The summer sees a number of shows at small airfields across the country. One of the best is held at Rougham Airfield in Suffolk which itself has a rich aviation history. Today, the site is preserved as an events venue which sees a number of country fairs as well as the annual air display held at the site. The annual air display provides a wide variety of different displays from the lighter side of the airshow circuit as part of a friendly show combining military history, classic cars and aircraft. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of the Author.
The Rougham Air Display is something of a hidden gem on the airshow listings. It's a show which never really gets as much promotion than other show yet always delivers an entertaining afternoon's flying. The 2008 display looked like iot could have fallen victim to the weather as so many other shows have done this year. Luckily, as the week preceeding the show went on, the weather forecasts slowly improved to a forecast of mainly dry weather with bright spells. That said, ground conditions were pretty muddy and soft from all the rain that had fallen over the summer.
The theme of the a large part of the ground show was the advanced landing grounds of the second world war in France following D-Day. There was an impressive collection of period war time vehicles parked up with some of the aircraft that would have a common sight at these locations such as L-4 Grasshoppers and Gerry Honey's beautiful Stinson L-5. The main warbird display of the afternoon also added to the theme with Dave Evans attacking the advanced landing ground in the Messerschmitt Me108 Taifun. He was quickly chased down by Alistair Kay on OFMC's P-51D Mustang Ferocious Frankie. The sight of the Mustang diving in a weaving behind the smoking Me108 was one of the flying displays real highlights.
Another P-51D Mustang came in the form of Peter Teichman's example Jumpin' Jaques which displayed as solo display late in the afternoon after a bust three days at Eastbourne Airshow. The Royal Air Force's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight made two appeearance also off the back of bust schedules on the South Coast. The flight's Lacnaster B1 appeared first with a restricted routine but one which showed off the topside of the aircraft before departed for RAF Coningsby- a rare sight. The BBMF's recent refurbished Spitfire IX appeared later in the flying display. Again, Rougham's dog legged display line allow specataors a good view of the topside of this stunninig looking aircraft in it's new silver scheme.
The earliest "warbirds" were represented by the wonderful replicas of the Great War Display Team which provided an RAF SE5a and a Junker CL1. While these aircraft may not be the real thing they are realistic enough to give the public a good idea of what these early military aircraft were like to see in the sky. There was also a strong theme of historic military training aircraft. Gerry Honey et al displayed the wonderful Boeing Stearman trio that of often seen at airshows in the east of England with particulay verve. The sun caught is strong colours of these important aircraft to great effect.
Moving up a few years, the immediate post war years were represented by Richard Meredith's Pilatus P-2 in authentic Swiss Air Force marked. The P-2 is something of a hybrid borrowing many features off other aircraft. It's landing gear uses most of the parts from the gear for a Messerschmitt Me109 fighter (an aircraft which also served in the Swiss Air Force) except the gear has a wider track. John Fairey's Percival Provost T1 is a 1950's RAF trainer which proved a popular type thanks to it's rugged design and aerobatic performance. The current breed of training aircraft was represent by Flt Lt Andy Preece's aerobatic display in the Grob Tutor T1. Also making a welcome appearance, albeit for single flypast were the 10 scarlet Hawk T1 jet trainers of the Red Arrows routing via Rougham to their base at RAF Scampton. There was also a breif appearance by a Sea King HAR3A.
It was good to see a wide range of different civilian acts appearing. Team Guinot are always a show favourite at Rougham and have always supported the show well. With such a busy weekend it was hardly surprising to see them as a touring acts with a number of other commitments as well as the weather to get through. Martin West display his Piper Arrow which is an unusual display in it own right with steep turns and topside passes - not something you generally associate with a general aviation type. One of the most unuual displays of the afternoon was the MT-03 Autogyro flown by John Elliot. John displayed all the traits of the Autogyro that should have made it a succesful type of aircraft such as stable, hands free flying and suprising agility.
Bob Grimstead displayed his Fournier RF4 Redhawk. His display, set to music is certainly eye-catching with a beautifully marked aircaft and graceful wingtip smoke highlighting the display. Likewise, the purpose built S-1 Swift aerobatics glider flown by Guy Westagte uses wingtip smoke, but the Swift is a very different display showing unlimited level aerobatics such as tumbles and tailslides.
Nigel Wilson brought his Yak-52 to Rougham for an aerobatic routine at what is almost is "home" airshow and put on a pleasing routine in the powerful russian trainer. In complete contrast was the Pitts XII flown by Rob Howarth. This new version of the classic Pitts aerobatic biplanes used a russian radial engine similar to that founf in the Sukhoi Su-26. This makes the Pitts an aircraft with real airshow presence with the noisey radial engine sound coupled with the typical Pitts whine as it powers through it's routine.
Rougham once again produced a highly entertaining display with a little bit of everything despite the odd gap in proceedings. It's often said that smaller shows are often the most enjoyable and that certainly true for Rougham's annual air displays. We look forward to the 2009 show.