The 19th Shoreham Airshow was an airshow dominated by the weather like so many others in 2008. An airshow the size of Shoreham really takes the best part of year to plan. However, all that planning is at the mercy of the weather on show day. The first day opened to glorious blue skies and warm temperatures with allowed a full flying display to go ahead but Sunday proved to be very different. Sunday saw gray skies for much of the day and poor visibility. Towards the end of the day the mist really started to set in curtailing the flying somewhat. However, even the weather couldn't prevent this being one of the most successful airshows yet staged by the Shoreham-by-Sea branch of the Royal Air Forces Association. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of the Author.
What is the show all about?
The Shoreham Airshow raises funds for the Royal Air Forces Association. After expenses, all monies raised go to the funds making this airshow one of largest contributors to the fund.
RAFA supports both former and current members of the Royal Air Force and Royal Air Regiment. Welfare and Care are very much at the heart of what RAFA does and there is no direct government funding for the association It's estimated that the fund needs £8,000,000 per year to provide the level of care and welfare required.
Sussex is no stranger to RAFA activities. The Care South Care Home has many RAFA members in residence and home hosts the annual RAFA Cheesedrop day.
The last weekend of August saw two major shows held on the South Coast at both Shoreham and at Bournemouth. While the two shows had different catchment areas for public support many of the participants were booked to do both, particularly the military aircraft. As well as the added complications of sorting out the flying display programmes between the two shows, it did mean that difficult decisions had to be made of where to base the display aircraft. For the military aircraft particular on all four days of Bournemouth it didn't make much sense to book hotels in Bournemouth then move up the coast to Shoreham so they kept Bournemouth Airport as their main operating base. This did mean at times that Shoreham's apron area became a little bare which may have disappointed some. However, Shoreham was rewarded with some very spectacular flying over the two days.
The flying displays opened each day with a very welcome returnee - Christian Moullec. The unique sight of Christian flying his microlight in close company with a flock of cranes is truly amazing, particularly with the stunning backdrop that Shoreham enjoys. The first aircraft display of the day was Carolyn Grace in her Spitfire IXT flying her display to music. Carloyn's display was the first of many featuring the mark. Later on in the day, Jonathon Whalley flew the stunning Spitifre I AR213 in formation with Peter Vacher's Hurricane I for a unique display featuring the very early models of these famous aircraft that featured in the Battle of Britain. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were also present with the Spitfire IIa, Hurricane IIc and Lancaster. The flight are a great supporter of the show and have in the past couple of years tried to base the fighters at Shoreham to allow the crowds a closer look at them. Sadly, crosswinds at Shoreham on Saturday meant the aircraft had to divert to Goodwood but for those who were present on Saturday would have at least seen them depart. There was an equally strong contingent of American heavy metal thanks to Peter Teichman, Plane Sailing and the Duke of Brabant Air Force. Peter's P-40M Kittyhawk (flown by Stu Goldspink) and P-51D Mustang were joined by the B-25 Mitchell for a salute to the USAAF in europe during the second world war. Appearing separately was the PBY-5A Catalina from Plane Sailing which always makes an impressive sight operating from Shoreham's confines. The only historic jet in the flying displays was the de Havilland Vampire from the Vampire Preservation Group. The clear blue skies on Saturday highlighted this silver machine perfectly.
The centrepiece of Shoreham's historic flying however is the now famous "Shoreham Scramble." Organised by John Romain, the scenario remains a season highlight involving HAC's Hurricane, Spitfire Ltd's Me109J Buchon, the 108 Group's Me108 and a gaggle of Duxford based Spitfires.
Away from the historic military hardware there were a number of civilian acts. Joining his mother at the show was Richard Grace and his display team of tiny Cassutt Racers known as the Dukes of Cassutt. These little aircraft were designed by Tom Cassutt in the 1950's for the emerging Formula 1 air races. F1 Air Racing has all but disappeared in recent years but many of these little sports aircraft remain active. Richard own's all three of these aircraft and though they are all essentially the same airframe, each of the aircraft have subtle differences
In contrast to the sleek lines of the Cassutt Racers were the four aircraft from the Yakovlevs. Based at Compton Abbas, the team were supporting both Bournemouth's and Shoreham's flying displays over the weekend. The team comprise of three Yak-50 single seat aerobatic aircraft and a Yak-52. The Yak-52 has been lightened and the engined uprated giving it the performance to fly with the faster and lighter Yak-50s Another fourship display flying at both Shoreham and Bournemouth were The Blades. The team of ex-Red Arrows pilots have become one of the most widely seen and respected on the display circuit since they first appeared in 2006. The team have recently swapped their Orange livery for the corporate blue colours of Barclays Commercial. Their display itself has been improving year on year and includes some very exciting variations on elements that the Red Arrows perform. The team also support Shoreham very well performing at the show's press day and flying TV news reader and jungle "celebrity" Jan Leeming to promote the show.
Another team that are keen supporters at Shoreham are Team Guinot. They appeared at this year's show with their brand new five-ship display. Another innovation for 2008 is red coloured smoke on the lead aircraft. Though producing coloured smoke with jet aircraft is nothing new, it's difficult to produce with piston engines. As ever, the team display was a highlight for many at Shoreham with new five ship display literally filling the skies over the airfield with Stearmans. The final civilian act of show is one that can be counted as Shoreham's "local" act - The Swift Aerobatic Display Team. The team is led by local pilot Guy Westgate who flies the S-1 Swift aerobatic glider. For Shoreham he teamed up with the RAF Gliding and Soaring Association's Piper Pawnee flown by Ian Gallacher, the Vans RV-4 flown by Justyn Gorman and the Silence Twister flown by Pete Wells. Saturday saw conditions kind enough for a full display by all aircraft while Sunday's low cloud base forced a complete change in the format of the show with the Glider releasing from a very low cloud base into a few loops and rolls before landing. The solo displays by the sports aircraft followed with just enough height for Pete Wells in the Twister to perform some rolls and flypasts before the conditions became unflyable for displays. The other local act in the flying was a demonstration by the Sussex Police MD900 Explorer and the police dog unit who are regular performers at the show when operations allow.
As well as the historic military aircraft, current military displays are an important part of Shoreham's airshow. It is not always easy to get military displays to perform at shows when there are so many other shows around the country on each weekend, but Shoreham still manages to get a number of good display acts in. The Royal Navy brought a solo Westland Lynx HAS3 to display. It had been hoped to bring the Black Cats pairs display back but one of the team's pilots was getting married over the show weekend! The Royal Air Force also had a strong showing again this year. on the ground, there was a Squirrel HT1 and Merlin HC3 on static display.. In the air there were further RAF helicopters with the return of the superb Chinook HC2 display flown by Flt Lt Russ Norman. The RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team were another set of welcome returnees, particularly as the team brought a rare appearance for one of the RAF Hercules C3 aircraft from Lyneham. Shoreham is just big enough for the Hercules to operate from the runway (it is in fact the largest aircraft to have ever operated from Shoreham Airport) and the crowds were treated to two landings and takeoffs
Most of the RAF's solo displays were present at Shoreham, though all were based away at Bournemouth Airport. The RAF displays started with lively aerobatics from the Tutor T1 and Tucano T1 displays. The Tutor display sent a second Tutor up from Bournemouth with the team commentator aboard so at least one of the RAF's fixed wing display aircraft was on static for a short while during the show days.
Fast jets came in the form of the RAF's Hawk T1 and Typhoon T1A displays from Flt Dave Davies and Flt Lt Charlie Matthews respectively. Both displays managed to get their full displays in on both days producing spectacular flash condensation on their wings during Sunday's slighter moister conditions.
Saturday's display was concluded by an emotive display by John Romain in Spitfire Ltd's Spitfire IX. This display was flown as a salute to Brian Brown who was sadly killed when the Hurricane he was flying crashed at Shoreham Airshow in 2007. As John finished his display he flew behind the main terminal where a small memorial to Brian was unveiled in a private service. It was a fitting end to another fine airshow at Shoreham. With record crowds recorded on the Saturday of the show, it was another successful weekend for the airshow team led by Don Bean. Shoreham Airshow is now an airshow "not to be missed" - not bad for an event that started as a small charity fete on the corner of Shoreham Airport just 19 years ago! The 20th Anniversary Shoreham Airshow will be held on 22nd-23rd August 2009 - we'll be there, will you?
Click Here to View footage from this years Airshow Press Day
Absolute Brighton TV have produced a DVD of this years show. Included will be all the highlights from the show, both in the air and on the ground. DVD extras include a day with the Swift Aerobatic Display Team, The Sussex Police Helicopter and much more. To order a copy of the DVD, priced £15.99, visit www.shorehamairshow.com.