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The weather forecast for the May bank holiday weekend couldn't have been worse for airshow organisers. A deep low pressure area centred itself in the worst position bring unbroken spells of rain throughout both days of the show, and some very windy conditions on Monday. However, the flying display directors stil managed to put on a good show in the conditions. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from a soggy Sunday at Southend Seafront. All photography copyright of author.

Just like home!
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Rescue me
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Bring me sunshine!
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Home sick Angel
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Southend Rotary Club
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The Light Blues
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The bad weather not only affected Southend. Much of the country was covered in low rain clouds and that left hige holes in the planned flying display as aircraft were socked in at their bases. Canberra, Team Guinot, Sally-B and the warbirds all failed to make Southend over the weekend. The weather was also the "official" cause for the cancellation of the RAF's Spirit of Adventure event at Abingdon airfield so Southend got off lightly as it still had enough airspace to fly displays. The cancellation of the Abingdon event did free up the RAF aircraft displaying there to get over to Southend and Manston bases while the weather still allowed them to thus affording Southend most of it's participants in what became a hastily rejigged flying programme. Overall, about an hours flying was lost each day but the rejigged flying programme managed to close in the gaps that would have resulted.

The show proper on Sunday opened with the Essex Air Ambulance flying along with the Southend RNLI hovercraft for rescueing people over the mud flats. Next up were the Royal Navy Black Cats flying their trademark syncronised display with particular verve over the Thames Estuary. Also from the rotary world was the awarding winning Chinook HC2 display from 18(B) Squadron, surely the star turn of the RAF support for the Southend airshow.

Jumbo Surprise

A rare addition to the Southend flying programme was the Oasis Hong Kong Airlines Boeing 747-400. This was the first of two displays that the airline is displaying it's aircraft at. The 747 arrived during the worst of the weather and made for a dramatic sight appearing and dissappearing though cloud at low level over the Thames. Full marks for Oasis for putting on this spectacle

Adding certain amount of colour to the days flying were the civilian displays. First to appear was Jonathon Whalley's very bright Hunter F58a Miss Demeanour putting on a very loud and purposeful display of the type along the shoreline. Will Curtis just managed to avoid some really nasty rain with his usual display of gravity defying aerobatics in the Su-26M2. Making a welcome return to Southend were the outstanding Blades from 2Excel Aviation. Now into their second season, former Red Arrow Dave Slow has joined the team joined the other three ex-arrows pilots. One part of the show to look out for is the close formation "hammerhead," something that looks absolutely spectacular, even in grey conditions!However. perhaps providing the biggest colour depite dire conditions during it's display was the Boeing 747-400 of Oasis Hong Kong Airlines making three low passes during the display.

As with most seaside shows though, it was the Royal Air Force that dominated proceeedings. With significant changes and reductions in the solo displays available to organisers it's a difficult season for organisers. However, one bit of good news for Southend over last year was the return of the Red Arrows who were absent last year. The appearance of the Reds is always a major draw, particularly when the weather is poor. Also appearing in the poor conditions were the RAF Falcons dropping ftom a Hercules C1. Sunday saw conditions just lift enough for the teams low show but cloud and wind precluded their drop on Monday.

Solo wise, the RAF partcipation looked very thin over the displays seen last year despite all the solos appearing at some point over the weekend. The only front-line fast jet in the display, Typhoon F2 only appeared on Monday on it's way home from Abingdon. Both days should have seen the all the RAF's training displays, but winds at Southend denied crwods from seeing the excellent Hawk T1 display and it's new paint scheme on Monday. The very aerobatic Tutor T1 put on a sparkling performance in the grey conditions while the Tucano T1 added a further splash of colour in it's new display scheme.

Full credit to all involved with the flying - it must have been hard work getting it together in some pretty dire conditions on boths. Southend remains one of the top UK seafront airshows and deserbably so attracting large crowds despite the best efforts of the weather. If it had been sunnier, the crowds would have been even larger. Here's to nexr year and hopefully some blue skies!

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