Clacton Airshow 2009
 

 

Fun and Sun
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The August Bank Holiday weekend is usually a very busy one for airshows. The first major show of the weekend is the small, but perfectly formed seaside show held in Clacton, part of Essex's "Sunshine Coast.". Held over a Thursday and Friday, one of the aims of the show is to extend the busy holiday weekend for the hotels and restaurants that depend on the tourist trade. The line-up is full of old favourites from the display circuit as well strong support from the Royal Air Force. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography copyright of the Author.

Clacton's annual airshow is much smaller than many of the other seaside airshows such as the nearby Southend Festival of the Air. However, Clacton is a place with strong aviation links. Above the town sit's Clacton Aero Club, a small grass airfield home to a few light aircraft, a pleasant little Clubhouse and a hanger which contains a Dragon Rapide amongst other interesting bits and pieces.

Along the promenade, many of the regular trading outlets were out in force. The beach and promenade soon filled with families leaving the entire area rather congested. The Pier also proved very popular and during the displays was almost standing room only - Clacton is a very popular show. 2009 saw crowd numbers exceed 120,000 thanks largely to the good weather. Coming towards the end of the traditional english school holidays, the Airshow is one of the last big events families can attend during the week and is a vital part of Clacton's season. The airshow itself sees an eclectic mix of flying displays from the UK's top display acts, though the line-up remains broadly similar year on year.

Making an early appearance each day was the Essex Air Ambulance EC135 helicopter. It was the only rotary element in the 2009 flying display giving a couple of flypasts prior to the start of the main display. A planned appearance by a RAF Search and Rescue Sea King was scrubbed on both days due to operations.

At the core of the flying were the displays from the Royal Air Force. Clacton was dealt a blow earlier in the season with the reduction in display appearances by the Typhoon. The reduction saw many of the Typhoon Display Team's weekday appearances cut and left many of the "holiday" airshows without any representatives from the "front-line."

It was therefore left to the RAF's training fleet to provide the solo displays above Clacton. Flt Lt Bill Ramsey flew the diminutive Tutor T1 over the two days. The Tutor can often get overlooked for it's displays but it's a punchy performer and is capable of some remarkable aerobatics.

The display Tutor is based at RAF Cranwell which is also home to the RAF's King Air fleet. Flt Lts Leon Creese and Chris Enwright have had a busy season or displaying the twin engine training aircraft up and down the country. Their displays are often set to ELO's "Mr Blue Sky" and have been an instant hit at the shows they've attended.

The only RAF fast jet in the display was the Hawk T1 flown by Flt Lt Matt Barker. The Hawk always puts on a fine display which is greatly enhanced by some stunning colour schemes In 2009, the scheme is rather patriotic with a large Union flag adorning the tail fin and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund "roundel" on the underside of the aircraft.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight provided a display of the RAF's past on the Thursday when the winds were much lighter; Friday's display was cancelled due to the high winds. For their Clacton appearance, they brought the Lancaster, Hurricane and the stunning silver Spitfire IX.

However, the highlight of the RAF's contribution as well as the show as a whole was of course the Red Arrows. The team performed on both days in very favourable weather bringing the whole seafront to a stop with their awesome display of formation aerobatics. The team are supported on the ground by their own cameraman and Red 10, Sqn Ldr Graeme Bagnell. Red 10 is the team's ground safety officer and commentator. They arrived at Clacton Aero Club by Squirrel helicopter for each day's display.

There was more formation aerobatics from The Blades,  a team formed of former Red Arrows pilots. The team fly the Extra 300LP aerobatic training aircraft and are the world's only accredited aerobatic airline. They are kept busy with corporate enetertainment and experience days throughout the year as well as a full summer schedule of air displays up and down the country.

Another team which have been regulars at Clacton are the world only formation wingwalking display team Team Guinot. 2009 marks the end of the Guinot brand's association with the team which always provide a hugely entertaining display wherever they appear.

The last of the civilian display teams to appear at Clacton was the Swift Aerobatic Display Team with their unusual mix of SA1100 Twister, S-1 Swift Glider and PA25 Pawnee tow-plane. Clacton is an unusual venue for the team as the glider cannot land at the display site. However, the proximity to Clacton Aero Club does mean the Glider can be released to perform some stunning aerobatics in the hands of Guy Westgate over the sea before gliding into land at the airfield. He was supported at Clacton by Peter Wells flying the Twister and Jon Gowdy in the Pawnee.

A very apt participant was the PBY-5A Catalina from Plane Sailing at Duxford. The "Cat" had just returned from a short summer tour of some Scandinavian airshows. The aircraft wears the colours of a OA-10 Search and Rescue aircraft assigned to the US Army AIr Force based in Suffolk. Sadly, the Catalina does not perform landings on seawater, but is often operated off fresh water lakes.

Joining the Catalina was Peter Teichman in his wonderful P-51D Mustang Jumpin' Jacques. The Mustang is always an impressive performer with plenty of noise from it's Merlin engine and the characteristic howl caused by the open gun ports on the aircraft's wing.

Making the biggest noise though was the Hawker Hunter F58a Miss Demeanmout flown by Jonathon Whalley. Jonathon's displays uses the aircraft noise, agility and stunning profile to really capture the audience's attention throughout his display.

There maybe little to interest the hardcore enthusiast at Clacton, but the air display certainly has a little bit for everybody and remains very popular. For the photographer there's a number of different vantage points from the Pier to the Martello Tower to capture the action from. Planes TV also covered this years and you can watch the highlights here.

Flightline UK would like to thank Ray Thilithorpe of TSA Consulting Ltd

Fun and Sun
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