2005 Edition





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SHAR Bows Out

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September 17th 2005 was a very sad day for airshows. It was the last time in the UK that the last operational all British fighter, the Sea Harrier, took part in a flying display. Now in the very last few days of operational service, there are only a few airframes that remain airworthy that made this last appearance quite low key. However, Yeovilton 2005 wasn't just about the Sea Harrier. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from sunny Somerset! All photography copyright of Author.

Army Drill
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Fleet Support
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The Light Blues
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For once the weather gods smiled on the Yeovilton Air Day. The morning of the 17th September saw clear blue skies and although it clouded over a little suring the day, it at least didn't affect the flying displays or static arrivals as in previous years. The headline theme for this years event was "Verstile Martime Force" showcasing as many of the navy's different roles as possible, though really it was the Sea Harriers that were the stars of the show for many in their last airshow season. This combined with the good weather brought in record crowds of nearly 36,000; an imazing 10,000 more than the previous year. Of course such a surprise increase caused a few headaches for organisers and local police. Toilets were inundated and the queues to get in lasted well in the afternoon with the police eventually having to turn people back. Even commentator Sean Maffet had to make a rather surprising announcement to warn the crowds of the record crowds and the potential hold-ups getting out so those who simply had to be away could at least leave early!

Gathering of Cats

AgustaWestland sponsored an "International Lynx Meet" as part of Yeovilton's static park. The Lynx is manufactured and test flown locally at AgustaWestland's facility in Yeovil. Sadly, a demonstrator example was unavailible for the show though there was participation from the Royal Navy, Army Air Corps, Royal Netherlands Navy, French and German Navies to celebrate this very successful small helicopter that should remain in service for many years to come

It's fair to say the organisers had a hard time securing foreign military participation this year, not even the Belgians turned up and really the highlight of the static parks for the serious enthusiasts would have been the Irish Air Corps Aerospatiale SA316 Alouette III making a rare appearance in the UK. Joining it was the quite regularly seen Polish Navy PZL M28-1R Bryza. The bulk of the foreign participation however was seen in the "International Lynx Meet" part of the static. While international participants were rather scarse, the Royal Air Force had exhibitied it's largest contigent at Yeovilton for sometime. Largest aircraft on show was a VC-10 tanker from RAF Brize Norton and remained open to the public thorughout the day. Joining it was the unusual site at Yeovilton of three static Tornado GR4 strike fighters from No IX sqn offering some good photographic opportunities. There were also examples of RAF helicopters in the form of the 60sqn Griffin HT1 and Puma HC1 from 230 sqn. The Army Air Corps also had a surprisingly large contigent. Once again the new Apache AH1 was the star of the line up though it is quite rare to see the Army's Islander AL1s at airshows too. An exmaple of a Gazelle AH1 was also in the static. The Royal Navy naturally had a good showingwith rare appearances by a Merlin HM1 and Sea King HU5 in the static park alongside more regularly seen Lynx and Sea Harriers.

The static also boasted quite a few historic and civilian operated types. A very unusal visitor was Hunting Aerospace's Shorts Skyvan used for dropping military parachutists during training. The good weather also meant there was a bumper fly-in of vintage types organised by the team behing Great Vintage Flying Weekend. Dominating the flyin was the mighty Antonov An-2. Classic Jets and other more modern historics always have a good showing and 2005 proved to be no different with several Jet Provosts, Strikemasters and a brace of Hunters om show. A much rarer type to been seen on static was a Gazelle HT2, two of which made it to Yeovilton in markings not to dissimilar to the former naval display team, The Sharks.

Bowing Out Quietly

The Farewell to the Sea Harrier was perhaps a little too low key for the last all british front line fighter. This was no fault of the organisers as 801 sqn had only recently returned from a large deployment to Yeovilton and there's only a few Sea Harriers availible for operations as the fleet is slowly wound down. Hence, the only display seen to mark the end of the SHAR's career was the fourship that has been seen at many of the military shows throughout the summer.

The good weather also meant that a full flying display could be offered, not something that has happened too much at previous Air Days. Opening the display were the Army Air Corps' Blue Eagles display team with their full complement on what was their last display of the 2005 season. Also making what may be it's last public UK performance of 2005, maybe even ever was the SEPECAT Jaguar GR3A marking the first of the RAF's displays. Like in the static it was excellent to see so many RAF aircraft performing at a naval show. The Jaguar was joined by the Panavia Tornado GR4 display from XV squadron form the RAF's fast jet displays which put on a spirited display in the last september skies. With the RAF mixing into naval operations so much recently it was appropriate that both of the RAF's battlefield helicopters took part in the display. There's nothing much to choose between the Chinook HC2 and Merlin HC3 displays, both of which are exciting and dramatic to watch. However, crowd favourities for the afternoon were of course the Red Arrows, who are only too pleased to represent the RAF at navy events! Yeovilton marked their second last display in the UK in 2005. The very next day the Reds were up at South Shields and Newcastle for a televised display as part of the Great North Run coverage.

The Civilian owned sector of military flying was also well represented. Yeovilton  saw Cpt Alan Wade in the SERCO operated Slingsby T67M Firefly give a fine aerobatic performance while the Cobham Formation that had been seen at RIAT made a welcome and appropriate part of Yeovilton's display. The formation consists of FRA's Falcon 20s and SERCO operated Hawk T1A aircraft from FRADU simulateing attacks on ships as part of their formarion routine.


Star for many was the South African Airways 747-400. ZU-SAY is part of an eight aircraft fleet within South African's very modern fleet of airliners. The display is performed during the daytime stop over at Heathrow in between flights to South Africa. The 747-400 are used on flights between London and Cape Town or Johannesberg

One cancellation was the RAF Hercules display, but John Beattie stood in at the very last moment to provide a rare display of Kennet Aviation's Jet Provost T5 over what has become it's new home providing training for the Royal Navy Historic Flight. The Royal Navy is always very keen to present it's heritage to the public and Yeovilton Air Day is no exception and boasted a number of historic types. Of course this was headlined by the Royal Navy Historic Flight with it's pair of Hawker Sea Fury FB11 and Sea Hawk FGA6 both of which displayed as solo items. More piston fighter power was provided by Rolls Royce's Spitfire PR19 displayed by Bill Perrins while the ever busy John Beattie gave a powerful performance in Kennet Aviation's Skyraider. After a couple of years absence, the Battle of Britiain Memorial Flight finally made it to Yeovilton with their full complement of Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster. Classic Jets were very much in evidence with two routines flown by Brian Grant. Making a very welcome appearance was Hawker Hunter FGA9 XE601 resplendant in it's Empire Test Pilots School marklngs and recreating that wonderful blue note. Brian later flew the Sea Vixen through a very similar routine over it's former home base.

Commando Assault in Pictures
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There were few civilian displays at the show with only the Yakovlevs duo display joined by the Utterly Butterly Barnstormers who once again wowed the crowd by touching hands during the display, something that requires not only great skill and trust on the part the pilots, but also Libby and Poppy Dover - the intrepid wingwalkers. The other civilian acts was undoubtly the star single item during the flying display; the South African Airways Boeing 747-400.

The modern Royal Navy was represented in the flying display by the 801 NAS fourship of Sea Harrier FA2  aircraft marking the final full year of Sea Harrier operations while 702NAS provided the pair of Lynx HAS and HMA8 known as the Black Cats. However, the Royal Navy always saves the best for last at Yeovilton with it's Commando Assault. Described by commentaor Sean Maffett as a piece are"Aerial Theatre", it's probably the best of it's kind in the UK, if not the world. The Assualt tries to give the general public a good taste of what all the fleet air arm types can do and are doing around the world. No actors are used throughout, all the men and women are essentially taking part in a mini training exercise covering the interception and inspection of suspect boats, combat search and rescue, airbourne command and anti shipping attacks and finally a full commando assault on the airfield. The assault doesn't just involve Royal Navy personnel and equipment, this year saw the Merlin HC3 and it's display crew join in with Sqn Ldr Dave Morgan flying the Chinook HC2 who was last years Chinook display pilot flying drops offs during the commando assault. It was the first time in a few years that the Royal Navy's newest helicopter, the Merlin HM1 joined the display alongside the more familiar Sea King HC4, HAS6C and AsaC7 and of course the Lynx variants. The Sea Harriers were involved too and performed a couple of poignant flypasts and bows at the end of the show - perhaps the for the very last time at an airshow!

Once again, Yeovilton provided a top class airshow with an absolutely cracking flying display which was very well balanced with some exciting star displays, particularly the Hunter and the SAA 747. Even with the massive crowds, Yeovilton was just as pleasant a venue as usual, even though the there were far too few toilets for the record crowd leading to a few frustrating queues. The international participation has dwindled in the last few years and organisers are hoping that a move in the calendar to 8th July next year may attract a few more participants, hopefully on their way to RIAT!


Thanks to Ralph Patel and the Yeovilton Press Enclosure Team for their hospitality and assistance.


 copyright Flightline UK 2005