RAF Halton At Home Day 2008
 

 

The Fly In
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The RAF
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RAF Halton held a public event for the first time in many years over the weekend of 14th-15th June. While Sunday was the main event for the De Havilland Moth Club's annual show and fly-in, Saturday saw the station and the RAF take centre stage with full ground and air displays. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of the Author.

The airfield at RAF Halton is one of the oldest stations in the service. Military flying started here in 1913 when 3 sqn (Royal Flying Corps) deployed to the grounds of Halton house is support of the Household Division. It remained in use during the first world war and was eventually purchased for the new RAF in 1919 where it's role as an educational and training station for the RAF started and has continued to this day. Today Halton remains a very important part of the RAF despite the fact that it's not one of the most high profiles bases within the service. It continues it's role as an important training base for the Royal Air Force with a wide variety of courses run from the base. It is also home to the RAF Gliding and Soaring Association who are perhaps the main users of the airfield today. The RAFGSA offers gliding courses to all members of the armed services as part of their adventurous training schemes.

Perhaps the first thing to mention about the actual event was the admission fee. There wasn't one. While free airfield airshows are quite common around the world, they certainly are not in the UK. The high cost of staging an event usually prohibits "free" event but Halton managed to find a way to fund the show entirely themselves. Also free was a small colour brochure and a timings sheet for the weekend.

The other thing that strikes you almost immediately about Halton is just how pretty it and it's surrounding are. The airfield area looks hardly touched with it's original hangers and buildings while the grounds of Halton House are keep in perfect condition.

The show itself was a relatively low key affair. As mentioned above the whole weekend was held in conjunction with the De Havilland Moth Club who held there Charity Flying Weekend here for the first time since moving in from nearby Woburn. Much of the day saw De Havilland aircraft of all marks flying; mostly with paying passengers with all the proceeds going to charity. As well as the Tiger Moth, punters could ride in Chipmunks, Hornet Moths and the very rare De Havilland Dragon. As well as the passenger flights there was a decent fly-in, and again it wasn't just De Havilland types taking part. Amongst the moths were a Harvard, DC-3, Austers and the Thames Valley Air Ambulance Bo105.

The show opened with a flourish from the RAF. First act was the majority of the Queen's Birthday Flypast which had just completed it's route over Buckingham Palace. The highlights of the whole flypast were the massed formations of 9 Typhoons, 9 Tornado F3s and 16 Tornado GR4s - where else on the airshow would you see so many Typhoons and Tornados at one event?

The first full display of the afternoon was Flt Lt Andy Preece in the RAF Grob Tutor T1. Andy certainly puts the Tutor through a demanding routine which is one of the best in the RAF's portfolio of displays. Also from the RAF were the Shorts Tucano T1 which looked wonderful in the sunny skies over Halton and the excellent King Air display which appeared from it's temporary base at Kemble for the next day's Air Day.

Happy Birthday Ma'am

Returning from their flypast over London were most of the elements of this year's Trooping the Colour Flypast. Unusually, it was actually a fair sized flypast reflecting the 90th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force. Unusually it's didn't feature the Red Arrows who were displaying in North America at the time.

The RAF also sent the first nostalgia display with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Hurricane IIc in the night stalker markings. With so many moths wearing a number of different military markings there was plenty of other nostalgia about but in the air it was a little less populated.

The Army Air Corps Historic Flight sent it's pair of Auster AOP9 and De Havilland Chipmunk. The rotary element of the flight have joined the Blue Eagles display team this year leaving this pair to perform as the Historic Flight.

The Royal Navy too were due to be presented but neither the Swordfish or Seafire were available leaving John Beattie to display the Percival Provost T1 from Kennet Aviation in a typically classic aerobatic display.

Though not a full military team, the home team from the RAF Gliding and Soaring Association put up a display with the PA25 Pawnee and Lo100 aerobatic glider flown by Ian Gallacher and Paul Moslin. Both pilots and aircraft have been bust splitting their time between the RAFGSA and the Swift Aerobatic Display Team, though their display at Halton was a RAFGSA affair. The Lo proved to a potent machine once off the tow. Displaying between the low level two and the Lo 100 solo was Pete Wells in the Silence Twister. This little aircraft puts on an quite amazing display for something with only 80hp engine. The Twister itself has recently been incorporated in to the Swift Team, so expect to see some interesting flypasts at Yeovilton and Farnborough!

Solo aerobatic displays seemed to be the order of the day. By far the most traveled was a Swiss registered Bucker Jungmann. This Jungmann however was a very different as it lacked the original Hirth engine and had a modern Lycoming. The effect is profound; not only does the engine change the profile of the aircraft (it looks a much more aggressive bull faced machine) but it's capable of some serious aerobatics more on par with Pitts Specials.

Talking of Pitts, two very different marks displayed with a Pitts S-1 and the newly imported Pitts 12. The later is based on the "Stinkers" with squared wing tips and the same radial engine as found on the Sukhoi  Su-26 family. The result is a much more aggressive aircraft and a completely different noise. Also tumbling around in smoke a lot was a locally based Extra 300 which made a dramatic sight against the blue skies.

With the day forming part of the De Havilland Moth Club's charity weekend, it's unsurprising to see quite a few Tiger Moths in the flying display. There was a really surprising solo display with some very low aerobatics highlighting the agility of the type. Captain Neville's Flying Circus put in two appearances during the afternoon with the traditional barnstorming displays of flour bombing, balloon bursting and limbo flying. The flying display was closed by the return of an old favourite at airshows, albeit with new pilots and a new name - The Tiger 9. The team are very based on the old Diamond Nine team of Tiger Moths who disbanded a few years ago leaving a big hole in the airshow circuit. The Tiger 9 aim to fill that hole and the sight of nine Tiger desperately trying to hold position remains just as impressive.

RAF Halton put on a superb friendly and fun event, especially considering the free entry and added bonus of the London flypast. The show was held as a one off to help celebrate the RAF's 90th Anniversary and Halton's contribution over those 90 years, but we hope this event will return soon.

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