RAF Waddington International Airshow 2008
 

 

Army and Navy
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International Guests
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The Blades
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Classic Jets
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The RAF's premier airshow of the year takes place at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. With the 90th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, Waddington was always destined to be an important event on the 2008 calendar but the events of the 3rd July made the show an even bigger milestone of the UK calendar. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography copyright of the Author and Michael Rivett.

In 2007, the headline story from the Waddington airshow was the appalling weather over Saturday and early Sunday morning. The extreme wet weather eventually led to the cancellation of the Sunday altogether. 2008 saw another swathe of bad weather forecast for the weekend and while the conditions were nowhere near as torrential as 2007, they still played their part in the story of the 2008 show with some low cloud and heavy showers affecting the show and displays.

Due to complications in the July display calendar in 2008 with the addition of Farnborough International, Waddington clashed the Navy's big airshow at RNAS Yeovilton as well as the much smaller London City Airport Fun Day. This meant that some of the display acts were transiting much of the country on Saturday afternoon supporting both of the shows. One of the complaints of recent years have been the unfortunate clashes Waddington has had with other big military events. Unfortunately, it is a simple case of picking a free weekend. Waddington's dates are set for when accommodation at Lincoln University becomes free after the end of the summer semester. The big international airshows like Waddington require massive amounts of beds for the show weekend with the influx of air and ground crews and Waddington does not have the luxury of much spare accommodation on site nor do the local hotels.

2008 saw a much more international feel to the show than in previous years more which was reflected in the static park. Arriving well before the show and participating in exercises with the local squadrons was a United States Air Force Boeing E-3C Sentry. This was the first time an example of a USAF E-3 had visited a UK show for some time. Also from the continental United States was a B-52H Stratofortress. It had been hoped that this aircraft could have been included in the flying display on the Saturday as well as visiting the show at RNAS Yeovilton. However, bad weather at Waddington prevented the aircraft from launching so it remained firmly on the ground at Waddington before flying on to participate at the Royal International Air Tattoo a week later. Alongside the larger USAF aircraft was a C-21 Learjet and a RAF Mildenhall based KC-135R Stratotanker from USAFE.

Los Halcones

Prize for the most traveled participants at this year's Waddington Air Show goes to the Chilean Air Force's Los Halcones. The team were over in the UK for a mini tour of UK shows that would take on to Fairford after Waddington. Unfortunately the cancellation at Fairford meant that Waddington was the only public showing for the team. The team fly the modern Extra 300L low winged version having traded in their mid wing variants in 2003. Before the Extra the team flew  the Pitts Special. The team have visited the UK a number of times, though it is a great logistical exercise. You couldn't fly an Extra from South America to the UK so the aircraft had to be derigged and transported inside a Chilean Air Force C-130H Hercules before being reassembled at Waddington.

The team's display is very different to that given by the Extra 300 teams we see most often such as the Blades or the Royal Jordanian Falcons

European air arms were also well represented on the ground too. Making it's UK airshow debut was the 90th anniversary marked Antonov An-26 Curl from the Czech Republic Air Force. It was joined in the static park by a number of other transport aircraft including a Chilean Air Force C-130H Hercules, Spanish Air Force CN235, Netherlands Air Force Fokker 50 and a Italian Air Force Alenia C-27J Spartan. Supporting the French aircraft in the flying display was another CN235 from the L'armee de l'air.

Fast jets were also much in evidence. Stars of the static line up were the pair of Spanish Air Force Boeing EF-18A Hornets. One of the pair was sporting it's special tiger markings for the years "Tiger Meet." Other European fast jets were slightly more regularly seen types. The Italian Air Force sent a pair of Aermacchi MB339CD advanced jet trainers while the Netherlands Air Force sent a pair of F-16AM Fighting Falcons  The solo participation from the Luftwaffe was a solitary Panavia Tornado IDS.

The 90th anniversary of the Royal Air Force was the major theme of the static park, with a diverse collection of types representing the RAF's history from the fragile BE2 replica right through to the latest Typhoon FGR4 from No 11(F) Squadron. Amongst many of the usual types there were some of the less well known and less glamorous types which have worn the colours of the RAF. One of the more locally based types was the Slingsby Venture from Buckminster Gliding Club based just down the A1 at Saltby airfield, Many of the current Royal Air Force types was on static display with the anniversary marked 19(F) Squadron Hawk T1, 5(AC) Squadron Sentinel R1 and 17(R) Squadron Typhoon F2 standing out. A number of Tornado GR4s were also on show with one wearing "Scud Hunter" nose art. RAF helicopters are a rarer sight at UK airshows due to the increased operations in the middle east, however it was good to see one of RAF Benson's Merlin HC3 aircraft in the static park alongside it's fixed wing counterparts.

There were also number of other types on the static park including the usual massed meet of BAC Jet Provosts and Strikemasters as well as a squadron of Austers. One aircraft that did stand out was the Morane Saulnier MS733 Alcyon. This french built training aircraft first appeared in 1949 and was used by the French Air Force, Navy and the Cambodian Air Force. The example at the show is now registered on the UK register as G-MSAL.

The flying displays started with the traditional station flypast. With both the Sentinel and Nimrod R1 aircraft unable to take part due to operational reasons, it was deemed that an appearance by the Sentry AEW1 on it 's own was unnecessary due to the types involvement with the Role Demo. Instead the flying displays were opened by the RAF's training aircraft. From nearby RAF Cranwell came the Tutor T1 and the King Air B200 - both types put exciting displays in their own right. The Tutor flown by Andy Preece is capable of a full aerobatic sequence despite the limitations of the design such as the smaller control surfaces. The King Air display too is well presented with some eyecatching steep wingovers and the obligatory Khe Sahn approach! Both the Tucano T1 and Hawk T1 displays appeared early on during the flying displays as well.

At Long Last

Over 14 years of waiting came to an end on Saturday 5th July as Vulcan XH558 finally flew at a flying display once again since being retired in early 1993. The pilot in 1993 was Dave Thomas, and fittingly it was Dave at the controls again. The project to get the Vulcan flying again has not been without it's ups and downs but it's finally got there. Saturday saw the Vulcan display alongside the Avro Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Sunday was a different story with a faulty alternator forcing the Vulcan to stay on the ground - it did however perform a fast taxy demonstration on the wet Waddington runway.

During the afternoon there were two chances to see displays in involving the Eurofighter Typhoon. Flt Lt Charlie had a hectic weekend when his display aircraft went tech after it's display at Yeovilton on Saturday. He grabbed a lift back to Waddington with the Royal Navy's Black Cats display team to perform in the spare jet. The stranded Typhoon returned on Sunday afternoon. Later during the flying display, another Typhoon took part in a synchronised display with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Spitfire XIX.

Also displaying was the solo Chinook HC2 display from RAF Odiham. Despite the large display line at Waddington, the Chinook display still captures people's attention with it's tight turns and near aerobatic antics.

Performing for the first time at Waddington was the RAF's Role Demo. 2007's weather prevented a full display on Saturday (with the just the Tornado GR4s flying) and of course Sunday was cancelled. The Role Demo is slightly different this year involving 2 Tornado F3 interceptors, 2 Tornado GR4 strike aircraft, the Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW1, a Chinook HC2 and for the first time, an Army Air Corps Apache AH1. The scenario is a operation in the middle east to rescue two hostages; the codename for the operation is "Summer Lightning!"

Closing the show were eight of the Red Arrows who all weekend had to struggle with difficult conditions at the venues they displayed at. The team had just arrived back from a successful tour of North America which took in the Quebec International Airshow, New York, Rhode Island and Langley AFB. The team were supported out in North America by the RAF's latest C17 due for 99 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton. Their first weekend back in the UK was typically busy with not only two displays at RAF Waddington but also another important display over Silverstone for the British Grand Prix. The "Lewis Hamilton" effect was felt as far away as Lincolnshire with the race being broadcast on the big screen at RAF Waddington. The Reds had to put up with some pretty lousy weather for their two displays at Waddington. Saturday saw the formation ducking in and out of some very low cloud while Sunday the team narrowly missed a band of very heavy rain that soaked the crowd.

The other UK armed services also played their part during the show. The Black Cats made the trip up from their home base and airshow at Yeovilton while a Culdrose based Merlin HM1 flew a search and rescue demo. Also from RNAS Culdrose were the two FRADU Hawk T1 aircraft that joined the FR Aviation Dassualt Falcon 20s for the Cobham formation. The loss of two Hawks hasn't dented this very different display.

The Army Air Corps were also in action. The solo Lynx AH7 was joined by the Apache AH1 solo display. This is the first year that the Apache has been seen as a regular display act and it's a very welcome addition.

Civilian display acts were far fewer in number this year. The Blades put on their usual exciting display on both days in their new Barclays branded Extra 300LP aircraft. The company behind the Blades have also got involved with the Avro Vulcan XH558 which made it's public display debut at Waddington have secured the final pieces of paperwork on the Thursday prior to the show. Joining the display on the Sunday was the Vampire Preservation Group beautiful Vampire T11

As we said earlier, Waddington 2008 had much more of an international feel. This was reflected in the displays. The French Air Force made a welcome return to the Waddington flying display with perhaps the last ever visit by the Mirage 2000B/C display team. The powerful french fighter is an outstanding display aircraft and it will certainly be missed.

Three of the world's national display teams were also at Waddington. Continuing their tour of European airshows were the Indian Sarang Helicopter Display Team. While their display may lack some of the drama of a European display. their colourful helicopters and displays have been a welcome sight at UK shows during the early part of the display season. Another less familiar team are the Chilean Air Force's Los Halcones with their five Extra 300L aircraft. The team were in the UK for a mini tour taking in Waddington and the Royal International Air Tattoo. Their display is very different than other more familiar Extra-based team displays that we see at UK displays. The only jet based team was the Patrulla Aguila from the Spanish Air Force with seven C.101 Aviojets. The team are a regular fixture at the big UK displays with their colourful jets but this was their first visit to Waddington for over three years.

Waddington 2008 was a memorable show for all the right reasons with some great flying and some very important debuts. As ever the organisation on the ground is second to none with the support of the many RAF personnel station at Waddington. Waddington International Air Show return on the 4th-5th July 2009.

RAF at 90!
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The Lighter Side
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