Many thanks to Sqn Ldr Andy Pawsey of the RAF Events team for supplying the latest infomation on RAF support fro the upcoming 2008 airshow season.

As promised, here are the plans detailing RAF support for the 2008 display season. As ever, these plans are subject to change but have reached a level of rigidity that makes it suitable for transmission with a good chance of going ahead as planned. Be warned, this is going to be l-o-n-g! I make no apologies as I am trying to give you the full picture.

First, the context . . . .

Some individuals may disagree, but the RAF does not exist in order to provide numerous and unusual combinations of aircraft in camera viewfinders. Before disappearing under the anticipated volley of “Why no more solos”, “Why no massive 90th flypasts”, “Where have all the statics gone” etc., I would like to remind those that need reminding that the RAF, like our fellow armed services, continues to be heavily stretched. We are under increasing operational, financial and equipment pressures. A search through other UKAR threads will provide background information for anyone that needs it. PR, image and reputation remains important but clearly comes down the pecking list compared to other tasks in direct support of the UK’s Defence Mission. Recruitment remains a hot subject. Fortunately, the RAF Engagement Strategy continues to provide the mandate for a range of presentational activities including support for airshows and other events.

Secondly, the shows . . . .

We have all sadly read about the demise of some of the UK shows for this year. So, I am especially pleased to announce that the RAF has returned to its full compliment of shows for 2008 – Cosford, Waddington and, making a welcomed return, Leuchars. Sacrifices are already being offered to the weather gods!

Thirdly, the teams . . . .

After a fantastic 50th Anniversary Season last year, the BBMF will have a more “traditional” season supporting a range of airshows and ceremonial events with the familiar yet unique combinations of Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancaster and DC-3. The number of requests and the number of displays performed continues to increase year-on-year. Like all the teams, they will also continue to perform a range of ground-based activities to schools, organisations, veteran groups, etc. The BBMF also plan to venture out to in to Europe and are especially looking forward to trips to Berlin and Poland.

The Falcons will continue to take the RAF to places that other assets cannot reach. We all hope they have an injury free season. The issue of jump platform availability remains. It is frustrating to all concerned when the Falcons loose a weekends worth of displays as late as the Thursday before due to C-130 unavailability. We hope to utilize the DC-3 more as a platform where appropriate. This works better for lower altitude descents when you can clearly see the guys exiting from the DC-3. Compare the BBMF 50th descent with the Cosford one! We are also looking at other alternative platforms. The exit from the Chinook at Southport worked very well.

The Red Arrows will continue to wow audiences with their outstanding formation aerobatics. UK appearances will be down on recent years due to the tour of Canada and the USA. This will be a disappointment to those looking forward to seeing the Red Arrows at shows in June. We have already received many complaints which we have sympathy with. Perhaps this should be remarked upon in the “When will the Thunderbirds, Blue Angels and Snow Birds next display in Europe” thread? The same applies to sending other RAF teams and solos in to Europe.

Next, the solos . . . .

Last season saw a big reduction in the number of RAF solo displays. Something that had been going on, albeit at a slower rate, for a number of years. I am, at least, pleased to say that the run downhill has been halted!

No 22 Gp will be providing solo displays by Tutor, Tucano and Hawk with display numbers similar to the 2007 levels.

No 1 Gp will be providing a solo display by the Typhoon again with display numbers similar to the 2007 levels.

Support from JHC has yet to be confirmed. We all hope to see solo Chinook display again this year.

The loss of the solo Harrier was felt by everyone. This was recognised at the highest level where efforts were made to reinstate the display for 2008, without success.

Work is in progress to try and get another aircraft out on display doing something “a little different”. Still much to be done so not going to raise expectations at this stage.

On to, the Role Demo . . . .

What an “interesting” Role Demo season it was last year!! The Role Demo tends to polarize people especially those that still wrongly think that having the Role Demo means you loose out with other display assets. Suffice to say that the response from all angles and levels has been over-whelming good. We will be providing a Role Demo for this season and we look forward to incorporating the lessons we learnt from last year’s Role Demo to produce a truly spectacular display. We will probably have x2 versions of the Role Demo each demonstrating different air power roles and so utilizing different display assets. The following Role Demo assets, common to both versions, have been confirmed:

– x2 Tornado F3 +1 Spare

– x2 Tornado GR4 +1 Spare

– x2 Hawk

– x1 E3-D

I am awaiting confirmation of additional heavy and rotary assets.

The following events have been afforded Priority 1 status for 2008 and will host the Role Demo:

– Cosford (1 Jun 08)

– Biggin Hill (7 – 8 Jun 08)

– Kemble (15 Jun 08)

– Waddington (5-6 Jul 08)

– RIAT (12-13 Jul 08)

– Sunderland (26-27 Jul 08)

– Southport (6-7 Sep 08)

– Leuchars (13 Sep 08)

Last year, we failed to deliver a Role Demo further north than Cosford! I am personally delighted with the P1s for this year. Excellent extant Organiser/Events Team partnerships will be reinforced whilst opening up new potential at new venues. Coverage of the North West, North East and Scotland is most welcome. Sunderland will be “interesting” as it is a true over-water venue. Many of you will know that we tried to include Southport as a late addition last year.

I will not give much more away at this stage about the routine(s) or the general approach adopted for the Role Demo. Suffice to say it will be big and loud with a balance between spectacle and realism. This is not theatre, it is demonstration. Best of all is that we will be free of a number of aspects that were huge constraints last year. Although we will not have any more practise time than we did last year, we will certainly have more planning time. Spirit of Adventure was a huge constraint for last year since it dictated much of what went on in the routine. We have a clean sheet for this year.

Also looking forward to additional Role Demo aspects where appropriate eg parking plans that facilitate interaction whilst on the ground (Kemble and Biggin Hill), bolstering with home-based assets where authorised (Waddington and Leuchars), etc.

And then, miscellaneous stuff . . . .

Getting close to the end (phew!). Although nothing firm yet, we hope to provide a number of “specials” similar to those seen last year ie RAFAT and x4 BBMF Fighters, Spitfire and Typhoon, etc. Fellow UKAR’ians have provided me with plenty of ideas!

Plans are coming together for much better use of ground assets. Limited headway was made in this area last year. We hope to do better this year.

Oops – nearly forgot the RAF 90th. Plans are still being put together as to what will happen where. I suggest you reign-in your optimism of seeing massive flypasts. For some anniversaries we have had funding to buy-in civvy ex-RAF aircraft. We have no additional resources to devote to a 90th commemoration and so rely on Organisers to buy-in suitable displays to compliment our current aircraft if they feel that is appropriate.

Save the best to last? Probably! We do intend to have a Spitfire/Typhoon Heritage Pair display for a very limited number of displays. This will be a fully integrated routine akin to the USAF Heritage Flt and the Spitfire/Tornado routine of the 1980s.

And finally . . . .

So, that’s it! Some will be happy, some disappointed. Much realistic thought has gone in to the plans for 2008. For instance, the Role Demo was not a certainty. Although deemed a success, perhaps a different method would be more effective for this year thus avoiding the dreaded “2nd Season” problems. Perhaps a different approach will be adopted for 2009!