The airshow scene is full of colour and variety with large and small events across the country. Old Buckenham is certainly one of the smaller shows but is every bit as enjoyable a show (if not more) than some of the larger, more illustrious airshows. Centred around the Old Buckenham Flying Club, the airshow attracts a wide variety of different types from general aviation to historic warbirds and top class aerobatics. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All Photography copyright of Author.
Old Buckenham airfield is just south of Attleborough in Norfolk which has had a colourful history during it's 65 year history. During the second world war the airfield, which was much larger than it's current form, was home to B-24D Liberator bombers of the 453rd Bomb Group. and had three 2,000 yrd runways at it's height.
Today, the airfield is much smaller using just a portion of the main runway and some secondary grass runways. Much of the original infrastructure has gone but that doesn't mean the character of the place has gone. Outside the club house stands a stone memorial to the 453rd BG and many of the walls in the current clubhouse have HŠ saluting the aircraft and men of the 453rd as well as other important events in military aviation history. As well as the flying club, a small engineering company, Touchdown Aviation, is based on site.
The air show itself is held in aid of the East Anglian Children's Hospices with all profits being forwarded to the charity. The show is very much aimed at being a fun family day out with plenty of activities on the ground as well as a small but varied trade fair. This year saw a great turn out of classic cars which included some very pretty Aston Martins in the line up. Second World War swing bands also brought a little flavour of the United States Army Air Force base back to life for the appreciative crowd.
As with many airshows, there was a small fly-in before the show got underway. Taking everybody on the ground by surprise was aviation legend Ken Wallis is one his Wallis Autogyros. Amongst the usual mix of Chipmunks, Bulldogs and Austers there were a few rarities such as a Yak-18T and a Nord 2602
The flying got underway shortly after 2pm in the afternoon for a relaxed afternoon flying. Though the day remained relatively bright, it was marked by a very strong wind from the west providing some tricky conditions in which to display some of the lighter types. First in front of the rather packed crowds was the locally based Stinson L-5 flown by Stearman guru, Gerry Honey. Gerry is also the chief flying instructor at Old Buckenham and his display of the Stinson highlighted the aircraft role in the Army Co-operation role with some tight turns and slow speed flying.
A change in pace marked the next display with a typically potent display from the P-40M Kittyhawk flown by Peter Teichman. Peter arrived on slot and departed after his display but put on a superb display of gentle aerobatics in this classic second world war fighter that he keeps with the rest of his collection at North Weald. The Percival Provost T1 flown by Chris Edmudson was put through a display of gentle aerobatics. Though there are a fair number of Provosts airworthy in the UK they are seldom seen at airshows which is a great shame as they always put on a fine display. The second warbirds display of the afternoon came from Peter Vacher's Hawker Hurricane I flown by Keith Dennison. This aircraft has been wonderfully restored with as much of the modern concessions tucked away keeping the aircraft as authentic as possible.
Stars of the afternoon for many in the crowd were the three aircraft from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Like many other airshows this year, Old Buckenham took the 90th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force as a central theme with a number of types celebrating the anniversary with the BBMF being central to this. It was the first time for a number of years the full flight of Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane had been to Old Buckenham.
First of the Aerobatic types to display was the Vans RV-8. This aircraft is a larger version of the kit built RV-4 with a similar profile yet a larger engine. Though it lacks a full inverted flight system the RV-8 is capable of a pretty comprehensive routine of classic aerobatics. Another pair of aerobatic types in the display were the pair of Pitts Special and Christen Eagle flown by Al Coutts and Steve Shutt who flew a loose formation routine of aerobatics in these classic shape biplanes.
One of the most surprising displays of the afternoon was that given by the Saab 91D Safir. The aircraft looks like a typical touring aircraft, but was used in the training and liaison role by the Swedish Air Force. What you wouldn't expect is a aerobatic routine from such an aircraft which was very impressive to watch.
Rounding off the heavy iron action was Rod Dean in Historic Flying Ltd's Spitfire IXT in the colours of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Rod was seen for quite a few minutes before his slot off in the distance performing a practice display before roaring into his display.
In complete contrast to the noise of the Spitfire was the final aerobatic acts, the S-1 Swift Glider of the Swift Aerobatic Display Team. Towed into the air by Jim Lawn from Norfolk Gliding Club, new Unlimited Glider Aerobatic Champion Mike Newman put on a beautiful display of aerobatics.
The final act was an Old Buckenham favourite, the Stearman Team lead by Gerry Honey. The team has a busy afternoon; no sooner had Gerry landed in the L5 than he was off with the rest of the team to fly at display at nearby Rougham Airfield for the Wings, Wheels and Steam event being held there. The team put on a fine display of formation and tailchase flying in some very colourful aircraft which include actor Martin Shaw's recently restored example.
Old Buckenham was a fun and enjoyable airshow without a lot of the hassles of the larger shows. Despite a number of changes and cancellations to the flying display, it was a entertaining afternoon of flying with a wide variety of types.