Southport Airshow 2019 - Cody Froggatt
The 2019 Southport air show came from the iconic sands of Southport, for what promised to be the most exciting seaside air show of the year. For me personally this was a homecoming, it was after all 9 years ago that I first attended my first major air show which was at Southport. Things have changed massively over the last 9 years within rules, regulations and aircraft on display. I think back to those years, the Red Arrows displays with squadron leader Ben Murphy as Red One, to the ever gracious Jonathan 'Flapjack' Whaley in his iconic Hawker Hunter 'Miss Demeanour'.
Flashing forward to 2019 and this show was amazing when looking back at all three days. From the 'Night Air' on Friday, to the thunderous Typhoon ending both Saturday and Sunday. This whole show from top to bottom was pretty amazing.
Starting with the Friday night air display - The Royal Air Force contributed quite a bit to the evening with displays from the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) of the Spitfire, Hurricane and Dakota, the RAF Tucano of 72 Squadron, in its swan song with the last three public displays being at Southport itself and the Royal Air Force Typhoon flown by Flight Lieutenant Jim Peterson.
The night started with the gates opening at 6pm and the BBMF opening the flying programme with an amazing sunset display. This was the first time I have seen a sunset display by any aircraft, as this was my first night air display. The BBMF as ever was amazing and with the conditions during the display, allowing me to capture amazing silhouette shots of all three aircraft and with such a moody sky and rich light coming from the sun, which added to the feeling one gets when watching the flight. As ever this was pure magic to watch and shoot.
The BBMF was followed up with 72 squadron's Tucano which goes back to the point of the farewell of Tucano. Just like last year's show with the farewell of Tornado, it is yet again, the end of another RAF icon and great. The end of a great trainer of the Royal Air Force and also of many other air forces. This display was great to watch and it's sad to see her go but gives hope as ever to the future, which the RAF has always symbolised.
Once the Tucano display had finished it was time to bring the noise with Jim in his 29 squadron, Typhoon FGR4 and wow what a display this was, with the afterburners burning bright and powerful, more than I've ever seen before. A totally draw dropping display. A rare thing to see of the RAF, doing evening displays, but we need to see these types display more, as they are truly magical.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn't playing during the evening/night, with the wind being strong, which led to the cancellation of a few display items, such as the Tigers Parachute Display Team and the Royal Navy Black Cats. This was unfortunate, but this is the way in which shows can go if the weather isn't playing ball.
There were two more items of the flying programme left. The first of which was the Fireflies Display Team, which I'd never seen perform before. They were extremely precise and along with their pyrotechnics were totally amazing to watch.
The flying display was ultimately closed by Brendan O'Brien and Otto the helicopter with a mesmerizing number of fireworks and pyrotechnics coming off the Little Helicopter. It's been a while since I've seen Brendan's flying antics, and I've never seen him before with fireworks involved as well, he is an absolute master of aviation.
Once the flying display was completed there was a fireworks display which gives a preview for the fireworks championships that go off every year at Southport. It was quite an amazing display which did allow me to get some good pictures of both the pier and fireworks.
Overall, I really enjoyed the night display aspect of Southport this year. Having never gone to a night display before I wasn't disappointed in both watching the sunset displays and especially that of the amazing afterburners of the Typhoon. As well, watching pyrotechnics off aircraft was quite jaw dropping, having never seen this in person before. In all honesty, I'd definitely go again. I really quite enjoyed myself other than the weather aspect which you can't control, it was a really enjoyable evening.
The Weekend show was mirror for mirror in display acts and special formations/fly pasts that would be happening each day. So, for the purposes of reviewing the weekend, I'll be going through the Saturday show which was exactly the same on the Sunday with just a few timing changes.
Opening the Saturday and Sunday air display was the Tiger Army Parachute Display Team, taking to the skies and doing what any parachute display team does, jump out of their aircraft, displaying for the crowd below. They were fantastic, although despite not being able to display on the Friday night it was great to see them on the weekend and was worth waiting for. They displayed the regiment colours on a massive flag which was amazing to photograph and I had an amazing view from the area on the pier.
The Tigers were followed up by Rich Goodwin in his new Pitts Special which was in a royal blue colour scheme. As ever, playing for the cameras and the crowd, even doing a smiley face in the sky, which is something yet again I've never seen before. I had seen pictures from previous shows such as the Bournemouth Air Festival, but this was unique for me and something extremely different. Of course, he did an amazing display as ever and he's on his way to becoming a legend within the scene for his displays. A special thanks to me for the low pass over the pier which allowed us photographers to get some amazing shots.
This was followed by one of my personal favourites, The Royal Navy Black Cat Display Team. It's really nice to still see a Royal Navy helicopter in a flying programme in 2019, especially since the retirement of the Lynx helicopter three years ago. The display was accompanied with pyrotechnics which worked better on the Sunday compared to the Saturday. Of course, as ever, i was extremely happy to see the Royal Navy Wildcat HMA2 helicopter display under the Black Cats banner, just as I did at East Fortune
previously. I just really hope that in the future the team continues to go from strength to strength and that they will become a duo display once again.
The Fireflies DisplayTeam was up next with a non-pyrotechnics display. A tight and interesting display which was wonderful to see over the three days and i hope to see them again in the future, especially their night flying display.
After the Fireflies left it was time for one of those special moments of the show and of course one of the personal special moments for me. Tucano has been a favourite of mine for many years, going to RAF Valley and other shows, seeing the Tucano display team regularly for many years. The Tucano arrived in formation with the Blades Aerobatic Display Team. Mike Ling, Blade 4, has recently been in the news talking about Tucano and how the aircraft helped and affected his career in the Royal Air Force. They made two passes, allowing the crowd to get a top side and a bottom side view of this formation, which was something quite special to see and was unique to the Southport Air Show. After this special formation, Tucano and the Blades performed their displays separately, which was amazing to see.
After the Tucano and Blades finished their displays we were treated to the Gazelle Squadron who performed an impressive duo display allowing for some impressive photographs to be captured. We were then left to the last hour and a half of what I called heavy metal, firstly starting with the T-33 Shooting Star. This was my first time seeing this training legend of the Norwegian Historical Squadron
. Please do search them out for more information about the T-33, MiG 15 and Vampire pair of FB.52 and T.55 which are part of their collection. The display itself was amazing to see on both days and thanks to the Norwegian Historical Squadron for coming to Southport and displaying this legend of the skies.
After the T-33 it was time for the coup de grace of the show with one of the most popular and rare aircraft of the world scene. This was obviously a massive pull for the show and one of the major reasons I was attending too. Saab Viggen and the Tunnan, like the T-33, are true legends of the aviation world and once again this was the first time seeing them too, but like me, so many people attending were desperately excited to see these two aircraft displaying.
This was more than worth the 9 years wait, watching them display is an aviation bucket list ticket and I'm desperately hoping this isn't a one-off display because of the US tour of the Red Arrows. Having the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight is amazing for the UK air show circuit. My absolute massive thanks for Southport and the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight for bringing this to us as fans of aviation, and my hope for the future of seeing them again and again for years to come.
After the Viggen and Tunnan left It was time for one of my personal favourites - good old 'Nellie', Republican P-47 Thunderbolt from IWM Duxford, she performs an amazing display which included loops, rolls with even a bit of vapour off her too.
Closing the show was Flight Lieutenant Jim Peterson in his Typhoon FGR4, of 29 Squadron, from RAF Coningsby. This was a swan song of Jim's career as an RAF Typhoon display pilot, and it couldn't have been any better with an amazing three days of displays, in perfect weather conditions, and a perfect display.
With Jim's ferocious departure marking the end of yet another Southport Air Show it might be the end of my personal airshow season. My thanks to all the teams that I've watched this season and all the pilots, it's been an amazing season. My personal thanks goes to the Southport Airshow organisers and Southport council for yet another amazing show and I'm hoping for yet another amazing show in the year to come. So what are my thoughts? Well I really enjoyed Southport Airshow, and with it being one of my first air shows I ever went to, I have a massive soft spot for the show. The aircraft that displayed here were outstanding, making this one of the best seaside air shows, and of course I give this a massive thumbs up and would recommend anyone to come to next year's show.
Article & Photographs by Cody Froggatt.