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2011 UK Airshows : REVIEW

RAF Cosford Airshow 2011

The late part of May and early June is often called the European Monsoon season, and sadly Cosford got a full blast of it with persistent rain plaguing the airfield all day. That meant much of the planned flying had to be cancelled, but in true British spirit the event continued much to the credit of the personnel of RAF Cosford and the great British public!

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of the Author. Video highlights courtesy of Planes TV.

Whatever forecast you saw in the week leading up to the RAF Cosford Airshow, you couldn't help but be slightly depressed. Sadly it seems when they forecast good weather, they often get it wrong where as bad weather they are nearly always right! Saturday did give a glimmer of hope with a small chance the worst of the weather would not reach Shropshire until mid afternoon, but hopes were dashed on Sunday morning. The day actually dawned fairly clear, but over Breakfast time it rapidly clouded over and eventually started to rain pretty soon after the gates had opened.

Surprisingly the weather forecast did not put a lot of people off. The car parks on the main airfield were fairly busy all day with around 38,000 in attendance, down from the 50,000 recorded in 2010. The rain did however mean that the excellent hangar displays laid on at Cosford were perhaps busier than usual as the crowds tried to shelter from the cold and damp conditions. Cosford is something of a goldmine for aviation enthusiasts with many types stored here for training purposes such as the SEPECAT Jaguar, Westland Gazelle, Sea King and Tornado GR1 dotted around the site, with many on display in various states of repair!

Also on the ground were a number of static aircraft displays. One of those was the RAF King Air which sadly could not take part in the flying for various reasons. It was joined by the impressive Chinook HC3 which became another rain shelter for the crowds as well as a Griffin and Squirrel from RAF Shawbury. The Air Cadets also had a Vigilant T1 on static and there were a number of smaller types such as Jet Provosts and Chipmunks which can land on RAF Cosford's relatively short runway. Clearly putting on a flying display is such conditions is a challenge - not only for the pilots for also a flying display director who has to get something together for the crowds to reward them for their resilience. The persistent rain ruled out the warbirds. Not only was the 800ft-1000ft cloud-base a problem, but running wooden propellers in rain can cause significant damage. It was therefore a flying programme of great flexibility with the display pilots standing by to see if there would be any breaks in the weather which naturally caused a gaps.

Opening the much truncated flying display were the little Druine Turbulents of the Tiger Club Turbulent Team who were not so bother about the cloud-base. The team were able to perform their full display of barnstorming which includes limbo flying, flour bombing and balloon bursting injecting some much needed fun and colour lifting the spirits of the bedraggled crowds. They were followed by the Royal Navy Black Cats display team who were perhaps better suited than most for the wet conditions. As ever their precise aerial ballet was great to watch! The first Royal Air Force display of the afternoon came from Flt Lt Juliette Fleming in the Hawk T1 and it was a very impressive it was too with vapour streaming off the wingtips and the top surfaces of the aircraft wings! Equally impressive were the antics of the SWIP Team which managed a nearly full display under the overcast which brightened just slightly for their display before making a dash for home before the heavy rain arrived later in the afternoon. Cosford's only international participant, the Belgian AIr Component Agusta A109BA also managed to get its display in under the murk.

There is only one display many people look forward to at any RAF show and that of course is the Red Arrows. Credit must go to the team for making it to Cosford for any sort of display at all. The team were down to eight aircraft due to sick aircraft and battled with the low cloud base to present the first half of their routine. Sadly the cloud meant they were forced to end their display halfway through but that was more than many had expected. Another display that definitely caught the eye was O'Brien's Flying Circus. Brendan's display certainly was not troubled by the cloud-base, though the brisk winds did make things a little more interesting for his J3 Cub. After some traditional crazy flying and crop duster runs on the trees and hangars, Brendan showed just how close he could come to landing on his trailer in the wind and rain which certainly looked spectacular in all the sprat. One further highlight was the Tornado GR4 role demo from XV Squadron which certainly warmed things accompanied by the usual fiery pyrotechnics.

The flying was closed early by the arrival of the Blades touring in under the murk. They perhaps endured some of the worst conditions of the afternoon but still provided a worthy finale to the flying display. Full marks must go to all at Cosford for dealing with the worst the British summer weather can throw at them; in particular praise must go to Sean Maffett who managed to keep the crowds well informed in a situation which was constantly changing! Hopefully we can look forward to a slightly drier event in 2012!

Thanks to the SWIP Team

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