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2011 UK Airshows : REVIEW

Cotswold Airshow 2011

The Cotswold Airshow has carved a name for itself in presenting perhaps the best line-ups of classic jets at any airshow in the UK. In recent years, Cotswold Airport, or Kemble has been home to the Delta Jets organisation which was well known for its Hunter operation. Sadly, that organisation is no more, but the Hunter's association with Kemble runs much deeper. No. 5 MU based at Kemble saw nearly every UK military Hunter pass through its hands so where better to celebrate the type's 60th Anniversary?

But the Cotswold Airshow is more than just classic jets. The Royal Air Force always supports the show well as do a number of warbirds and civilian display acts as well as ground displays making this show a superb day out for everybody.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of the Author.

Kemble Airfield for many is the home of the Hunter. No 5MU looked after almost every Hawker Hunter in UK military service during it's time at RAF Kemble. But it was also home to the Red Arrows and also was used for maintenance of USAFE A-10s during the Cold War. March 2001 saw the airfield pass into civilian hands when local businessman Ronan Harvey purchased the airfield. It is now is busy general aviation airfield home to micro-lights, light aircraft as well as classic jets and warbirds. It is often still used by the military seeing the likes of Merlin and Chinook helicopters as well as Hercules aircraft in the circuit.

The annual Airshow has grown in the last few years from a small one day show into a major two-day event making it one of the largest civilian airshows in the UK. The show supports the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund as well as based charity Fly2Help. 2011 saw the airshow celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Hawker Hunter as its main theme, but the displays included a very wide range of aircraft covering a large proportion of the spectrum of flight.

Following the near wash-out at the RAF Cosford Airshow the week before, Glen Moreman and his volunteers must have been relieved by the relatively good forecast for the weekend with the Saturday seeing sunny spells along with the occasional heavy shower and Sunday a much drier day, albeit cloudy right up until the very end of the flying display.

The flying displays do start early, but there is a very long lunch break in the flying display which perhaps does detract from the flow of the day. The show is traditionally started by some large scale model aircraft and the selection this year was truly excellent. The popular C-130 Hercules model in US Coast Guard colours was back and joined by the amazing Baby Wingwalkers team and a wonderful and very realistic model of a Hunter adding to the main theme of the show.

FFull size flying got underway with the South Cerney based Renegades Parachute Display Team jumping from the An-2 Club's Antonov An-2 before the first sight of a Hunter for the day with Jonathon Whaley's distinctive Hunter F58 Miss Demeanour. Sadly it wasn't smoothest of weekends for Jonathon with Miss Demeanour suffering problems with her fuel system causing the aircraft to vent some fuel under certain flight regimes. While on Saturday's flights did take place, it seems the problem intensified to the point that Jonathon was forced to cut short his solo display opening the show and could not take part in the finale, though he did join in the mass Hunter departure.

The Royal Air Force displays had a busy weekend supporting two shows in the UK as well as a major display in France. On static display, there were example of Squirrel HT3, Giffin HT1, Tucano T1, a Red Arrows Hawk T1 and a Merlin HC3. Appearing early on in the flying display was the Tucano T1 and Hawk T1 solos flown by Flt Lt Dan Hayes and Flt Lt Juliette Fleming. Both, as well as supporting Kemble were also participating at Margate's Big Event on both days so reappeared later on in the afternoon departing and arriving back from Kent.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight also contributed its Douglas DC-3 Dakota and Supermarine Spitfire V to proceedings. The Flight's Dakota has been re-sprayed in 2011 to represent "Kwicherbichen", a RAF Dakota which was based nearby during 1944 at RAF Blakehill Farm, Wiltshire.

Two further Royal Air Force displays joined in on the Sunday following commitments in France. The RAF Red Arrows returned to their spiritual home much to the delight of Sunday's crowds which were noticeably larger than those on the Saturday. Their 2011 display contains a number of new tweaks such as the twinkle rolls (called Whirlwind by the team) as well as a spirited crowd rear arrival which sees the outside members of the team roll back to change formation. Later on Sunday, the show also saw an appearance by the RAF Tornado GR4 Role Demonstration team though sadly the team were not supported by the pyrotechnics as they will be at some of the larger RAF events.

The Royal Navy also provided support for Kemble. The Royal Navy Historic Flight operated Sea Fury T20 provided glimpses of post war naval piston power while the Black Cats Helicopter Display Team provided the modern take on the Fleet Air Arm.

Several local displays also took part in the flying. Ultimate High gave one of their best ever Kemble appearances with their combination of solo Extra 300 flown by Mark Greenfield and superb duo display by Charlie McIlroy and Andy Hill in the Scottish Aviation Bulldogs combining close formation and synchronised aerobatics. Phill O'Dell also display the two-seat Spitfire IXT SM520 to celebrate the types 75th anniversary as well as a competition that Fly2Help are running to win a flight alongside the fighter.

One of the local displays was tinged with a little sadness. After many years to Wings Venture DC-3 Dakota is leaving Kemble to join a museum collection in the USA. Sunday 19th June saw the aircraft's last ever flying appearance at a UK show. It is significant as this particular Dakota has an amazing wartime history having taken part in Operation Overlord (the D-Day Landings), Operation Market Garden, Operation Varsity as a glider tug as well as repatriating French prisoners of war in 1945!

Visiting civilian acts included two classics of the airshow scene. First Bob Grimstead and Matthew Hill provided memories of the Skyhawks display team with their graceful and elegant formation aerobatics in Redhawks pair of Fournier RF4Ds. The Cotswold Airshow also welcomed back Brendan O'Brien (AKA Captain Boogaloo) and his crazy flying and trailer top landing display which is always a huge hit with the crowds!

But it's the classic jets that are the stars of the show. The static displays included such delights as Martin Baker's Meteor T7 1/2, the Meteor Flight's Meteor T7 which had just completed an eventful first flight just days prior to the show and Lufthansa Resource Technical Training's VFW-Fokker VFW-614 as well as a gaggle of recently retired Dominie T1s awaiting ferry flights to the US!

In the air there were displays from Neil McCarthy in his Jet Provost T3, Air Atlantique's stunning duo of Meteor NF11 and Venom FB50 flown by Dan Griffiths and John Beattie. The Gnat Display Team was sadly only able to present a solo Gnat T1 display at Kemble, but it was an excellent demonstration all the same. On Sunday the Gnat was part of a minor drama with a failed undercarriage indication light. After a couple of passes so the tower could check, the BBMF Spitfire V flown by Sqn Ldr Ian Smith chased down the Gnat for a closer inspection creating an unusual and surprise pairing over Kemble. Saturday also saw Avro Vulcan B2 XH558 participate in the flying displays having spent the morning on static display before departing for home via a display at Margate.

However, it was the Hunters that were the main focus of the show. One of the opening acts of the afternoon was Team Viper, now re-equipped with five Hunters (2 x T7, FGA9, GA11 and PR11.) The sight of five Hunters performing formation aerobatics is absolutely stunning and a very welcome addition of some of the larger shows of the year. For the finale of the show, Team Viper joined up with the other Hunters taking part in the show for a massed flypast. Stars of this were the pair of Hawker Hunter F6 and Hunter T8 from the Dutch Hawker Hunter Foundation making their UK airshow debut as a team, though both aircraft have been part of the UK airshow scene under the ownership of Kennet Aviation and Old Flying Machine Company. Eight aircraft joined the flypast on the Saturday while seven took part on the Sunday making it one of the moments of the airshow season for many though it would have been nice to perhaps see a little more of the Dutch Hunters! The flying was brought to a close by poignant and emotional missing man formation in honour of Steve Mills, Kemble's fire chief that was tragically killed in an industrial accident at Kemble in April.

As ever, Cotswold Airshow was an excellent airshow providing a well balanced and varied display programme, though it would probably be much better without the long lunch break which I feel does somewhat disrupt the flow of the flying display! Away from the flying it was superbly well organised; getting in and out could not of have been easier! Here's to another superb show in 2012!

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