The Air Day at Kemble is always a highlight of the display season, and with some very good weather the scene was set for a classic Kemble Air Day. As in 2007 Kemble Air Day 2008 was one of the RAF's "Prioirty 1" airshows and saw strong support from the RAF alongside some of the country's most beautful classic jets. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of the Author unless stated otherwise.
The skies of the Cotswolds are home to two major airshows each year, the first of which is traditionally the Kemble Air Day. Kemble itself is a formed home to military aviation with both the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force and has a rich history. Missing for the first time in many years were the Red Arrows, who were touring North America at the time of Air Day. They were based here in their early years along with various maintenance units. But Kemble's history goes much further back than that with the RAF.
Like Biggin Hill earlier in the season, the RAF really provided many of the highlights for Kemble. Air Day was the third "Priority 1" show of the 2008 season and things are just getting better. Kemble's location near to bases such at RAF Brize Norton and RAF Lyneham pays dividends when it comes to getting some special participation for the show. Air Day also came the day after the very impressive Queen's Birthday Flypast over London as part of the Trooping the Colour parade and many of the locally based aircraft landed at Kemble. These included very rare static appearances by a C-130K Hercules C3 from Lyneham and a VC-10 from Brize Norton. However, standing over everything else was the mighty C-17A Globemaster III from 99 Squadron at Brize Norton. Seeming these heavy transports at an airshow is incredibly rare these days with the tempo of operations to keep with the demand for capacity on the air bridges to Iraq and Afghanistan. Another rare item in the static park from the RAF was the Griffin HAR2 from 84 Squadron whose aircraft are normally based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. Their aircraft are brought back on rotation to RAF Shawbury in Shropshire for servicing,
However, stars of the static park were the two Gloster Meteor T7 1/2 ejection seat test beds from Martin Baker's airfield at Chalgrove. It's a rare sight to see one of these aircraft at a show, but to see both side by side was unprecedented. It's also a sight that won't be possible away from Chalgrove for much longer as the silver and orange example, WL419 is almost out of flying hours. The rest of the static park was filled with the usual Kemble mix of classic jets and interesting lighter types such as Air Atlantique's Vampire T55, Jet Provosts and Bulldogs.
The flying display itself starts with a short morning flying display at 11am. It was opened this year by the Rolls Royce Spitfire XIX from Filton Airfield, Bristol. The Spitfire was the first of a number of warbirds in the days flying displays. Kemble was home to the Ferry Pilots Pool who delivered aircraft to bases all around the UK during the second world war. 2008 marked the 70th anniversary of such operations and a number of displays recalled the exploits for the ferry pilots. The De Havilland Hornet Moth was one of the aircraft used by ferry pilots to get back to Kemble and to get the aircraft they were ferrying. One specific incident was reenacted at Air Day when two raiding Messerschmitts attacking Kemble after seeing a Hornet Moth operating around the airfield. The raiders for the display were a pair of Messerscmitt Me108s from the 108 Group backed up by some impressive pyrotechnics in the middle of the airfield. Also displaying was Peter Teichman in his P-51D Mustang who had a busy weekend displaying both at Kemble and at a seaside event at Margate, Appearing for the first time for a few years were the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with the pair of Spitfire IIc
Classic Jets are always a highlight and important part of Kemble event, something which gives Kemble it's own special appeal. Earliest jet on display was the F-86A Sabre from the Golden Apple trust. Also display from the very early years of jet operations were Air Atlantique's De Havilland Venom FB50 and the Royal Navy Historic Flight's Hawker Sea Hawk FGA6.
Delta Jet's fleet was out on force for the display as it always is for Kemble. Andy Cubin opened their contribution with a solo display in the Gnat T1 wearing Yellowjacks markings. Also displaying was Delta's Jet Provost T5 and their pair of Hunter T7s in the markings of the Blue Diamonds and the Black Arrows. These two Hunters were joined by a pair of Tornado F3s for a special formation celebrating 111 sqn and their famous 22 aircraft loop at the Farnborough Airshow. 50 years ago. It is hoped a similar tribute will be mounted at Farnborough itself. From a similar era, Andrew Dixon display his Percival Pembroke C1.
Also based at Kemble are "Ultimate High," an advanced flying school who teach advanced flying skills as well as giving "once-in-a-lifetime" joy rides which include the legendary "Top Gun" day of dogfighting! For their home display they put up a formation of two Extra 300 aerobatic aircraft and a pair of Scottish Aviation Bulldogs.
However, the stars of the day were the crews and aircraft from the UK armed services. The Army Air Corps debuted their new look Blue Eagles combining the might of the Apache with the aerobatic Lynx and the historic Alouette II, Scout and Gazelle - the latter currently being slowly phased out of service. Their naval counterparts brought the Black Cats with their pair of Westland Lynx HAS3 for their aerial ballet.
But it as the Royal Air Force who were the showstoppers. Almost all of the solo displays were present with the Tucano T1, Hawk T1, King Air B200, Chinook HC2 and Typhoon F2 displaying. Also finding time to perform flypasts were a Tristar KC1 and a Hercules C5. With the Red Arrows absent, it was the Role Demonstration that captured the crowds attention for the day. The "Role Demo" has come a long way since it debuted at Biggin Hill in 2007 and it's a major highlight of the shows it appears at thanks to the dedication of the crews who put it together in the air and on the ground.
Everyone behind Kemble Air Day 2008 should be congratulated on putting on another superb event. Kemble has carved out it's own special place on the circuit with an unique yet varied line up of displays in the air and on the ground. Kemble Air Day will return in 2009 on the 21st June.