The summer holiday season sees a number of seaside events at resorts up and down the country. The event at Clacton is held on the Thursday and Friday leading into the August Bank Holiday weekend to extent the busy peak period for the local attractions, hotels and restaurants. While much smaller than it's Southend counterpart just a few miles sround the coast, Clacton Airshow 2008 was a much more pleasant experience with bright blues skies and just the slightest shower! Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of the Author.
The airshow at Clacton has been running for a number of years now. It's main purpose is to extent the busy bank holiday weekend for all the local leisure and tourist business, hence the displays being held on a Thursday and Friday. While nowhere near as big as the shows at Southend or Lowestoft, it does manage to pull in a number of military and civilian acts to attract the crowds. The last couple of years have seen the show badly hit by the good old British Summer, but in a year where some other major shows have suffered Clacton got away lightly. Thursday was dry which some sunny spells while Friday had a breif shower but blues skies more most of the day.
In comparison with other flying displays, Clacton is a very small affair. It doesn't want to compete directly with the other local shows and retains a far more intimate feel than some of the really big seaside show. The show may offer little that die-hard enthusiasts will see elsewhere, but for the photographer can offer a number of unique vantage points. Favourtites are the area around the Martello Tower and the Pier which offers a unique view looking down the display line or even back over towards the crowds for some of the slower and lower display items. One of the problems for the display participants at Clacton is where to base. There is the Clacton Aero Club just a matter of yards up the coast road from the display site but it's far too small to accomodate many of the aircraft taking part and doesn't offer much in the way of secure hangerage. Many of the display acts operate from Southend, but some choose other airfields in the locality or even their home base. With aircraft coming in from all points of the compass it's quite a job to organise them in all into a display so hats off to Ray Thilithorpe for producing a nice flowing airshow.
As is the case with quite a few of the seaside airshows the RAF is well represeented. Kicking things off for the light blues was the Grob Tutor T1 flown by Andy Preece. It's easy for a small quiet aircraft to be lost in the big coastal skies. However Andy's close in aerobatic routine is always good to watch. The Tucano T1 never has the problem of being too quite. Stew Campbells display shows off the virtues of the basic trainer to great effect enhanced by another great display scheme for 2008. Another aircraft sporting a snazzy display scheme for 2008 is the Hawk T1 flown by Dave Davies. With the coastal air containing plenty of moisture, the Hawk's display was highlighted well by the wingtip vortices which at times were just like display smoke.
Smoke is not a problem for the civilian acts appearing at Clacton. Team Guinot are always a crwod pleasing act at a venue like Clacton. Clacton saw displays by two different teams of pilots and wingwalkers as the team had a number of different appearances over the Bank Holiday weekend. Just as effective as the smoke from the Stearmans was the smoke from the Piper Pawnee towing Guy Westgate in Swift glider. Guy was joined by Pete Wells in the Silence Twister and Justyn Gorman in the Vans RV4 in the largest display yet mounted by the team showcasing aerobatics by modern homebuilts and purpose built gliders. The Blades also appeared on both days of the show highlight the performance of the purpose built Extra 300LP. Three Yak-50s from the Aerostars also appeared on the Friday from their base at North Weald displaying formation and solo aerobatics.
Historic aircraft made a small but valuable contribution to the flying displays. The RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were on hand to display the RAF's second world war history with the full team of Lancaster, Spitfire II and Hurricane. US forces were a common sight in this part of the world during the latter stages of the second world war so it was good to see Peter Teichman's P-51D Mustang displaying over the essex coast. Later American air power was represented by Roy Corstin flying the Radial Revelations operated T-28 Fennec.
However, the show stars were of course the Red Arrows and the first Clacton appearance by the Eurofighter Typhoon F2 in the hands of Flt Lt Charlie Matthews. Both displays had everyone looking skywards in awe of the skillful flying both displays show.
Clacton may not have the rare aircraft or massed warbirds of other shows, but it is a very entertaining show in it's own right. It has a charm that many other seaside shows are simply unable to offer because of their large size and long may that continue.