, a citizen of the US who built and flew an aircraft called Army Aeroplane No 1, that was flown at Farnborough October 1908.

In a world where feelings and views change like the weather we should support those that support us lest we forget WW2 where the RAF gave their all. There have been too many shows lost to cutbacks and closures and some for security reasons so I for one will continue to be a visitor to Waddington while they open their doors to the public.

Yakovlev Yak-52 - photo by John Bilcliffe
Yakovlev Yak-52
photo by John Bilcliffe
               Freece Tricolori - photo by John Bilcliffe
Freece Tricolori
photo by John Bilcliffe



                              Article and photos by John Bilcliffe