Greater London area is home to some of the most congested airspace anywhere
in the world, being surrounded by a number of major airports. The Docklands
area is itself home to one of London's most important airports - London City.
Normally this small commuter airport is kept busy with a few airlines
offering city centre to city centre travel. Later in the year, British
Airways will offer it's first transatlantic service utilising the small
airport can cause all kinds of environmental and social issues for the
surrounding population and London City airport have a very positive outlook
on keeping good relations with the community it serves, supporting several
local charities, events and schemes. It also opens its doors each year to the
local population with it's free annual Funday which includes a small flying
display which helps raise money for local charities. Paul
Johnson/Flightline UK reports from London's only airshow of the
year. Photography copyright of the Author.
just six miles outside the City of London, London City airport is a unique
place for an airshow. Much of the capital is subject to stringent rules
regarded who and what can fly over the City. The proximity of other major
airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick and Stanstead also makes the airspace
congested. The airspace around London City airport is controlled airspace,
classified as "Class D". The London City Airport Funday is the only
airshow in the UK held within Class D airspace.
is run once the airport has shutdown on Saturday afternoon. Essentially,
the show has to be prepared, opened, run and closed within a fairly short
window so as not to impact on normal airport operations. Infact, the event is
not open to the public until 2.30pm which makes it quite different to other
airshows! Once inside, the whole event has a very different feel than a
traditional airshow with plenty of things to see and do, mainly centred
around the local areas of London. British Airways had a BAE 146 open
for people to visit and they invited children to have a go at being Cabin
Crew! There was also a rich diversity of food on offer with everything
from Indian to Carribbean delicacies to settle the taste buds!
display itself was split into two 45 minute "performances." One of
the first things that came to mind looking at the line-up was some of the old
Tiger Club displays at Redhill and Headcorn. While the display may have not
been the largest of year, it certainly had all the entertainment you could
wish for in a flying display boosted by the ever amusing commentary of
Brendan O'Brien which really suited the atmosphere of the day.
displays opened with perhaps one of best known acts on the display circuit, Team
Guinot. The team are always one to watch, but at a small venue like
London City they really excel with all the noise and smoke as well as the
glamourous wingwalkers. 2009 will be the last season for the team under
Guinot sponsorship and the team are currently on the hunt for a new lead
sponsor for 2010.
treat for the London City crowd was the return of one the real legends of the
UK airshow circuit; Dennis Kenyon in his Schweizer 300C helicopter..
Dennis is a well known and respected pilot having won the World Helicopter
Championships and flown sequences for some of biggest hollywood movies such
as "Black Hawk Down." However, last year he was very lucky to walk
away from an accident he suffered during a display practice in the US
However, despite threatening to retire on more than one occaion, Dennis has
returned to display flying with his brilliant dizziness-inducing display! I
personally hope a few more airshows can secure his display.
a multitude of aerobatic acts in the flying display. Paul Ambrose flew a
pleasing routine in his Pitts S-2B Special. Pitts displays seem to
have become some of a rareity on the display circuit which is such a shame
for an iconic aircraft which is always a crowd pleaser. Michael Pickin gave a
much more gentle display in his Bucker Jungmann which is normally
based with the Tiger Club at Headcorn. Michael's display was a replacement
for Richard Pickin's (Michael''s father) display in the CAP 232 which
unfortunatly was unservicable. Pete Kynsey flew his Cosmic Wind racer
through an exciting display of aerobatics. This little machine has a
fascinating history having started life as a racing aircraft. It then found
itsself in the hands of the late Neil Williams at the 1964 World Aerobatic
Championships before being 'retired" into the air display world.
Aerobatic Display Team also appeared at Funday with their unusual
display of powered and unpowered aerobatics. A small difference for their
display was the Supermunk tow aircraft instead of the more usual Pawnee
but as ever, the solos by the Twister and Swift were first
off the barnstorming style of displays were the Tiger Club Turbulent
Team who performed their usual mix of flour bombing, limbo flying and
to the day's flying were displays from much heavier metal. This was kicked
off by the T-6 Texan belonging to Chris Bellhouse and again based at
Headcorn. The display was flown by Tony Richards and included some lovely
swooping aerobatics and low passes.
two displays together were something truly unique. Anna Walker made a her
display debut flying the Historic Aircraft Collection's Hurricane XII. Anna
is possibly the first female pilot to fly a Hurricane since the Air Transport
Auxillary last ferried the type in 1945. It is not the only warbird Anna
flies. She regular flies T-6 Texans, the Scandinavian Historic Flight's P-51D
Mustang as well as her own Jungmann and the Beech Staggerwing. The final act
of the afternoon was Carolyn Grace in her Spitfire IXT making a unique
duo of warbird displays flown by female display pilots. One of the unique
things about the Funday is that it possibly the only chance you have to see
warbird twisting and turning over the London skyline during the airshow
season which is quite an emotive sight.
City Airport funday may not be very high up on enthusiast "to-do"
lists but I feel the show really is one of the hidden gems. Free entry and a
unique "festival"atmosphere along with some very fine displays made
the Fun Day a hugely enjoyable afternoon out in East London.