2005 Edition

 

 

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Biggin's Battle

Dream Time Memories
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The Sound of Freedom
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Fast Delivery
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Summer Sports
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Dropping In
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The Biggin Hill International Air Fair is the longest running and most well known of the civilian airshows held in the UK each year. Now firmly established in it's new September slot, Biggin this year was held on perhaps the busiest airshow weekend of the year, with Shoreham holding it's large show little over 50 miles away the same weekend and a number of other major events in Northern Ireland and Europe too. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography by Paul Johnson and Michael Rivett.

International Community
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Return of the RAF
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Army Drill
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Naval Heritage
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65 years ago, Biggin Hill was at the forefront of what became known as the Battle of Britain. That summer the RAF flew countless sorties against the German bombers and fighters. Today, reminders of those dark days are found all over the former fighter stations from the Officers Mess and buildings to the old fighter pens, still with the marks of war. It is therefore fitting that in a year that we remember the victory in Europe and the Pacific that we also remember the summer of 1940 and where better than Biggin Hill. It was therefore good to see that "The History Channel" joined in as title sponsor for the show along with News Shopper. The show weekend saw very warm sunny weather, if a little on the hazy side. As always there were a few cancellations for the organisers, not least from the international contingent. The Breitling Jet Team changed their minds for the weekend and headed off elsewhere somewhat to the disappointment of the organisers, the French promise of two Dassault Mirage F1s turned into a static appearance only - though they were much admired even if they did leak Avtur all over the resurfaced runway! The only other foreign military involvement was from the Italian Air Force with their Piaggio P166DL pusher transport aircraft.

Over the last few years, the organisers have really tried to increase the size and variety of the static aircraft park and fly-in. This year saw various types from around the country as well as those based at Biggin on show. A De Havilland Gypsy Moth G-ABYA based at Biggin is something of a TV star with it's restoration to flying status being made possible through Channel 4's Salvage Squad series. It was joined by many other vintage types including the Redhill based Spartan Arrow II, Rob Davies T-6 Texan, Fokker S-11 Instructor and a Steen Skybolt. More familiar types in the static area included Martin Willing's T-28 Fennec and Andrew Dixon's Pembroke. The only RAF static appearance was from a Chinook HC2 from Odiham.

Spitfire Summer

Centrepiece of the display at Biggin was the 5 ship Spitfire scramble which this year involved only Merlin engined types. Led by Ray Hanna in Spitfire IX MH434 their was much variety in the schemes and variants of Spitfire included. Following closely behind Ray were two Spitfire TIXs; Carolyn Grace's ML407 and John Romain flying Historic Flying's Irish Air Corps 161 with the larger rear bubble Canopy. The second section was led by Charlie Brown in HAC's own Spitfire Vb and the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historic Flight's Spitfire IX 3W-17.

Later on in the afternoon came a very unique event, a joint display by the BBMF's Spitfire IIa P7350 was joined by Peter Vacher's Hurricane I R4118. These aircraft are the only airworthy survivors of the Battle of Britain. Even more amazing is the fact that R4118 was based very nearby during part of the Battle at Croydon

The flying display on each day lasted for little over 6 hours. Saturday's display infact was the longest ever staged at Biggin mainly thanks to do with the number of movements to and from Shoreham Airshow. These movements actually meant that on Saturday the flying display parks never really looked that full - certainly compared with recent years.  Most of the types that could operate from Shoreham such as helicopters and alike chose to operate from there and either tour in and out or only visit Biggin for a short while.

Saturday's show was opened by the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team while Sunday saw the inclusion of the Red Devils from the parachute regiment. Sadly, the Hercules used to drop the Falcons was the only time we saw an example of the type, the planned Tac Demo was cancelled for operational reasons.

First of the aircraft acts was that of Historic Aircraft Collection's Fiesler Storch. Sadly, the planned joint display with Shuttleworth's Lysander was not possible due to problems with magnetos on one of their Mercury engines but Andy Evans put on a great show of slow flight and the shirt field characteristics of this interesting type. The Storch was the first if many Duxford based warbirds at the show which of course was dominated by the Spitfires and Hurricanes. There was a very welcome return of the Fighter Collection to Biggin Hill, thanks largely to another sponsorship deal with the computer games producer Codemasters who used the appearance of the F8F Bearcat flown by Stephen Grey to highlight the launch of their new flight simulator "Heroes of the Pacific. The Bearcat is one of Stephen's favourite types and it clearly shows in the display. Stu Goldspink also flew TFC's Republic P47D Thunderbolt later in the afternoon as part of the VE/VJ commemoration representing the involvement of the US Army Air Force. Further USAAF air power was represented by B-17G Flying Fortress Sally-B escorted by OFMC's P-51D Mustang Ferocious Frankie flown by Alistair Kay and Rob Davies in his own Big Beautiful Doll. The latter reappeared later for their own duo show of tighter formation and tailchase flying. Plane Sailing's PBY-5A Catalina also toured in from Shoreham in the markings of an 8th Air Force OA-10 Search and Rescue aircraft based in East Anglia during the Second World War.

Biggin always manages to mix up the history was some of the best modern day civilian displays. Biggest and brightest of these was the DHL Boeing 757 which continued a tradition at Biggin of display the big airliners. We're still hoping Biggin can secure a certain 747 from the southern hemisphere in the future. In complete contrast was the Purple Violet flown by Ali Ozturk who puts on a punishing routine  in this modified Pitts Special. Also pushing the g-meter to the extreme was showman Will Curtis in the Honda Dream Team Sukhoi Su-26. Sunday saw the appearance of Guy Westgate in the unique Fox Glider which is able to compete with powered aircraft in aerobatics with some outstanding flicks despite being restricted on height by the airliner traffic for Heathrow and Gatwick. Also putting on a great show were the Utterly Butterly Barnstormers. This year the girls, twins Poppy and Libby Dover, are actually touching hands in the mirror pass which is quite a spectacle and a great reminder of the skill of the pilots, Vic Norman and Martin Carrington in this display. But it was the Red Bull Matadors which won the prize for the best team display this year with an amazing duo routine of unlimted solo and formation aerobatics.

Classic Jets have often been popular performers at Biggin. This year saw the appearance of three displays. Delta Jets brought their pleasing threeship display of Folland Gnat T1 and two Hunter T7s in the schemes of former RAF Display Teams. Also performing as a team were the F-86A Sabre and T-33A Silver Star from Golden Apple Operations while the Red Bull Sea Vixen blasted it's way around the Kent skies solo.

All three armed forces support Biggin Hill very well this year. The Army Air Corps were back in strength this year repeating the massed formation of the Blue Eagles and Historic Aircraft Flight which was first performed at Biggin a year ago. Now it is one of the most requested acts in the UK. The Royal Navy too provided a number of items for the show. Sadly the Black Cats cancelled because one of their aircraft suffered an engine fire on approach to Biggin and made a heavy landing. The second went unserviceable on Saturday through was well enough by Sunday for a solo appearance. Making it's last Biggin Hill appearance was a RN Harrier T8 making a very rare appearance at a show in 2005, though on Saturday only after technical troubles.

Sunset Finale

It's become something of a tradition for the Biggin Hill flying display to be closed by Ray Hanna in Spitfire LFIXb MH434. In a hazy sunset, there's no more emotive display that's Ray's which earned applause from the public and pilots alike

As ever, the RAF put in a very strong appearance headlined by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. They've attended or had plans to attend every Biggin Hill show only missing out due to weather on a few occasions. The Red Arrows once again made the trip to the venue of their first UK public display, though could only display on Saturday due to an engagement at Rivolto in Italy. But far the biggest buzz at Biggin surrounded the Eurofighter Typhoon T1 solo display from No 29(R) Squadron. Sqn Ldr Matt Elliot was able to thrill the crowds with a typically noisy and tight display. The Typhoon's forerunners, the Tornado F3 and Jaguar GR3A by their respective display teams were both represented. The Jaguar display from No 41(F) squadron was particularly welcome as 41 was the last active fighter squadron to be based at Biggin Hill. But the star act for the Judges of the Best Solo Display award was the Boeing Chinook HC2 from No 18(B) squadron from RAF Odiham - the award cabinet at the Chinook wing is slowly filling up!

Biggin Hill again provided it's large audience with a highly varied and entertaining flying display in very pleasant conditions. Special mention has to be made of the commentary team of Brendan O'Brien, Ron David and Sqn Ldr Andy Pawsey. All had exceptional knowledge, particularly Andy who in part was responsible for some of RIAT's aerial theatre in 2004 while Ron and Brendan provided excellent information and entertainment as well. Both have a wealth of experience of aviation and display flying in particular. The only gripe we had is they made the ultimate faux-pas of failing to announce the special flypast from the Red Arrows and Delta Jets.

Flightline UK would like to thank Simon Ames, Nick Foster and all at Air Displays International for their hospitality.

 copyright Flightline UK 2005