MiG-15 at East Fortune - Cody Froggatt
Last year I decided it was time to spread my wings and go solo on my air shows having been going with my family for many years. I was quite nervous at first, last season, when going to shows, however now I feel extremely comfortable with myself and my knowledge of railways and timetables is good enough to understand how to get to and from one place to another, without messing it up. So with that said, I decided to go and visit some friends up in Scotland. As ever, with me, there is an ulterior motive for visiting as there was an air show, so for the first time I decided to go somewhat international and go to Scotland for an air show. Scotland's National Airshow 2019 came from the old RAF East Fortune, now the National Museum of Flight.
So where do I begin with East Fortune, the lack of stalls, the weather or the flying display. I have been told previously before going to the event that I wasn't to expect too much. Now I do have standards that are very high when it comes to major air shows, but knowing this was a smaller show compared to the major shows I've been to over the last 12 months, I knew i shouldn't expect too much. However classing themselves as the 'National Scottish air show' does say that you're holding yourself to a high standard, and this does make me think why call it a national airshow instead of just the East Fortune airshow.
Firstly, let's start with the weather, well I've certainly seen better days with the Scottish weather, but it can't be helped when you're having massive amounts of rain and your cloud base is too low for safe flying. The weather is totally out of the control of the organisers and the flying director who can only work with what is in his or her's control, such as the aircraft which are in the air and changing the schedule to a certain extent. If an aircraft cannot get off the ground due to rain or a low cloud base then that is totally out of their control and one can't blame the organisers or the directors for the weather. As ever, a massive thanks to Ben Dunnell for trying his utmost best on commentary during and before the show, trying to keep the crowd entertained and as informed as possible. Having spoken to him after the show it seems like he did have a rather long day and was very weary as a result. So throughout most of the day it was on and off rain. Beginning with a massive downpour of rain at the start of the show when the gates opened, then heavy rain eased off into a light drizzle with patches of rain. However, aircraft could not get out of Newcastle Airport or Carlisle Airport which meant that there were items that couldn't make it, well I say items, I mean most of the flying display.
So let's move on to the flying display itself. In total there were six flying items, best displays for me would have been a tie between the Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter and the MiG 15 from the Norwegian Historic Flight. Two totally different elements of flying in rotary and vintage jet power. Having not seen the Black Cat display team or a Royal Navy helicopter in a flying display for a number of years, I was extremely excited to see this display. I wasn't disappointed either, flying at the minimum height required for a flying display the Wildcat put on an amazing performance, and however bad the weather was, she was always going to turn up. My thanks to the Royal Navy for allowing us to see the Wildcat in action, and with hope in the future to see the Black Cat display team return to the display circuit someday soon with two helicopters. On the other hand, the MiG 15, one of my old favourites, having seen the MiG 21 a week earlier at the Royal International Air Tattoo, I was very much excited to see its younger sibling flaunt itself around the Scottish skies. I was not disappointed either. The Norwegian Historic Flight was set up for a dogfight display with the T-33 Silver Star that they also own, unfortunately pilot unavailability put an end to those plans, and we were treated to a solo display by the MiG 15 instead. How can anyone complain after we saw this Cold War icon, and a jet that I adore and love, perform a low tight display, with a few topside passes for the crowd.
However, there were a few cancellations of the original flying items. The RAF Tutor team pulled out due to weather, as did the RAF Typhoon display team with Flight Lieutenant Jim Peterson at the controls, he blasted above us all, but as the cloud base was at 800 feet, with the minimum required for a flat display at 1000 feet, then he couldn't put on a display, which was a shame as he was also unable to fly at the Sunderland air show, which was on the same weekend as this show, due to the weather.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane also had to pull out due to the weather, however they did make it up to Newcastle Airport to display at the Sunderland air show, but had troubles with the weather heading back home, before their mid-season break. The Blades display team and the Aerosuperbatics wing walkers were also plagued by the weather as was the Vintage pair of de Havilland Chipmunks. The Goodyear Corsair FG-1D from IWM Duxford went tech before even leaving Duxford. Unfortunately the Army Historic Flight with the Westland Scout and the de Havilland Beaver also cancelled due to the weather, to the disappointment of their commentator who was at East Fortune. My thanks are ever to all the display teams on trying their hardest to make the show happen, as I've stated the weather is totally out of their hands.
The Spartan Executive was an interesting display to see, as I've never seen one displaying before. Putting some nice low level hard turns and allowing us some interesting topside passes too, it was an interesting display to see indeed. As was the Jet Provost T5 which is always great to see in a flying display. I've always had a soft spot for this RAF trainer and I always will do, and it was great to see it's display and bring a roar to the crowd. The AT- 6D Texan also displayed, opening the flying display with some low interesting aerobatics allowing me to get some amazing pictures. I am thankful to the pilot indeed for getting as close and as low as possible for photographers and crowd like. However, the Catalina a beloved aircraft of myself, many aviation enthusiasts and photographers alike, started at an interesting angle at crowd rear, it then proceeded to take a display axis that wasn't there, flying over the car park not once, not twice, but three times before descending quite low. I still do not understand what went wrong with the Catalina display.
However, at East Fortune there is an amazing museum with a great collection of aircraft ranging from Concorde, to an ex-red arrow Hawk all the way up to an Avro Vulcan. There was an opportunity of meeting Tony Yule and Bob Wright respectively who are connected with the Concorde and Vulcan. Bob Wright being the Navigator for the Black Buck mission in the Falkland's War. Both were full of stories and were genuinely some great aviators to talk to, they had all the time in the world for anyone that wanted to talk to them or wanted an autograph or a picture with them.
For me, I went in the Cold War Hanger, I am a proper geek for Cold War aircraft, especially when it comes to the Panavia Tornado. The 'Tonka' was the aircraft that i was brought up with during the early years of going to air shows and simply seeing any variant just makes my day. There was a different array of aircraft ranging from a pinky Gulf War SEPECAT Jaguar (XZ119) 'Katrina Jane', to de Havilland Sea Venom (WW145). I would like to go to this museum again and have a proper look around when there's not so many people around. However the weather had just gotten to me a bit and I had had enough, it's not because of the lack of stalls or the lack of flying display, it was truly was because I was cold and I had just had enough of the weather.
So what are my overall thoughts of Scotland's National Airshow 2019? Well it's mixed really, you can't control the weather, and if you're a regular air show attendee like I am then you have to expect different weather conditions and just take what you can from the flying display. It is bitter sweet when you go from great weather one week, to horrendous weather the next.
With the lack of stalls selling items, it just put me off a bit. I know that Gill's retired from taking squadron prints on the road now, but there are similar companies out there that do what she does. Having one of those stalls there would have made it for me, but at the end of the day not everyone's there to collect items like I do.
The museum itself is great I'd like to have more time round there, but the weather and other restrictions just put me off going around it all. The last thing I want to mention is that the fact that the car park opens at 8:30am, but the gates themselves don't open until 10am. This was strange to me as I've never been to a show that does that before. Making people wait and wait outside in the cold and wet without easy access to toilet facilities is just plain stupid. This should be addressed really when looking at how to improve the show in the future, especially when people are less-abled and maybe need to frequently go to the toilet.
But overall, I can't complain, I know I travelled all this way but it wasn't just about the air show, it was about who I was going there with. Being there with friends I don't see very often added to my experience rather than if I'd gone by myself. We didn't need the air show to have a good time, it was just great to be hanging out with them again, so overall I'm disappointed but I'm not disheartened. But the million dollar question is, would I travel all that way and go again? Quite simply, No.
Review and photographs by Cody Froggatt.