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The RAF Waddington Internation Airshow is the RAF's premier event of the year. As such it is always a highly anticipated affair. This year saw the UK airshow debut of the Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKI multi role fighters and their support Il-76 and Il-78 aircraft. They were in the UK for Exercise Indra Dhanush, a joint exercise with the RAF. Sadly though, the extremely wet weather intervened seriously affecting Saturdays flying displays and eventually leading to the cancellation of the Second day altogether. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from a very very wet Waddington. All photography copyright of author.

The Blue Eagles
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The Long Goodbye
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International Lineup
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Opposite ends of the Spectrum
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Red, White and Blue
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Role Demo Participants
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Solo Displays
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Civy Jets
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Better Late than Never
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I-STARS
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Welcome in service
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RAF Reflections
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Thanks for dropping by!
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Right at Home!
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Spicing things up on a damp day!

There's no doubt the Indian Air Force detachment of Su-30 fighters and their support aircraft were the highlight of the Waddington airshow. They didn't come all that way just for the airshow. The Su-30s and a support Il-78 are here for two weeks as part of the return leg of Exercise Indra Dhanush involving the RAF Leeming based Tornado F3's of 25(F) Squadron. The aircraft and their crews attracted a great deal of attention at the show . The crews in particular seem to enjoy the attention and were only too happy to talk about their aircraft, While two fighters took pride of place in the static park, three fighters got into the air in pretty miserable conditions before returning for a flypast and a streamed landing marking the first flying appearance by a "Flanker" variant since the appearance of the Su-32FN at Farnborough.

 

The omens for Waddington started to look bad when the Met Office issued severe weather warnings for both of Waddington's show days for heavy rain and the possible effects on already saturated ground. Several localities around the base were flooded in the week before as well. Despite this, the weather was good enough to allow the all important arrivals and give some hope that something would happen over the weekend. Saturday, the only day the show was actually open, was dark and wet day throughout with minor interludes of slightly drier conditions.

On the ground, there was the usual large static display of aircraft mainly from the Royal Air Force. If one type dominated the static line this year it was the Tornado F3 as they were deployed here to operate with the Sukhoi Su-30MKIs of the Indian Air Force. Two Typhoons from the Royal Air Force also grace the static line up. One was from 3(F) Squadron while the other was from the now rarely seen 17(R) Squadron which is the operational evaluation unit based at RAF Coningsby.

While the flying display may have not had the international line ups that we have become used to at Waddington, the static park did have a healthy mixture of aircraft from Europe. Perhaps the most welcome were the aircraft from the United States Air Forces in Europe. The two A-10A Thunderbolt II strike aircraft were the stars and like the Indians it was a deployment that meant they could make Waddington. The runway at their normal base in Germany is being resurfaced so they have deployed to RAF Lakenheath to continue flying. They were joined by a single F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th FW at RAF Lakenheath. There were four F-16 Fighting Falcons at the show. The Royal Netherlands Air Force sent a pair of their aircraft from 322 squadron which are frequent visitors to the big UK shows. Much rarer these days are the F-16s of the Royal Norwegian Air Force who also sent a pair of aircraft for the show. The Royal Netherlands Air Force also had another  pair if aircraft on show, a familiar Fokker 50 and a AH-64D Longbow Apache. There was a notable appearance by the North Atlantic Treat Organisation with a E-3A Sentry and Boeing 707TCA aircraft in the static park. Germany also took part with a pair of Tornado IDS strike aircraft in their newer light grey scheme which has replaced the dark green.

Also in the static areas were a number of historic aircraft including a notable Falklands 25 exhibition featuring a number of aircraft from the conflict including a Royal Marines Gazelle, RAF Chinook and a Wessex. Other historic types in the static included a pair of Hawker Hunters and a Jet Provost.

Sunday's Cancellation - The Truth!

There's no doubt that the cancellation of Sunday's show was the biggest talking point of the weekend. But what exactly happened to cause such a drastic decision? After all, it had been raining for quite a while in the days before hand and the airfield had coped.

The story starts at 0630 on Sunday morning when a deluge of rain hit RAF Waddington. The Met office advised the organisers that this front should pass though fairly quickly and the recent radar pictures confirmed this. Unfortunately for Waddington the front stalled right over the base. This caused prolonged heavy rain leading to a number of calls for assistance from a number of different parts of the base with water getting places it really shouldn't and the service vehicles getting bogged down in the grassed areas of the showground. Much of the car parking area rapidly became saturated effectively closing down a large area of car parking space. Worse still, the vehicles servicing the toilet areas were unable to reach the toilets whch would have created a major health hazard had the show continued so the depressing decision to cancel had to be taken. Though weather conditions improved the ground conditions didn't.

The people that had already arrived had to be asked to leave so a clean up operation could start so as to not compromise the base's important operations  Departures had to be kept to minimum in the morning so to aid the emptying of the airfield as if there was  any flying many would have tried to stay. The condition were so bad that most of the departures from the static parks had to be delayed until Monday as it would not have been practical or safe to try and move those aircraft.

As expected, the weather took a major role in shaping the eventual flying display. The weather was so bad that the opening ISTAR formation of Sentinal R1, Nimrod R1 and E-3D Sentry AEW1 became a series of singleton flypasts because of the very low cloud bases. All of the RAF's solo displays managed to get into the air with Tutor T1, Tucano T1, Hawk T1 and Typhoon F2 all forced to adjust their display to suit the low cloud. The Typhoon in particular  proved to be very dramatic with  vapour trails extending way back from the aircraft. Even the Chinook HC2 display managed to find the cloud base during some of his vertical elements. Perhaps the highlight of the RAF displays that were able to take place was the formation of the Red Arrows with the Sentinal R1 to celebrate the Waddington based type's entry into RAF service. The Reds themselves managed to get part way through their display before being forced to return home as the cloud base came down yet again.

The flying display also afforded the chance to look at a recent retiree and a brand new aircraft currently in testing. The Retiree was the SEPECAT Jaguar GR3. Though all RAF flying (bar delivery flight's to DCEO Cosford) has stopped, QinetiQ still flies the type for evaluating equipment. Appropriately, the Jaguar at Waddington still wore it's 6(F) Squadron markings which was the last squadron to operate the type. The new was the Nimrod MRA4 conducting three fly through as part of another evaluation sortie. This particular aircraft has been a controversial absentee from a number of high profile events and had long been the subject of negative press following difficulties with the program. The Nimrod, despite being heavily delayed is a highly anticipated new asset to the RAF and it's appearance at Waddington was most welcome. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the their flying display however was thanks to the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team. The team can be affected by a number of weather conditions but though a little luck and professionalism they were able to find just enough gap in the cloud to perform a jump. Well done boys! The biggest casualty of the afternoon was the Royal Air Force role demo. With conditions worsening the crews sat on the end of the runway as the E-3 passed on details before eventually having to cancel. Thankfully the two Tornado GR4s were already in the air and able to combine with the pyros for a short but sweet fireworks display. This was a crying shame as we've seen the demo improve each time we're seen it.

Both the Royal Navy and Army Air Corps supported the event with their helicopter display teams - the Black Cats and Blue Eagles respectively. Both teams were suffering unservicabilities with the Black Cats down to a solo and the Blues showing a solo Lynx and Gazelle. Another display from the defence sector was the pair of Falcon 20ECMs from FR Aviation who give a surprise synchro pair routine.

The weather hit the historical displays hard. Ex BBMF boss Paul Day gave an elegant account of Maurice Bayliss' Spitfire IXT while Dave Southwood put on a superb display in the Hunter F58 from Hawker Hunter Aviation.

The only international participation in the flying were a trio of the Sukhoi Su-30 fighters from the Indian Air Force. Despite not being display pilots and therefore not being able to show the true potential of these awesome aircraft it was still high point of the display for many. It's been far too long since we've seen an aircraft from this family in the air at an airshow.

As has been the case at the last few Waddington airshows, there was a selection of very different aerobatics displays. There were two displays from Glider Teams. First up was the S-1 Swift and Extra 300L flown by Guy Westgate and Justyn Gorman. They were soon followed by Team Condor who managed to get through the gloom from RAF Cranwell to display. Both teams had to cope with some quite low cloud bases for their displays so they were fairly short demos. Making a welcome return were The Blades who had to contend with some really awful conditions for their display been restricted to a very flat routine which included a very interesting rolling square! John Taylor also gave a solo display in the Ultimate High Extra 300L. The Matadors flew in to round off Saturday's flying which their dramatic pairs and solos display.

It was a great shame the weather dealt such a major blow to Waddington as it would have been such a great showcase for the RAF. As it was, credit must be paid to all the display crews and organisers for coping so admirably with the conditions which were probably the worst experienced at an airshow for many years. For those who had brought advance tickets for Sunday, refunds are available by returning your tickets (complete with counterfoil for advance tickets) with a stamped address envelope and telephone number to "The Air Show Office, RAF Waddington, Lincoln, LN5 9NB".

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