By Nick Heeley,
Down To Earth Promotions
This year's airshow had one of the strongest line – ups for many years, with strong international participation, the Vulcan displaying again and special displays relating to the themes of the airshow this year.
It was 90 years since the first airshow at RAF Hendon, on 3rd July 1920, which was created to show off the assets the Royal Air Force had, in an effort to demonstrate the role they could play in the future, as it was not expected after the first World War that there would be another conflict of that nature, so aerial assets would not be needed. It was billed as an RAF Tournament, and featured nearly all the RAF aircraft in service at the time. The display included bombing tournaments, formation flying and air races, and like today's airshow, a large sum of money was raised for charity. To commemorate this anniversary, a series of special displays were held on Saturday, with a series of replica aircraft like those which appeared in the original Hendon airshow displaying. There was also a display from the Great War Display Team, but due to the wind on Sunday, these were unable to display.
Another theme for the airshow was the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. For this, a special Battle of Britain Sequence was put on, with a stimulated airfield attack by a Messerchismt 109. The bandit attacked the airfield while “high level bombers” also attacked, leading to a spectacular pyrotechnic display. The base aircraft were then launched to attack the bandit and prevent further damage to the airfield. Hurricanes and Spitfires were launched, and the bandit was ambushed. This sequence was an excellent demonstration of the capabilities of these aircraft, and the constant danger the country's airfields were under during the early stages of World War 2.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight also displayed following this sequence of the Saturday, and a Spitfire from the flight also performed a special display with the Typhoon aircraft. However, due to the weather, this was unfortunately cancelled on Sunday, which was a shame as the Spitfire Typhoon duo is an extremely special display, showcasing the change in air power in the Air Force, and it has won several awards.
There was a large collection of the classic post–war era jets in the flying display, such as the Hunter, which was present as a solo display and in Team Viper. The team this year has two Strikemasters and two Hunters, which are a welcome addition to the display circuit. A variety of colour schemes was also on display, such as the raspberry ripple scheme, from Boscombe Down, on one of the Hunters. The Sea Hawk from The Navy Historic Flight also displayed having only been returned to flight in the past few years. There was also a collection of aircraft such as the DC3 Dakota and de Havilland Venom from the Classic Flight in the static display to continue this theme, with a Dragon Rapide and Avro Anson in the flying display.
The Vulcan Effect
Although it was very close with the paperwork, the Avro Vulcan, XH558, was able to display at the show this year having only been in the static display last year. The aircraft has been noted to draw in large crowds at the shows it has performed at, and the flight line was full with people as the Vulcan graced the skies. The display showcased the power of the aircraft, with power climbs and the notable Vulcan howl, as well as a simulated bombing run with pyrotechnics, and a gear down final pass, with an elegant climb out to finish the display. In this the aircrafts 50th year it is fitting she returned to Waddington for her first air show of the year, and is it hoped she will remain a permanent feature on the air show calendar.
The largest contingent of foreign aircraft were from the Czech Air Force, with a large static presence including an An–26, making its third visit in as many years to the show. The L–139 light attack aircraft and the powerful Gripen displayed in the flying section. This display won the prize of Best Display, and the return of the type to the airshow was welcomed. The display was fast and high powered, and along with the Belgian F–16, boosted the fast jet displays in the show. There were several F–16s at the show, many wearing special colour schemes, in the flying and static line ups, from the Belgian, American and Italian Air Forces. There was a special fly through on Saturday by an A330 of the Belgian Air Force, accompanied by two F–16s, which flew over from a Belgium Air Show. An Austrian C – 130K was also present on Foxtrot Dispersal.
The US Air Force had several aircraft on the static line up, including the replacement for the Nimrod R1, the RC–135 Rivet Joint, which was located next to XW665, the first Nimrod R1 to have been retired, on Alpha Dispersal. It was accompanied by a KC-135 and a C–130J Hercules.
The Turkish Air Force was represented at the show by the Turkish Stars, the Air Force's national display team who performed in the flying display. It was debatable which was better, the display or the commentary, with an enthusiastic performance by the commentator which complemented the display, but some questioned whether knowing the “most handsome” member of the team was the most important piece of information. Other display teams present included the Blades, the RAF Falcons, and the Red Arrows, performing a crowd pleasing display at their local airshow.
There was a large RAF presence at the show, with the return of the solo Harrier display, and role demonstrations from both the Tornado GR4 and Chinook HC2, demonstrating in particular the roles these aircraft play in the war in Afghanistan. The training fleet was represented with the Tutor, Tucano, Hawk and King Air all in the flying line–up. The display Tucano this year wears a colour scheme which is a tribute to Spitfires used in the Battle of Britain, and they have a full camouflage livery to commemorate this event, which ties in with the theme of the airshow, and it was good to see a Tucano present after last years absence due to an accident. The Hawk also wears a special scheme to commemorate 50 years of 4FTS located at RAF Valley. There was a special fly through by a C–17 Globemaster, making its first appearance at the show since 2003. The Typhoon performed a stunning solo display, and there was the annual station flypast, including a Nimrod R1 for the final time.
The E–3D was also present in this display, and in the static line – up, along with an E–3B from the US Air Force, to commemorate 35 years of the AWACS, and 20 years of the AWACS in service with the Royal Air Force. The E –3 was developed during the early 1970s, for the USAF, entering service in 1977. The E–3 was needed in the UK to replace the Shackleton AEW2. These were due to be replaced by the Nimrod AEW3, but the aircraft built in this project were unfit for purpose, with major problems with the coordination of radar systems. This project was cancelled, and so to replace the Shackleton, the Boeing E–3 was ordered. First deliveries occurred in 1990, and 8 squadron reformed with the aircraft in July 1991. 7 airframes were delivered in total, and they are used for Airborne Early Warning and Airborne Warning and Control. The AWACS is part of the ISTAR triad, based at RAF Waddington, the RAF's intelligence hub. The Nimrod, Sentinel and AWACS are also being joined by UAVs, which primarily fly in Afghanistan, and are operated by 39 Squadron. There were several UAVs on display at the show.
There were also displays from aircraft from the Royal Navy, with both the Merlin HM1 and Lynx HAS3 being put through their paces. A Sea King AEW Mk3 and Jetstream from RNAS Culdrose were also present.
It must not be forgotten that although an air show, there is still a large range of exhibits for visitors to see, including displays in hangars 4 and 5. Hangar 4 this year contained a large number of modern aviation companies, historical societies and other groups. Sponsored by Northrop Grumman, many companies such as BAE Systems, Raytheon and Cobham Services were present, many of which play an important role in the maintenance of RAF aircraft. Hangar 5, sponsored by Bam Nuttall, contained the Youth section. This is the third year of the Youth Hangar at the Airshow, showcasing the engagement of station personnel with a range of youth organisations, many of whom were present at the airshow. There were a large range of activities for young people to get involved in such as a climbing wall and dance performances. In the other section of the hangar were a range of groups associated with aviation in the local area.
The Air Show this year really lived up to its name, with some of the best International participation for several years. Although the weather stopped some of the flying displays on Sunday, there was still a wide variety of displays to please the large crowd, and raise money for the charities which the Air Show donates to, including the RAF Benevolent Fund, Royal Air Forces Association and other local charities.
Waddington International Airshow 2010
By Howard Heeley, Down To Earth Promotions
Whilst previewing the Airshow for this website I mentioned RAF Waddington's role as the RAF's airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Hub, and linked this through to mentioning the Nimrod R1 and Rivet Joint news. There are many other aspects to the base and its wide ranging role and further details can be found here on the base website: www.raf.mod.uk/rafwaddington/
During the pre-Airshow Press Briefing a couple of these caught my attention and are noted below.
The Air Warfare Centre was established in October 1993 to meet this need by merging several specialist organisations and has developed to provide mission support to air operations. This includes an 'Electronic warfare database' and incorporates the Air C2 Operational Evaluation Unit via 56 (R) Squadron.
In one of the hangars at RAF Waddington is the Air Battlespace Training Centre (ABTC), which provides Distributed Training using synthetic trainers (simulators). A novel feature of the ABTC is its ability to be linked to other UK and US simulators including warships. Typical usage would include Typhoon, Tornado GR4 and E3D aircrews; and Forward Air Controllers.
RAF Waddington is also a large part of the local Lincolnshire community, not least from the 170,000 visitors that the Airshow attracts each year. RAF Waddington is also the RAF's sixth largest base; has an operational budget of approximately £37 million per annum and has around 6,000 personnel and dependents that are located there. The base has an active Community Engagement programme, part of which is supported by charitable donations given from proceeds raised by the Airshow.
During the Press Briefing it was explained that two RAF charities benefit from an equal share of 85% of the Airshow profits; Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) www.rafa.org.uk/ and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund [RAFBF]. The RAFBF used the briefing to highlight two campaigns they are running this year to help commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
The first is called 'Heartfelt Thanks' whereby people are being encourage to provide hand written or online messages to the RAF and to also leave donations. In so doing you stand the chance of winning a "Platinum 'Spitfire Spectacular' experience for yourself and a friend!" Full details can be found here www.myheartfeltthanks.com/
The second campaign encourages people to "Experience the Battle of Britain Live" each day by following the story of five people living through the Battle of Britain on the www.1940chronicle.com website.
Full details of both campaigns and the RAFBF on their website at www.rafbf.org.uk
Special thanks go out to all the Media Team and Base personnel at RAF Waddington for their hospitality during this year's Airshow and I look forward to meeting you all again in 2011.
Article & Photo Credits: Howard & Nick Heeley - Down To Earth Promotions