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The Yeovilton Air Day 2007 was the biggest event to be staged by the Royal Navy in 2007 and therefore had plenty of support. With the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands Conflict very much in the public eye this year, Yeovilton's theme was "Falklands to the Future." There was a strong emphasis on the future at Yeovilton with two hangers of exhibitions focussing on the future of the Navy and it's equipment. As ever, the Air Day presented a show packed with variety in a relaxed friendly atmosphere.  Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of author.

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Navy Days!

The Yeovilton Air Day is the largest of the Navy's aerial events and in 2007 was the largest overall Naval event. As such it's gove often rare chances to see some modern Naval hardware displayed en masses. At the the centre of the static parks is a large area entirely poulated by Royal Navy aircraft and personnel providing the public a chance to meet the Navy and share stories with the crews and find out more about a Naval flying career. The locally based Lynx squadrons also put on a fine massed display of the type outside their hangers during the day.

 

Thankfully, the summer weather finally made an appearance in time for the Yeovilton Air Day so there were no worries of a repeat of Waddington's cancellation due to sodden ground.The Air Day once again attracted large crowds to see h the Royal Navy in action. The large numbers of Royal Navy aircraft on show is never repeated outside of Culdrose and Yeovilton.The build up to this years Air Days promised enthusaists some very rare items but in the last days before the show a number of the star items were forced to cancel.The Antonov An-124 in the flying display cancelled due to operational constraints. In the static park the A-4 Skyhawk again cancelled just before the show while the pair of Hellenic Air Force A-7H Corsair IIs got as far as Italy before both succumbed to transponder problems. However, that's didn't mean the static wasn't full of some rare and interesting types. The United States Air Force A-10A Thunderbolts seem to be enjoying their summer holiday in the UK and are managing to appear at plenty of airshows while they're here! Yeovilton was also the first show of the season to boast a strong line up from the European Nations. A the forefront of the line up was the French Navy who had the strongest line up of any nation. Most welcome were the pair of Super Etendards, one of which armed with an Exocet for the Falklands 25 area. Joining them were a Lynx HAS2FN, Alouette III and a Super Frelon; all very rare vistors to a UK show these days.

Falklands 25

The Royal Navy is clearly keen to take the lead in commemorate the Falklands Conflict 25th Anniversary. In the static park there was a special area dedicated to the conflict. Dominated it were the two Super Etendard from the French Navy to represent the aircraft the Navy feared most. The only Argentian aircraft in the display was the museums UH-1 captured in 1982 while Boscombe Down provided a Sea Harrier FA2 painted in pre conflight markings . Other historic types such as Wasp, Lynx, Scout, Gazelle and Wessex were all represented.

 

 It was actually something of a Lynx meet at the show with the countless Royal Navy examples being joined a SH-14D Lynx from the Royal Netherlands Navy and a Lynx Mk95 from the Portuguese Navy. Also in the static were two other helicopters from European nations, the UH-1D Iroquois from the German Air Force and a Eurocopter Cougar from the Royal Netherlands Air Force. In the Air, there was the first UK performance of the year for the Belgian Armed Forces F-16AM Fighting Falcon which opened the display with a powerful display. However, the special guests and show stars were the Patrouille Suisse in their six F-5E Tiger II aircraft which were aking a rare appearance outside of RIAT. The team ended their display with their traditional flare release to the delight of the crowd. Awat from the military flying there was the traditional mix of civilian and histroic displays. The Turbulent Team made a welcome return to the Air Day after a few years absence with their usual antics. A rare preformer at the larger shows these days is the Pitts Special which was put through it's paces by Peter Porchert, a local pilot from Salibsury. The Royal Navy Historic Flight led an impressive display of historic aircraft with it Sea Fury FB11. It was joined by Kennet Aviation's Skyraider and Seafire XVII. The latter was a highly appropriate part of the display wearing it's Yeovilton markings. Rolls Royce's Spitfire XIX is a regular at Air Day and was flown by former RNHF pilot Russ Eatwell in a dedicated to all Fleet Air Arm pilots who joined the RAF during the Battle of Britain. A late addition was Radial Revelation's T-28 Fennec. Another late addition was the Hunter Flying Club's Hunter FGA9 which toured in from Exeter, A Westland Wasp also flew marking the rotary history of naval aviation. It arrived in company with navy's newest helicopter, the Merlin HM1 as a dramatic demonstration of the show theme - "Falklands to the Future." The historic element wasn't just restricted to the flying. The RNHF's Sea Hawk and Swordfish were on the ground along with Jet Provosts, Bulldogs as well as a fly in by vintage aircraft. Catching the eye this year was a lovely Dragon Rapide and an extraordinary scale replica of a World War One Spad fighter,

Out with a Bang!

The traditional finale to a Yeovilton Air Day is the Commando Assault. This epic role demonstration involves the entire base as well as the Marines, Royal Air Force and army, It ended with a truly spectacular "Wall of Fire" We think this is a best regular set piece on the display circuit and long may it continue

The current Royal Navy has a number of different displays that are fairly rare away from their own airshows. The most prolific at the moment is the Yeovilton based Black Cats display team using a pair of Lynx HAS3 or HMA8 helicopters. As ever they put on a superb formation and synchronised routine for their home event. The previously mention Merlin HM1 also put a solo display. Also in the air were a pair of Jetstream T2 aircraft from RNAS Culdrose while there was another impressive display by the four FRADU Hawks and FR Aviation Falcon 20ECM aircraft.

It wasn't just Navy aircraft either. The Royal Air Force also lent a hand with a number of aircraft in the ground and in the air. Headlining were the Red Arrows who despite still being a pilot down put on a thrilling full display. Joining them as the Tutor T1 solo from Flt Lt Andy Preece who always seems to get the best out of a low powered aircraft. The same certainly can't be said of the Typhoon F2 flown by Flt Lt Jim Walls who uses the power of the aircraft to simply rewrite the laws of physics during his display.

On the ground, the RAF had a Sea King HAR3A, Tornado F3 and a Hercules C1. Nearby QinetiQ based at Boscombe Down also sent their Open Skies equipped Andover C1(PR) for a rare airshow appearance while the Army brought in a Gazelle AH1 for the Falklands 25 static display.

The traditional finale to the Air Day is the Commando Assault. This years was particularly significant as it was the only chance the general public will get to see modern Harrier GR9 aircraft in the skies at an airshow as the RAF is unable to support a display this year. As ever it was a thrilling finale to the day with plenty of pyrotechnics and people running about. Also taking part was a RAF Puma HC1 and a again this is something of a rarity these days as there has been no Puma display in many years. The final part saw all the aircraft hover or fly in front of the crowd as a massive "Wall of Fire" was detonated behind the helicopters.

As ever, Yeovilton Air Day was a superb show with plenty to see and do. Though it has the participation levels of a military airshow it retains a far more relaxed atmosphere which makes the show so much more enjoyable. Well done to all those involved, particular those based a Yeovilton who do such a fine job opening their base to the public.

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