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Blazing Biggin

Flying Antiques
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Russian Fronts
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Team Spirit
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Navy Lark
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The Sound of Freedom
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Luftwaffe Returns
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Cheeky Ending
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The 44th Edition of the great airshow was set against the first really warm dry days of the airshow season. It was a good job too as Biggin once again provided a highly varied programme cover a wide slice of avaition. In a wat this years Air Fair was a very reflective affair. The major theme of the show was "Classic Air Travel and Transport"; a theme that reflected the beginning of the Air Fair. There was also a special finale to pay tribute to the late Ray Hanna whose displays with the Red Arrows and of course the Spitfire had been a highlight of many airshows held at Biggin. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All Photography copyright of the Author.

Belgian Beauties
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RAF Power
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Allied Power
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Static Pot Pourri
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The blue skies have arrived at last!!! Biggin enjoyed two days of generally good weather. Saturday remained clear all day with a little more cloud later on for Sunday. It really was a welcome return to the June slot for Biggin following a two year stint in September around the Battle of Britain Anniversary. It had been planned to continue with the September slot but the crowding a large airshows across Europe and in the United Kingdom saw a rethink by the organisers and thus came the move to the first weekend in June when much fewer airshows were planned and hence acts were easier to come by. For the photographers it also meant the light was somewhat easier to cope with later in the day. September meant the sun was lower in the skies so the return to June was a welcome relief.

Farewell Ray

The finale for each days flying was the simple, elegant and yet highly moving tribute to Ray Hanna. The tribute started with a solo display by Andy Cubin in Delta Jets' Gnat T1 marked in the colours of the Red Arrows' predecessors, the Yellowjacks. Following his solo he formed up with Nigel Lamb in Spitfire IX MH434 for a perfect formation routine. It's amazing that a Spitfire is able to lead a much later fast jet through such a formation. The final act was a solo routine by Nigel Lamb in MH434 which was very characteristic of the style of displays given by OFMC and Ray Hanna. Nigel included a couple of the dramatic "Down the Valley" passes at the 03 end of Biggin Hill's runway which brought cheers from the pilots tents.

The 2006 show had two major "themes." Most poignant was a tribute to the late Ray Hanna who had for many years closed each days flying with his superb solo aerobatic routine in his beloved Spitfire IX MH434. Ray association with Biggin Hill went right back to the beginnings of the show itself. In 1965 a new RAF display team arrived at the Air Fair. They were of course the Red Arrows and flying in the number three position was a young R. G. Hanna. Of course, the team were lead by Hanna for the next four years which remains the longest time a particular Squadron Leader has commanded the arrows. Like Ray's Spitfire displays, his tribute closed each days flying which reunited the two types most associated with Ray's display flying - the HS Gnat T1 from Delta Jets and flown by Andy Cubin and MH434 flown by Nigel Lamb.

The second major theme was "Classic Air Travel and Transport." This theme is particularly relevant to the Air Fair as it reflects just how the Air Fair started. The original Air Fair was held to promote the newly emerging Air Travel industry, particularly the revolutionary idea of package holidays. This was still a time when air travel was still fairly exclusive and few had ever set foot in an airliners. A number of aircraft in the programme reflected this theme, mostly provided by Air Atlantique who presented their aircraft in a half hour long set piece. The earliest of their aircraft in the show were a pair of Dragon Rapides, but their display included their Anson, Dove, Pembroke as the "Communication Flight" while the much heavier American transports were represented by the DC-3 and DC-6. The latter aircraft has been based at nearby Dunsfold for much of June for filming of the latest James Bond film "Casino Royale" in which a leafy corner of the Surrey Airfield has been turned into Miami International Airport. The entire display and final "balbo" was coordinated in the air by the crew who displayed the Twin Pioneer cleverly showing off the power and versatility of the type by performing a tactical landing and takeoff in front  of the Balbo! Overall the Air Atlantique combine took the honours for best overall display at the Air Fair. Two other types fitted into the theme from other operators. The RAF's Hercules C5 was kept busy all weekend with it's Tac Demo and acting as a last minute replacement for the RAF Falcons Parachute Team dropship. Representing the former soviet bloc was the Antonov An-2 put through a really exciting (How many airliners that you know do stall turns?) routine by James Black.

The Air Fair prides itself on producing a variable and different line up each year together with a few favourites, some of which are home based. Most well known of the home based aircraft is the Su-26M2 flown by Will Curtis. This year Road Angel have stepped into the sponsor's shoes left be Honda and Will once again defies belief with some amazing aerobatics. Sadly however, the Civil Aviation Authority have stepped in stopping Will from talking to Commentator Pete MacNamara via the Air Traffic frequencies which on Saturday meant there was no conversation between the pair. Sunday saw the team try and use normal walkie talkie type communications which unfortunately failed during the flying to be compounded by a stuck cowl flap forcing Will to stop his display early. Will also appeared later in the programme display one of Gold Air's Learjet 45 aircraft celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Biggin Hill based company.

There was no shortage of aerobatic talent at the show. The Blades at only their second public airshow put on another superb display in their bright coloured Extras while the Matadors took the honours for best team display in their Su-26s for some truly awe-inspiring formation aerobatics and crazy flying. The Breitling Jet Team brought some Gallic flair to proceeding with their six L-39 jet trainers filling in for the gap left by the Red Arrows which were on a foreign sales tour. Rounding up the civilian team were the unmistakable Utterly Butterly Barnstormers with what commentator Brendan O'Brien described as a mix of Noise, Smoke, Aerobatics, Rock'n'Roll and Girls!

However, perhaps the most outstanding civilian display was that given by Guy Westgate in the MDM Fox Glider. The tow aircraft in this case was an Extra 300L and the combination is excellent. No other Glider tow is like it and more exciting manoeuvres will be added as the display is refined.

Performing the Impossible

A highlight of the show was amazing display given by Guy Westgate in the Fox Glider. It had many highlights as ever but it was the tow that really caught the eye. Usually the tow aircraft is something that is quite steady and slow. But for this display, Jon Gowdy flew an Extra 300L, an aircraft which is much more powerful and faster than normal. This meant not only was the climb faster but aerobatics could be included in the tow. Guy and John promise to further enhance this display as they develop the display to make it even more spectacular.

Biggin Hill always has a strong historic component to it's displays. The first display of the day included some very special historic types. It was perhaps the first time that so many second world war Luftwaffe aircraft had flown over Biggin Hill since 1940! The formation actually started from Fairoaks Airfield in Surrey, the home of RLM Aviation, Glenn Lacey's company which is restoring a number of Luftwaffe warbirds including a very exciting Stuka project. Leading the formation was Historic Aircraft Collection's Fiesler Storch which maybe receiving a genuine Argus engine in the near future. Another airshow regular in the formation was James Pittock's Me108 Taifun in it's bright North African camouflage. Joining these two regulars was RLM's Bucker Bestmann which is seldom seen in public. The Bestmann was the primary trainer for the Luftwaffe throughout the war yet it was design by Swede, Anders Andersson who went on to form SAAB in Sweden and design aircraft such as the Safir. Certification issues prevent another very rare aircraft from RLM's stable joining the display. The Klemm 35 was another Luftwaffe trainer very much in the mould of the Miles Magister. Not deterred by paper work the Klemm was brought in by road for the static display by RLM.

The Allies of course were well represented at Biggin. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight provided the RAF warbirds for the display with the Hurricane IIc in 17 sqn colours and the Spitfire PR19 in the colours of the last RAF operational Spitfire sortie displaying on both days. Arriving on Saturday was the flight's Lancaster. However, the bomber suffered problems with it's brakes on landing which prevented it performing in Saturday's display. However, some overnight driving and an early start for the ground crews from BBMF saw the Lancaster ready to take part in Sunday's display and head home. The US was well represented too with a pyrotechnic display by B-17G Sally B and OFMC's P-51D Mustang. The Pyros were intended for a modern air power demonstration but in the end this was pulled by RAF Strike Command. Another heavy from the US was Plain Sailing's Catalina representing the air war at sea.

Biggin always has good participation from the military. The senior service sent it's Black Cats duo of Lynx HAS3 and HMA8 helicopters who have a new display for the 2006 season with a few twists. The Royal Air Force as ever had a very strong contingent. Star of which for the second year running was the Typhoon T1A display. Sadly, the F2 had a problem throughout the weekend and was unable to take part in each day's flying. Joining it from the other RAF fast jet displays were the Harrier GR7A and the 208(R) Squadron Hawk T1 display. For many however, it was the battlefield helicopters that were the biggest headturner. The Chinook HC2 display took the award for the best solo display for the second year running despite some strong opposition from the Merlin HC3 display otherwise known as Team Merlin. If there was ever an award for entering into the spirit of the event, then Team Merlin would have taken it handing out plenty of souvenirs to those that they met.

From the enthusiasts point of view, it was really good to see the Belgian Armed Forces return. On static display was a F-16BM Fighting Falcon while in the air there were two very different displays. Making it's very last display at the air fair in some style was the Fouga Magister in the hands of Paul Rorive. Display smoke and elegant figures a plenty, the old magister always gives a great display. Making a rare appearance was a Belgian Sea King Mk48 giving a search and rescue demonstration. The aircraft like the Magister sported special markings for 40sqns 25th Anniversary. The Sea King should be seen a number of other events throughout the summer in the UK.

Once again Biggin put on a superb event with plenty of new and old favourites on show. Two days of warm sunshine pulled in a large crowd of 85,000 people to a well organised and entertaining event. Speaking to News Shopper after the event, Air Fair founder Jock Maitland said "Again we have gone better than last year and we look forward to putting on more shows at Biggin Hill. We want to thank all the public for coming." We all hope to be back at the bump next year.

Flightline UK would like to thank Simon Ames, Nick Smith and all at Air Displays International for their help in producing this report and hospitality.

 copyright Flightline UK