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2011 UK Airshows : REVIEW

Goodwood Revival

The Goodwood Revival may not be specifically advertised as an aviation event, but it does play an important part in the weekend historic motor-racing meeting and social event. As well as flying displays the Freddie March Spirit of Aviation Trophy brings together a wide range of classic aircraft types for aviation’s equivalent of a Concors de l’elegance. The 2011 ‘Revival’ saw a superb celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Supermarine Spitfire with a huge collection gathered together for static and flying displays culminating in a massed ‘Squadron’ display on the final day.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography by Paul Johnson and James George.

Goodwood Revival recreates the heyday of British motorsport around its historic circuit. The circuit has been restored superbly to it 1960’s appearance. Like many circuits of the time, the layout was based on the infrastructure left over from Second World War airfields. These circuits are characterised by their long straights and during it’s time Goodwood was considered one of the fastest circuits of the day famed for the stunning races which saw the likes of Sir Sterling Moss and his contemporaries fighting it out some powerful, yet flimsy racing cars!

Prior to Goodwood Motor-Racing Circuit, Goodwood was RAF Westhampnett. The airfield was one of the satellite airfields for nearby RAF Tangmere which were on the frontline during the Battle of Britain. Aviation is still at the heart of Goodwood with the aerodrome now a busy general aviation airfield based around its own ‘Aero Club’ which is home to a number of light aircraft and even a North American Harvard.

The Goodwood Revival is a hugely popular event, perhaps thanks to its no-compromise approach to the recreation of pre-1966 life. No post 1966 vehicles are allowed on the circuit during the opening hours and the entire ‘showground’ is a recreation of pre-1966 style. At the centre of the show this year there was even a Tesco’s store totally recreated in its 1960’s glory with all the appropriate products on its shelves.

The event is a mecca for re-enactors which include those in military uniforms such as Dad’s Army and the RAF re-enactors we are so used to seeing at airshows so some we are not so used to seeing such as the ‘Glam Cab Girls,’ ‘Haurel and Lardy’ and ‘The Road Menders.’ The motor racing itself is far from a parade of historic cars. The cars are real racers, driven by some legendary personalities from the world of motorsport which this year included Martin Brundle, Adrian Newey and Gerhard Berger.

The aviation element of the Revival is split in to two different parts. On the ground, the central paddock area which opens out on the aerodrome is home of the ‘Freddie March Spirit of Aviation Trophy’ static park. The Trophy is awarded to the most outstanding examples of pre-1966 aircraft restoration and preservation. It attracts a very varied collection that features stunning examples of military and civilian sport aircraft.

Dominating the area this year was Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress ‘Sally-B which must be one of the largest aircraft to have operated from the all grass runways for a very long time. Joining the B-17 were ARCo’s newly restored De Havilland Beaver, Percival Provost, De Havilland Leopard Moth, De Haviiland Dragonfly and North American Harvard. A special area was given over to a celebration of the Schneider Trophy which included a wonderful replica of the Supermarine S6B and the replica of the prototype Spitfire K5054. However, the winner of the trophy was the Historic Aircraft Collection’s stunning Hawker Fury 1 which was displayed complete with a huck’s starter. The runners-up were the Royal Navy Historic Flight’s Fairey Swordfish and ARCo’s Beaver.

The air displays are very different to something you may experience at a more traditional air display. Firstly the displays have to be squeezed into a circuit environment so they only operate in a thin strip through the centre of the circuit which means most displays are a series of circuits around the paddock side of the track creating some unique photo opportunities of topside passes for most displays. They also start very early! The first flying display aptly named ‘Dawn Patrol’ takes place before the racing starts at 0845!!!

For 2011, the Supermarine Spitfire dominated proceedings. 13 Spitfires were gathered on the flightlines and the daily flying displays all featured different combinations of these aircraft. The only display that broke with the Spitfire domination was Saturday’s appearance of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The flight’s Spitfire IIa and Spitfire Vb were joined by the flagship Avro Lancaster for a series of flypasts. The Spitfires operated from Goodwood while the Lancaster based itself at Kemble. Sadly the early poor weather on Sunday morning prevented a return visit by the bomber on Sunday morning.

Star of the Spitfire line-up was the ARCo’s newly restored Spitfire Mk.1 P9374 which was making its flying display debut at Goodwood flown by John Romain. The aircraft not looks exquisite, but also sounds superb too with its pre-war Rolls Royce Merlin engine. It will undoubtedly be a star of any flying display it attends.

Joining the Mk 1 were a number of different versions of the Spitfire, mainly from the Duxford collections. The Fighter Collections MkV and MkXIV were joined by OFMC’s LF IX MH434, HAC’s MkV, Peter Monk’s Mk IXs TA806 and MK912, ARCo’s Spitfire IXT, The Boultbee Flight Academy’s Spitfire IXT and the Grace Spitfire IXT.

At various different point throughout the weekend, the Spitfires flew in separate displays which varied each day. Saturday saw a pair of the trainer Spitfires open the day while the massed formation was made of a five-ship lead by John Romain in the Mk1. The Spitfires were not just displaying, the Grace Spitfire was active throughout the weekend supporting one its and the event's sponsors - JLT. THe aircraft made a number of trips with passengers getting a unique experience of flying in a Spitfire over what could be deemed 'Spitfire Country!'

Sunday was the highlight of the 75th anniversary celebrations with Lord March providing a dedication on the start-finish line while a squadron of 10 of the Spitfires including the pair from the BBMF ‘scrambled.’ It was the largest formation of Spitfires to be seen overhead RAF Westhampnett since the Second World War and the three formations passing overhead was a very evocative moment with the stunning cloudscape over the South Downs.

The Goodwood Revival is a very different event that at times can seem like a sensory overload with the attention to detail, stunning racing action and the evocative flying displays. It is something I certainly recommend everyone should experience – it is a superb (if a little pricy) weekend escape.

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