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Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

EDITOR’S BLOG: 40 years of IWM Duxford Airshows – 2003 Archives Part 2

2003 was certainly a memorable year for the IWM Duxford team. Thier September show celebrated 100 Years of Powered flights with an impressive display featuring a wide spectrum of aircraft including displays looking at the inspiration of flight. The stand out display of the show was the South African Boeing 747-100 “Springbok 100″ which gave a dramatic UK debut display.

40th Anniversary of IWM Duxford Airshows – 2003 [Part 2] from Flightline UK on Vimeo.

This past weekend saw IWM Duxford hold its Autumn Air Show celebrating the last 40 years of airshows at the site. A full Flightline UK review will appear within the next two weeks.

EDITOR’S BLOG: 40 years of IWM Duxford Airshows: 2003 Archives – Part 1

Tomorrow will see the Duxford Autumn Air Show celebrate 40 years of airshows organised by IWM Duxford. To mark the anniversary we’ve been posting some archive material of IWM Duxford Airshows over those 40 years and this time it is our first of two looks at 2003.

40th Anniversary of IWM Duxford Airshows – 2003 [Part 1] from Flightline UK on Vimeo.


To find out more about the Duxford Autumn Air Show, please visit http://www.iwm.org.uk/duxford

EDITOR’S BLOG: 40 Years of IWM Duxford Airshows – 1990s Archive Footage

We continue our look back at IWM Duxford Airshows from the last 40 years with a look from the 1990′s period. This Sunday’s Autumn Air Show a IWM Duxford will celebrate this important anniversary and to find out more, please visit http://www.iwm.org.uk/duxford

40th Anniversary of IWM Duxford Airshows – The 1990s from Flightline UK on Vimeo.

EDITOR’S BLOG: 40 Years of IWM Duxford Airshows – 1975 Archive Footage

This weekend sees the IWM Duxford Autumn Airshow which will be celebrating 40 years of IWM organised airshows at the famous Cambridgeshire airfield.

To celebrate this important milestone, Duxford have released some footage from their collections of some of their airshows over those forty years and we start off with a look at the 1975 footage.

40th Anniversary of IWM Duxford Airshows – 1975 from Flightline UK on Vimeo.

For more information on this weekend’s Duxford Autumn Air Show, please visit http://www.iwm.org.uk/duxford

EDITOR’S BLOG: The cancellation of Festa al Cel 2013

I was saddened to hear of late cancellation of Barcelona’s Festa al Cel event last week, particularly as Flightline UK was due to cover the event for a third time after two very enjoyable trips in 2010 and 2011. Despite Spain’s difficulties, Festa al Cel had weathered a difficult year in 2012 and was looking forward to producing what promised to be a very exciting line-up this year featuring Patrulla Aguila, the Turkish Air Force F-16C SoloTurk as well as a superb mix of civilian displays from across Spain and Europe. Sadly the tale of the event’s cancellation has very little to with the usual struggle for money which blights many airshows. Instead the airshow has been a victim of some very unusual bureaucracy on the part of the Spanish Airport operators.

Barcelona is one of the world’s great destinations for holidays and short breaks. It is a wonderful city set on the Mediterranean coast with some stunning architecture old and new, a superb buzz and night-life in the city plus long sandy beaches. All that made it a stunning location for visitors and airshow participants alike who came to Festa al Cel from across Europe and beyond.

Festa al Cel always presented an incredible mix of displays covering all facets of aviation and from many different European countries. Just taking a snapshot from the last three years there were displays from La Patrouille de France, Patrouille Suisse, Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon, Belgian Air Component F-16AM Fighting Falcon, French Air Force Alpha Jet as well as the Spanish Air Force with its EF-18A Hornet, SAR SA330 Puma, CL215T Firebomber, Patrulla Paracaidista del Ejécito del Aire (PAPEA) , Patrulla ASPA and of course Patrulla Aguila – and that’s just the military. Civilian items were just as international; from France came the Breitling Jet Team and warbirds like the Supermarine Spitfire XIV, P-51D Mustang, Yak-3, AJBS’s Harvard based Zero and UK based items have included the GliderFX Team, SWIP Team and Breitling Wingwalkers. In 2011 Russian aerobatic aces Svetlana Kapina and Victor Chamal also wowed the crowds. There were also the Spanish display items – the local civilian fire-fighters showed off their Air Tractor Water-bombers, the Fundació Parc Aeronàutic de Catalunya showed off its impressive collection which includes the Super Seata classic jets and the local aero-clubs and Flying schools also provided some very unique flypasts along the seafront. Even airliners such as the Lufthansa A380 and Vueling A320 have appeared at the show. It really has become a true carnival of aviation and does a lot to promote spanish aviation with the small showground near the Olympic Park. The event has also regularly featured on live national television and really was seen as a major event in the region. In 2009, the event was combined with the Red Bull Air Race World Series and the round saw Paul Bonhomme take his first Championship in-front of 1.2million spectators over the two days of competition!

The cancellation of the event is a result of opposition from AENA, Spain’s public body operating several Airports. Not only has AENA made it impossible to run Festa Al Cel this year, but has also forced the cancellation of the Open Day at Sabedell Airport which is home to a number of historic aircraft which form Fundació Parc Aeronàutic de Catalunya. The Open Day usually coincides with Festa al Cel allowing visitors to view FPAC’s wonderful collection and a number of the visiting participating aircraft up close. AENA have cited airspace and environmental concerns in their opposition to the running of Festa al Cel but the cancellation of essentially a public open day with a STATIC display of aircraft seems to suggest AENA are trying to stem any sort of protest to the cancellation of the main airshow.

2013 would have been the 22nd Festa al Cel. The organisers are all highly experienced in running an international air display safely within the constraints of Barcelona’s airspace. Display crews were always well briefed on all the airspace constraints and the safe routes to and from their operating airport. It is very hard to see from the outside why AENA have forced the cancellation event considering the years of experience there have been running the event prior to 2013. Every year sees some changes to airports whether they have expanded or changed procedures but in reality there have been no changes that could not have been worked through between AENA and Festa al Cel to ensure the continued, safe running of one of Europe’s top airshows.

I do hope Festa al Cel’s organisers will be able to resurrect the event for 2014 and that there will be plenty of support for the event’s return both from within Barcelona and Spain and from the wider European AIrshow community. Considering the event had the backing from the City of Barcelona and various participants, it is a great shame the 2013 event has been lost to harsh and perhaps ill-informed decision making.

Season Review 2012

On the whole, 2012 really was a year to remember in so many ways. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and London Olympic and Paralympic Games really made for a very special year in the UK bringing an amazing feel good factor across the country. Airshow wise, it was such a memorable season with all the major shows of the year pulling in some unique and enjoyable highlights. Sadly however, the season did not pass without tragedy; the former Shuttleworth Collection Chief Pilot Trevor Roche was killed in an accident just prior to the Collection’s July Military Pageant airshow. Also towards the end of the year both Peter Eager and Don Bean, the organisers of the Shoreham Airshow, passed away following illness.

For Flightline UK, Airshows started early with a trip to the Bahrain International Airshow. Bahrain is the Middle East’s latest major trade airshow and is organized by Farnborough International Airshow. Bahrain was one of the Middle East states to see unrest during the Arab spring, but things were peaceful throughout the show period with just a few peaceful bonfire protests around the area of Sakhir. The airshow was instantly recognizable as a Farnborough run event, but is a very unique event. It is a much smaller and exclusive event with just 40 chalets for companies to use. The trade event had no exhibition halls like Farnborough but did feature an impressive static display of military and civilian types.  In the air the line-up was spectacular; there were plenty of local participants with a superb opening formation of Gulf Air Airbus A330 and Bahrain Air Force F-16s and F-5Es. Near neighbors the United Arab Emirates provided solo flying displays by the F-16E Desert Falcon and Mirage 2000-9 as well as the international debut of Al Fursan. However the stars for me were the Russian Knights making their first display outside of Russia for many years. The sights and sounds of four Sukhoi Su-27s starting up and taxying out for their display is one of my abiding memories of 2012.

It was not until May that airshows finally got underway in the UK with Abingdon providing the usual starting point. However it was the events held later in the month marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee that truly stood out. First there was the remarkable flypasts over Windsor Castle by the UK Armed Services, particularly the ’60′ formation from the Tucanos of RAF Linton-on-Ouse and the ‘ E II R’ formation from RAF and Royal Navy Hawks.

However it was the Duxford Jubilee Airshow that proved to be an early highlight of the airshow calendar with a début performance on the UK mainland by the French Air Force Cartouche Doree and a first public display of the year for the Belgian Air Component F-16AM Fighting Falcon demo flown by ‘Grat’ Thys. Also helping Duxford’s Jubilee celebrations was some glorious weather which also helped Southend Air Festival which was held on the same weekend and despite the lack of Red Arrows, the show feature a very solid line-up of favourites.

The excellent weather continued for another week for the return of a favourite airshow of mine, Folkestone. The show offers some of the most unique vantage points of any show in the UK with The Leas standing 200ft above the sea. It was good to see a successful return for the show and the best news it will be back again in 2013.

However the good weather wasn’t to last – June signaled the start of some of some of the wettest summer weather for some years. Yet despite that, Cosford and Yeovilton seemed to escape lightly with overcast skies. Cosford presented a wonderful cross section of British jets which included a rare flypast by a RAF VC-10 which is in the last few months of its service career. Yeovilton too was an excellent event featuring the Saudi Hawks with their only full UK display of their short tour, the first flying display from an Antonov An-124 since the early 1990′s and some fantastic set pieces highlight the Fleet Air Arm’s role in the Olympics and overseas operations.

July is always is busy month, but in a Farnborough year is even more so. Both Waddington and the Royal International Air Tattoo provided classic military airshows. Waddington enjoyed some of its best international participation for many years with Il Frecce Tricolori, Dutch F-16 solo, Swiss Air Force F/A-18C Hornet and Super Puma display and the Polish Air Force Team Orlik joining the RAF displays. The RAF also went the extra mile too with the first ever flying display by a Waddington based E-3D Sentry AEW1.

RIAT too was on top form with the first western appearance by a Japanese KC-767, the UK debut of the UAEAF National Aerobatic Team Al Fursan, USMC MV-22B Ospreys in the flying and static displays and the Polish Air Force MiG-29 solo display amongst the many highlights. However the abiding memory of both shows was the appearance of the RoKAF Black Eagles which provided such an impressive display of their flying skills and the KAI T-50B Golden Eagle.

The second half of July was dominated by Farnborough. In terms of aircraft participation it perhaps was not the best ever Farnborough though there were still some exceptional highlights including a flying display by the Boeing 787 (the first time in many years a Boeing airliner had appeared in the flying display) and a superb trio of AgustaWestland helicopters. The RoKAF Black Eagles also provided a solo display of the T-50B Golden Eagle throughout the week. Despite somewhat drier conditions, Farnborough was a victim of a wet summer with its usual main car parks too soft to use leaving only some of the events more far flung car parks in operation and some very busy and chaotic times at the shows Park and Ride terminals.

Flightline UK’s July closed with a trip to the Sunderland International Airshow. For the second year the show enjoyed some excellent weather and this year the RAF returned in force. From the opening Friday evening ‘Launch Party’ right though the weekend the event enjoyed massive crowds enjoying the RAF’s best flying displays as well as a select few civilian displays.

Following a short break, our coverage of the UK airshow circuit continued with out first visit to Old Warden and the Shuttleworth Collection of the year. 2012 proved to be a difficult year for the Collection with a number of shows cancelled by the effects of poor weather as well as the tragic loss of Trevor Roche. However the latter stages of the season saw some real highs for the collection. The August Military Pageant saw aircraft like the Catalina, Spitfire PRXI and Olympia 2B glider visit the collection. Later Flightline UK visited the last two shows of the season – namely the superb Uncovered and Autumn Air Displays. The Uncovered display was memorable for a superb aerial gathering of World War One types including the RAF Museums Albatros DVa and RAF RE8 and the Collection’s own Bristol F2b Fighter and RAF SE5a. The Autumn Air Display stood out for the sheer quality of its flying display which included a number of classic jets celebrating the career of Aviation trustee Tony Haig-Thomas to end their season on a real high.

August also saw the Sywell Airshow, one of my favourite shows of the year – some great weather and a very original flying display made for a very enjoyable afternoon. As well as some of the best popular acts, the show also featured perhaps the biggest set piece display of World War One replicas which included Matthew Boddington’s wonderful BE2 and a gaggle of Fokker Triplanes! There was also some great combinations of 1930′s aircraft with Dragon Rapides and an air race of popular touring types. The highlight of the afternoon wasa  superb display by the Red Arrows in brilliant clear blue skies.

Dunsfold continued its great tradition at Wings and Wheels with displays from the Tornado Role Demo team, Red Arrows, Vulcan, Meteor and Hunter amongst others. The show also included one of the stars of the Olympic Opening Ceremony with Gary Connery performing a spectacular wingsuit jump into the show.

Closing off the Summer holidays were Bournemouth and Shoreham. Bournemouth presented four days of top quality entertainment by day and by night. The Night Air displays are always a highlight of the year and the main daytime displays saw considerable support from the Royal Air Force, Army and Royal Navy. Sadly Shoreham was hit by some particularly frustrating poor weather which brought low cloud throughout the weekend and some persistent drizzle for the early part of Sunday’s display. However few who saw the Vulcan displays will ever quite forget them – particularly on Sunday with the formation with the Blades and the somewhat closer pass than usual!

Fortunately, a week later very warm and sunny weather returned in time for the main Duxford Airshow of the year. The show also saw appearances from the RAF Museums Albatros and RE8, but also saw some impressive participation from Norway with a T-33 Silver Star, the pair of Vampires and a pair of F-16AM Fighting Falcons appearing over the weekend. Duxford also provided the finale to the year a month later with its Autumn Airshow. While this years Autumn Airshow did not bring international participation or significant debut appearances, the show did provide a thrilling end to the season with some great flying displays.

However the UK shows do not complete the story of 2012 with Flightline UK visiting a number of European events. First of the year was a blisteringly hot Volkel in de Wolken in May. While Volkel is well known as a very large airbase which is home to two squadrons of F-16s, the airshow actually takes place over fields next to the main town. The line-up is always very different to the airshows held in the UK with a number of civilian items. Amongst the highlights was a PZL-106 Kruk crop-sprayer wearing the markings of the former East Germany which gave a great account of itself.

In August Flightline UK headed north to Sweden for Dala-Järna’s Flygfesten. This event is a wonderful mix of airshow by day and music festival by night. The Swedish airshow scene is one full of variety with a growing collection of warbirds and classic jets. This year saw a SAAB AJ37 Viggen return to the skies and it was joined at Flygfesten by the SAAB J35 Draken, J32 Lansen and the modern JAS39C Gripen.

The Viggen was also a highlight of Flightline UK’s next european show at wonderful little Sanicole. The only civilian organised show in Belgium is one of Europe’s biggest airshows yet is held at a small airfield. It sees great support from military and civilian acts from across Europe and beyond. This year the Viggen appeared alongside the J29 Tunnan and SAAB 105 from Sweden, the Canadian Skyhawks Parachute Team as well as Belgian, UK and Dutch display acts. Sanicole also hosts a Sunset Show which is about the only in Europe to see twilight fast jet displays alongside some of the specialised civilian displays teams who perform ‘pyro’ displays.

The final European trip of the year took Flightline UK to Malta for the first time. 2012 was a big year for the small Island nation too as it was celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the awarding of the George Cross to the Island following the months of hardship and the resilience the Islanders had shown during the Axis siege. The Royal Air Force always plays a hige part in the Malta International Airshow and 2012 was no exception. However the highlights were two debutantes from the East; the Qatari Emiri Air Force sent a very new and clean C-130J Hercules II for the static line-up. In complete contrast, the Free Libyan Air Force sent a very well used Boeing CH-47C Chinook. The Free Libyans first appeared at Malta in 2011 with the appearance of one of the two Mirage F1 fighters that had defected during the Arab Spring. During the show a ceremony was held to mark the application of Free Libyan colours to the aircraft. It had been hoped the Mirages would return, but sadly they cancelled a few weeks before the show and we all thought that was that! However Friday morning saw a surprise appearance by the Chinook! For Saturday’s display, the Chinook appeared on the static display, but Sunday saw the aircraft take to the air in a revised programme following the last minute cancellation of the Red Arrows.

Malta was also memorable as the Old Flying Machine Company’s Spitfire IX MH434 was flown out to Malta for the George Cross celebrations. A Spitfire had last flown over Malta in 2005 during the Merlins over Malta project bu the Spitfire is such an icon for the Maltese that MH434′s visit was headline news throughout its stay on the Island. The Friday before the show saw Paul Bonhomme fly an emotive display in the Spitfire over Grand Harbour while the finale to the show weekend saw the Spitfire join up with an Air Malta Airbus A320 – two of the most outstanding highlights of the 2012 airshow season!

2012 was an outstanding year and events will have to work hard to  better it in 2013. There is good news that there are some significant new events planned at Manston and Durham Tees Valley Airports. It promises to be an interesting year with the 95th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force, 70th Anniversary of the Dambusters Raid and the last planned display season for the Avro Vulcan.  However everybody will be hoping for some much kinder drier weather in the next twelve months!

In closing I would like to thank the SWIP Team, GliderFX, TSA Consulting Ltd, RAFA Shoreham Airshow and everybody else that helped Flightline UK throughout the 2012 season!

EDITOR’S BLOG: Sun, Sukhois and the Shamal – Bahrain International Airshow 2012

Last week, Flightline UK was privileged to be invited to join the SWIP Team to photograph the team’s visit to the Bahrain International Airshow. As a precursor to the main review, I look back at the Bahrain experience!

A dull dark damp working day doesn’t usually get me excited, though Wednesday 18th January was a slightly different story. Rather the ending the day with the same old usual slog to get away from the outer reaches of South London to the sanctuary of the North Downs, I instead headed north to London Heathrow and to my first airshow of 2012.

For the second time, the Kingdom of Bahrain is hosting it’s own take on an International Airshow. The event which is primarily a trade event is held in partnership with Farnborough International which itself takes places later this year.

The airshow was big news in Bahrain. The Airport was been decorated with all sorts of promotional banners for the event which even stretched to a complete make over of the immigration desks! I arrived via Bahrain’s state owned airline, Gulf Air, and was treated to all sorts of video highlights of the 2010 show on the overnight flight from Heathrow.

If that wasn’t enough,I think almost every lamp-post on Bahrain’s roads had a Bahrain Airshow flag alongside the national flag on it or a 6ft high poster advertising the event! Added to that there were numerous bill-boards around Manama.

Manama may not be as iconic as Dubai, but sports an impressive skyline with some dramatic skyscrapers. Bahrain is something of a melting pot of eastern and western culture is one of the Middle East’s most liberal states. Today it is a financial centre and upto 2011 had being growing at a fantastic rate. One thing that immediately strikes you about the Bahrain population is just how polite, friendly and helpful they are when you meet them. However, the local driving skills are perhaps a little less friendly and at times insanely dangerous! It is amazing the trust they have that they will make ‘that gap’ or the cars around them won’t be swerving between lanes as much as them!!! Add in some heavy traffic and chaos ensues with the sides of the roads suddenly become extra lanes or secret short cuts!

However Bahrain is a beautiful part of the Middle Eastl The country is actually an archipelago of 33 islands and tourism is a major part of the countries economy. Major international events are a very important boost to Bahrain tourism plans and the country take great pride in it’s airshow and it’s annual F1 Grand Prix. All of Gulf Air’s fleet have recently received markings advertising the Formula 1 Grand Prix which returns to the Kingdom after a years absence from the F1 calendar.

The reason for that absence was the Arab Spring uprisings. The fact that Bahrain became one of the countries to such such protests came as a surprise to many casual observers and despite changes being promised and implemented by the countries government tensions remain and small protests occur regularly. Though protests were banned in the area of Sakhir, protesters did try and make visual protests by burning tyres and creating large black clouds to the north of the airfield. These fires tended to occur less frequently as the show progressed.

However, this did not take away from the very warm welcome everyone enjoyed at the show from the visitors to the international display crews. I have to say it was an incredibly friendly atmosphere for a trade show. As with many places in the Middle East, the scale and quality of the Sakhir airbase impressed. The base for the lighter acts was the immense hangars for the Bahraini Royal Flight designed to accommodate two Airbus A380s! The chalets are permanent structures and provide very high quality meeting and hospitality spaces. A very long way from the old white marquees at British Airshows!

The show site and layout was slightly strange. The Trade areas, which were only open to registered trade visitors were the centre of the action while the public were enclosed 1km in their own enclosure the other side of a major compound. T0 compensate they did get their own short display in the morning, but having taken a drive up there it seems that this part of the show was poorly communicated as the area was only just starting to opened!

An airshow outside of Europe is always going to promise some very exotic participants for seasoned UK enthusiasts. The Royal Bahrain Air Force maybe small, but it has an exciting array of aircraft. F-16s maybe a little familiar, but F-5 Tiger IIs, AH-1E Cobras and UH-60 Blackhawks are rare birds at airshows back home. Joining the line up were participants from the air arms of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States Air Force and Navy. Farnborough’s influence naturally brought in some UK talent. Mark Jefferies and the SWIP Team both brought in aircraft via shipping containers for the displays while the Red Devils were the sole representative of any British military at the show.

However,  the show stars were the Russian Knights making a very welcome and rare appearance outside of Russia with their four Sukhoi Su-27P Flankers. The Knights have been high on my own ‘most wanted’ list and I have to say they did not disappoint with some extremely close and dramatic flying in their imposing long range interceptors.

You may expect the weather to be extremely kind in the Middle East at this time of year, after all England are currently playing Pakistan in the UAE at the moment. However, life is never that simple and while the weather was pleasant for the majority of the time, the final day of the show on the Saturday saw a strong and very cold wind blow in from Iran whipping up the sand off the local topography. This was the “Winter Shamal” but fortunately, it was not quite as strong as forecast meaning the show went ahead but boy was it cold out on the airfield and at times, thoroughly unpleasant to be out in!  The display crews all put in some fine flying too to cope with the swirling sands and wind!

So to sum up Bahrain 2012. Well, despite a self-induced lack of sleep (I never did fully get round to Bahrain time!) it was a hugely enjoyable adventure watching some great flying in unusual, but very friendly surroundings. Huge thanks go to the SWIP Team for this amazing opportunity.

Watch out for the full Bahrain International Airshow REVIEW in the near future!!

Editor’s Blog: Team Viper and French Air Force Alpha Jet Solo stand down

The last week has seen news that two major European displays will not be gracing airshows in 2012.

Team Viper announced via it’s facebook site that it was not continuing into 2012. Ever since it’s inception on the BAC Strikemaster in 2009, Viper have been a impressive addition to the display circuit.The team performed at major events throughout Europe such as the Sanicole Airshow, the Royal Netherlands Air Force Open Dagen, Royal International Air Tattoo and the Biggin Hill International Air Fair. 2010 saw the team ‘evolve’ onto the much more potent Hawker Hunter, first presenting a mixed fourship of two Hunters joined by two Strikemasters before  a full fourship of Hunters was presented at RAF Leuchars and Sanicole Airshows that year. The team even ventured further afield to the Middle East performing at the Bahrain International Air Show, Al Ain Aerobatics Show and the Abu Dhabi round of Red Bull Air Race World Series.

Team Viper’s news was quickly followed by news from France that the French Air Force Alpha Jet solo was to be stood down. France is facing up to military cutbacks as are the majority of European Air Forces and it is likely the Alpha Jet will not be only ‘airshow favourite’ to be axed in these austere times. The French Air Force Alpha Jet solos have been amongst the best military solo displays on the circuit highlighting the impressive aerobatic performance of the Franco-German designed trainers. The French Air Force solo demo last performed in the UK at the Duxford Airshow 2011 in September though it was due to appear at the fog-bound Jersey International Air Display a week later. It is a sad loss to airshows across Europe and now means the only operators of the Alpha Jet on the airshow circuit will be Patruoille de France and the civilian Flying Bulls examples.

Both displays will be greatly missed by organisers and enthusiasts. However both reflect the difficulties faced by displays teams and air arms in balancing budget in these difficult times.

Merry Christmas!

I would like to wish all a very merry and safe christmas and a happy new year! Thanks for all the support throughout the last few years – we’ll be back in the new year for the 2012 season!!!

 

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