The RAF holds three major airshows every year for the public. The first of these is the RAF Cosford Airshow in Shropshire. Cosford is unusual as it's not a major flying station for the RAF and has quite a short runway. This prohibits a number of the larger and faster aircraft from operating from the base. Today it is home to a number of technical schools and the University of Birmingham Air Squadron, Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports for the first time from Cosford. All photography copyright of the Author unless stated otherwise.
This year the RAF celebrates it's 90th Anniversary and this event will be celebrated at all three of it's major airshows was well as the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford. The first of these airshows is the Cosford Airshow. Cosford is not a large airfield by any means and therefore no major flying units are based here. Cosford's primary role is that of a training station for a number of ground roles in the armed forces with perhaps the most prolific being that for training technicians and ground crew. Cosford is also home to an impressive indoor sports facility as it's also home to the physical training centre.
Cosford Airfield itself is very small in comparison with other RAF airfields. Today, the only significant flying unit is the University of Birmingham Air Squadron flying Grob Tutor T1 aircraft. A Royal Air Force Gliding and Soaring Association affiliated club, the Wrekin Gliding Club is also based in one of the many hangers around the airfield.
Cosford is also home to the Royal Air Force Museum and a National Cold War Exhibition which was all open to airshow visitors for the airshow. Cosford itself has retained many of it's original buildings and hangers and is one of the most attractive RAF bases of the lot.
The size of and character of RAF Cosford very much dictates the kind of airshow put on. Unlike the sprawling airfields that host the Waddington and Leuchars airfields, no fast jets can operate from Cosford itself. The only near modern jets the public see on the ground are the Jaguars and Tornados used as instructional airframes by the various trade schools based at Cosford. Helicopters and some of slower lighter aircraft can use Cosford's runways so it's no surprise to see aircraft like the Jet Provost, Strikemaster and Merlin HC3 on static display.
As well as the museum a number of the airfield's hangers were opened with trade stalls and a number of RAF and Armed forces exhibitions on show to the public. These exhibitions ranged from armoury training and maintenance to physical education and gliding; the latter using a very effective simulator.
The flying display too doesn't bias towards to the fast and loud as the other RAF's show often do. Cosford retains a mix very reminiscent of smaller civilian displays rather than the large scale military displays. While this may not endear the show to many die hard enthusiasts it does at least mean the show remains distinctive from the other military displays. Another thing you notice is the shear number of people than attend. The weather didn't look great but despite that over 54,000 attended which is an amazing figure for a one day show on such a small venue. In fact, some of the pilots remarked on just how crowded the site looked from the air.
The flying display was opened by the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team. With the C-130 fleet in such high demand the team can no longer be assured of having one available for their displays. Thankfully the Chinook HC2 team can now act as the teams "lift" at the major air displays.
With the 90th anniversary of the RAF being a major theme behind the flying displays is was no surprise to see plenty of historic's in the displays. The Great War Display Team provided a glimpse of some of the RAF's first aircraft as well as some of their first adversaries.
There were no representative displays of the RAF between the wars but there was a fine display of the first marks of fighters during the second war with the recently restored Spitfire Ia flown by Jonathon Whalley joined by Peter Vacher's Hurricane I. The Spitfire actually is a very late Mk1 and didn't serve in the Battle of Britain unlike the Hurricane but is a welcome sight back on the airshow circuit representing the "Baby Spitfires." The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight brought their Spitfire IIa as part of their display to complete the line up of early mark Spitfires. It was joined by the Lancaster and Hurricane IIc. Further warbird action came from Peter Teichman and his P-51D Mustang. Though Peter's P-51 is a USAAF machine, the Mustang was first designed for a RAF requirement and many marks of the Mustang served with the RAF.
The post war RAF was also well represented. Sadly Cosford was due to host the public debut of the Vulcan but the CAA Permit to Fly process had not been completed by the time of the show. It is hoped it will be completed by late June to allow the aircraft to fly at the next RAF show at Waddington. The earliest Jet on show was the Vampire Preservation Group's Vampire T11 which has recently had it's livery tweaked and looks fantastic. Delta Jets also provided a pair of aircraft - the Gnat T1 and Hunter T7 in the colours of two of the RAF's former display teams, the Yellowjacks and Black Arrows.
The other armed services also provided displays for Cosford. The Army Air Corps sent their new look Blue Eagles team for the display with the solo Westland Lynx AH7 and Westland WAH-64D Apache AH1. Regreattably the UK display debut of the Apache proved to be very short as it suffered a potential APU fire while holding and was put down in a field before making a sheepish return to it's parking spot on the display line. The Royal Navy also weren't without their own problems with the Black Cats display reduced to a solo ship after one of the Lynx went unserviceable. On the historic front, the RN Historic Flight pitched up with the Sea Hawk FGA6 which managed to find it's way through the murk between Cosford and Yeovilton to display.
Civilian displays are an important part of Cosford displays. Anna Walker put on a fine display of classic aerobatics in her Bucker Jungmann in the grey skies. One of the most dramatic displays was that given by the Swift Aerobatic Display Team and their new formation display with the vintage Lo100 flown by Ian Gallacher joining Guy Westgate in the S-1 Swift Glider and Pawnee Tug Pilot Paul Moslin. After some exciting low level tow flying the team departed to gain height . The gliders returned for some beautiful formation and synchronised aerobatics before finishing with a dramatic mirror flypast finale accompanied by wingtip smokes.
Also taking part in the flying were the Yakovlevs and The Blades. The latter deserve special mention for providing one of the best displays of day with some very snazzy formation and synchronised aerobatics.
But being an RAF show, it was the RAF taking centre stage. Perhaps the biggest crowd puller at any show are the Red Arrows. The display at Cosford was the team last UK display before a month long deployment to Canada and North America. Though restricted to a flat display but the low cloud the team still put on a superb display.
Making it's debut on the airshow circuit was the RAF's King Air solo display. It's a very welcome display on the circuit considering the lack of "heavies" on the circuit and proved to be another fine display showing off the mini-airliner in a number of steep wing-overs and the customary steep landing. Other aircraft from the training fleet in the display included the Tutor T1, Tucano T1 and Hawk T1; the latter pair sporting their 90th anniversary display markings. The Chinook HC2 also provided it's solo display as part of a bust afternoon for the team.
The Typhoon F2 was heavily restricted by the low cloud but did provide some of the most dramatic water vapour effect of the afternoon with it's hard turn and quick rolls. But the centerpiece of the RAF displays was the Role Demonstration. The earlier in-flight emergency for the Apache meant it couldn't take part and user also claimed the Boeing E-3D Sentry from RAF Waddington. It was therefore left to the Chinook HC2, two Hawk T1s, a pair of Tornado F3s and a further pair of Tornado GR4s to take part in the demo. This year's demo builds on that performed on 2007 but overall is much more dynamic with some important changes and better pyrotechnics. With elements missing it would not be fair to pass judgment on the whole role demo but it certainly delivers an exciting 30 mins for crowds - here's hoping for some better luck at Biggin Hill.
Cosford may not be a popular show amongst the die-hard modern military enthusiasts but it clearly delivers an entertaining afternoon of flying and an excellent ground show. Despite some difficult photography conditions, Cosford has to be one of the best airshow venues on the circuit with it's old RAF station feel without the sprawling mass of concrete often seen at larger military airshows. The popularity proved by the massive crowds which are more akin to a much larger event.