After three years, it was really good to return to the RAF Cosford Air Show. The last show was in 2019, as it was cancelled in 2020 because of Covid-19 and again in 2021 due to Covid uncertainty and the spread of the Delta variant.
As usual with this event you have access to the aviation museum with its many exhibits including the Cold War Museum which houses the three 'V Bombers', the Avro Vulcan, Vickers Valiant and the Handley Page Victor along with many more Cold War aircraft. Several of the museum's exhibits can also be seen outside during the air show.
Inside the extensive museum is a collection of developmental aircraft such as the BAC TSR 2 prototype, English Electric P1A, Fairey FD2 and Gloster Meteor F8 Prone Position aircraft as well as many other aircraft. More details of this museum which is open daily with free entry can be found at www.rafmuseum.org.uk/midlands
You can now see Falklands survivor, 'Bravo November' in the museum, which was the sole surviving Chinook flown by the RAF during the Falklands campaign.
As well as the museum there is plenty for families and aviation enthusiasts to do and see at the air show, with plenty of stalls, a fun fair, trade stands and exhibitors as well as RAF Hangar Displays and STEM Hangars. Helicopter pleasure flights also operate throughout the day.
Thankfully the weather was kind this year and it was dry, sunny and warm with a pleasant breeze which made the air display even more enjoyable.
The RAF Falcons opened the display, as they usually do here, arriving in their Dornier 228 aircraft (C-FPSH) but actually jumping out of the RAF Chinook at 4,000ft, which was great to see. The RAF Falcons are based at RAF Brize Norton and perform at many events around the country, as well as Europe, throughout the year. The RAF Chinook would also take part in the flying display showing just how manoeuvrable this giant twin-rotor helicopter can be.
We saw several Grob Tutor aircraft, including a three-ship flypast. The Tutor T1 is used by the Royal Air Force for University Air Squadron (UAS) elementary flying training as well as the Fleet Air Arm and Army Air Corps for flying grading. The University Air Squadron (UAS) offers a unique chance to sample RAF life and their main role is to attract students into a career as an RAF officer.
We were treated to a Schleicher ASK 21 Glider which was expertly flown as it gracefully looped around the sky to a soundtrack. Plane Sailing's Catalina 'Miss Pick Up' displayed next. This aircraft was originally ordered for the Royal Canadian Air Force so could also be called a 'Canso'. The Catalina is an amphibious aircraft used in the Second World War and was very successful in the 'Battle of the Atlantic' when used against German U-boats, due to its long range.
We had three displays by fast fighter jets in the air show which were hugely popular. The first of these was the French Rafale which is a French twin-engine, canard delta wing multirole fighter aircraft. The Rafale display aircraft had a striking paint scheme and put on a superb display showing off its power and manoeuvrability.
Rich Goodwin brought along his colourful red, white & blue Pitts S2S (G-EWIZ) for the static display but displayed in his blue Jet Pitts S2S (G-JPIT). These aircraft have been heavily modified to give a phenomenal roll rate and better low speed handling. The Jet Pitts will later be equipped with two sources of propulsion by adding two ATM Lynx Jet Turbines delivering 700lbs thrust and when combined with the 8.5ltr Lycoming engine will deliver a total of 1,700lbs of thrust for this aircraft that weighs just 1,550lbs. The display was quite incredible as he took-off sideways before throwing the aircraft around the sky with a series of rolls and loops and even managed to hover in the air.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight displayed with two of their Spitfires: Spitfire Mk.IIa P7350 and Spitfire Mk.IXe MK356. Unfortunately, the Lancaster had technical problems so could not make it to the show and display. The RAF Typhoon then made an appearance along with BBMF Spitfire P7350 as they flew together until they performed a synchronised split and the Typhoon did its own display.
This year's display Typhoon is is flown by Flt Lt Adam O'Hare and his aircraft is painted black with a red, white and blue colour scheme called 'Blackjack'. On the Friday, before the air show, both Rafale and Typhoon were photographed together in the sky, showing off their striking colour-schemes.
Historic helicopters who are based in Chard, Somerset brought along several of their helicopters and displayed the Westland Wessex HU5 (XT761) and later their AAC Lynx AH.7 (ZX616/G-LNKX). On static display was their Westland Whirlwind HAR.10 (XJ729/G-BVGE) and Westland Sea King HAR3 (XZ597). It was an excellent opportunity to see their Wessex and Lynx in the flying display and they are doing a fantastic job of bringing these helicopters back to life and displaying at air shows. If you would like to become a member of the Historic Helicopters Supporters Club then you can find more details at: www.historichelicopters.com
P-51D Mustang (G-SHWN/413779) displayed in the colours of Colonel Donald Blakeslee's aircraft, the commander of the 4th Fighter Group who flew more missions than any other American Fighter pilot with fifteen and a half credited kills. He was described by British Ace pilot Johnnie Johnson as 'one of the best leaders ever to fight over Germany'. This aircraft was formerly known as the 'Shark' or 'Sharkmouth' and before that was called 'Old Crow'.
Another helicopter taking part in the display was the Belgian A109BAi with its special paint scheme called the 'Razzle Blades' and it depicts a wolf baring its fangs on a camouflaged background. A pair of Chipmunks displayed next. The Chipmunk is a tandem, two-seat, single engine primary trainer aircraft which was developed shortly after World War Two and sold in large numbers, typically replacing the older Tiger Moth trainer aircraft.
The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (RAFAT), the Red Arrows, then arrived from behind the crowd but displayed with just seven aircraft this year as two of their pilots have moved to other roles within the Royal Air Force. Despite the fact that the Hawk T1 have been retired, it was announced that the Red Arrows would continue to use this aircraft until at least 2030. They are currently based at RAF Scampton which will close in late 2022 and the Red Arrows will then relocate to nearby RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
Then we were treated to another fast jet, the Belgian F-16AM in a really nice colour scheme called 'Dream Viper'. F-16 pilots and crews generally refer to the aircraft as 'Viper' even though the official name is 'Fighting Falcon'. This is because of a percieved resemblance to a Viper snake as well as the Colonial Viper Starfighter on Battlestar Galactica which aired when the F-16 came into service. The actual display was extremely good as he put the F-16 through a very energetic display.
Although we would not see a flypast by the A400M Atlas this year, it was good to see a flypast by two Texan T1s and then followed up by two Hawk T2 aircraft, all from RAF Valley. It would have been good to have more than a single flypast by these aircraft but i was still happy to see them in the air. The Texan T1 replaces the Tucano T1 in the basic fast jet training role while the Hawk T2 replaces the Hawk T1 in the advanced training role with its glass cockpit and comprehensive avionics suite.
The final display was by a British F-35B 'Lightning' which did a flypast and also slowed down into a hover which was really noisy. This was the first time that the F-35B had performed at an RAF Cosford Air Show. The F-35B 'Lightning' is the short-take off and vertical landing variant of this fifth generation all-weather, stealth, multi-role combat aircraft and these aircraft can be operated by the two new Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers. There are currently twenty three of these aircraft at RAF Marham in Norfolk, shared between 617 Squadron and 207(OCU) Squadron. A further three F-35B aircraft are used for operational test and evaluation by 17 Reserve Squadron, based at Edwards AFB, in the USA. It would be great if they could eventually have a display pilot and put on a real F-35B 'Lightning' display.
This was a very enjoyable air show, with a decent air display, especially with the three fast jet displays and their colour schemes. It was good to see the Wessex and Lynx of Historic Helicopters in the display as well as on static display. There was a good mix of aircraft types including the impressive Rich Goodwin display as well as the RAF Flypasts and of course the debut of the F-35B 'Lightning'. There were a few gaps in the flying display but this was not a big problem.
RAF Cosford now hosts the only Royal Air Force show now that the RAF Waddington Air Show and RAF Leuchars Air Show have finished. RAF Cosford only has a short runway so many fast jets operate from nearby RAF Shawbury or other bases and just fly in to display. With around 50,000 people at the show and only one main entrance it means that getting all the cars out of the base is very difficult and time consuming which has always been the main problem at RAF Cosford. If you are lucky to be parked close to the main entrance then it is relatively easy to get out, but if you are parked further into the base then it's worth staying around after the air display and looking around the museum, if you are able to do this.
I would like to thank the RAF Cosford Air Show organisers for all their hard work, putting on such a good air show after a three year wait and really look forward to next year's show.
Article & photos by Dave Key - www.military-airshows.co.uk