9th Abingdon Air & Country Show



Anniversary Strips
Click to Enlarge

The Fly In
Click to Enlarge

After a long winter and spring period, the air show circuit gets back under way on the first May Bank Holiday of the year at Abingdon and Old Warden. Abingdon's show is very much a well balanced show with a large country fair as the backdrop to an impressive fly in and flying display. As ever though, the show had to contend with typical unpredictable British weather which did it's best to try and spoil the show. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of the Author.

The Abingdon Air & Country Show has been held in the aid of charity ever since it started as the Abingdon Fayre in 2000. Ever since then, the show has gained quite a reputation for putting on well received events. 2008 saw the ninth event in the series and was held in aid of the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulence Trust.

Things didn't get off to the best of starts. The week before saw some glorious weather but the Bank Holiday weekend forecast was typically depressing with the day of the event seeing the worst of it. Despite being fairly gloomy all day, the heaviest rain did hold off throughout the day despite the odd light shower. Then, at the last minute the show's commentator was taken ill and couldn't attend leaving the show with no commentary. The stand in was plucked from the ranks of volunteers at the show and was completely unprepared. I don't want to be negative on Abingdon but a good airshow commentary really makes a show and it's perhaps a lesson learnt for the future - have a backup plan!

Early season unservicability also cost Abingdon a couple of star acts. The DC-6 required an engine change after a newly installed engine started producing a little too much metal in the oil and was waiting for hanger space.The RAF's Chinook suffered engine problems en route to the show on Sunday morning forcing the crew to abandon their first appearance of the year which was frustrating for everyone concerned.

The dreary weather did force a number of pilots to rethink their plans to join the fly-in at Abingdon and numbers were noticably down. Even the RAF struggled - No 33 Squadron were unable to supply a Puma due to lack of crews and Benson was closed for the weekend. A final effort by the Merlin crews eventually got a Merlin HC3 to Abingdon on Friday and it's participation was well recieved. Next to the Merlin was a 208(R) Squadron Hawk T1 wearing the new display colours for 2008 season highlighting the 90th Anniversary of the RAF.

The only other static piece of modern military hardware was the UH-60A Blackhawk from the United States Army detechment at SHAPE in Belgium. The americans have a very different take on aircraft static parks allowing people to get very up close with their equipment which can be very frustrating for people trying to take a photo of it. This was despite the best efforts of the organisers to put the helicopter in a photo friendly position.

Perhaps making the biggest splash were Delta Jets, from the relatively nearby airfield at Kemble. They were supplying a Hunter for the flying display but a number of other aircraft joined in to visit the show including their Folland Gnat T1 in Yellowjack colours, Jet Provost T5 in Empire Test Pilots School Colours and the Blue Diamonds Hawker Hunter T7. They were joined by the Newcastle JP Group's Jet Provost T3 to complete the line up of Jets. Other aircraft from the RAF's past joining the fly-in included Bulldogs and Chipmunks. Air Atlantique Classic Flight remained busy during the morning offering pleasure flights in one of their DH89a Dragon Rapide and FlyCB were giving trial lessons in the EV97 Eurostar ultralights.

Power of Silence

Surprise of the day was the excellent display by the Silence Twister. This little aircraft clearly owes a lot of it's design to the aesthetics of the Supermarine Spitfire. It's actually only powered by a 80hp engine but is so light it is capable of quite an impressive aerobatic routine when coupled with it's impressive smoke system. The proceeds from the Twister's displays during 2008 will all go to the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance.

The flying display kicked off with Peter Teichman's P-40M Kittyhawk which he keeps with his other warbirds at North Weald airfield in Essex. Peter's graceful display shows off the lines of his aircraft to great effect. Peter completed a busy afternoon by flying on to Old Warden to display there. Another popular warbird in the display was Rob Davies' P-51D Mustang, Big Beautiful Doll from Woodchurch in Kent and again the aircraft's lines were beautifully demonstrated by Rob along with the Mustang whistle.

Completing a small trio of warbird displays was the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Spitfire IIa which was another touring Abingdon and Old Warden shows during the afternoon from it's base at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

Perhaps one of the most impressive display of the afternoon was the DC-3 Dakota from Air Atlantique/ It was filling in for the unserviceable DC-6 and put on some amazing steep wingovers presenting the full plan form to the crowds. The DC-3 looks as though it will disappear from passenger carrying duties this year because of new EU rulings and the future of these magnificent aircraft is currently uncertain. Air Atlantique have put together a superb farewell tour; details of which can be found on their website. Also displaying in the colours of RAF Transport Command was Andrew Dixon's Pembroke C1 which flown though a great display of low passes and turns.

Staying with the historic themes, Abingdon boasted a couple of classic jets in the line up. A North Weald based Folland Gnat T1 gave a smoky account of itself in full Red Arrows livery while Delta Jet's proudly paraded the return of it Hunter T7 WV318 in it's 111 sqn Black Arrows livery. This aircraft has been off the circuit for the past couple of years due to deep maintenance but should now be a regular back on the circuit.

Aerobatics display also featured well in the display. Well known display pilot Barry Tempest flew his Steen Skybolt though a classic routine of gentle aerobatics but perhaps most impressive was the tiny Silence Twister which put on a great account of itself. Making their first display of the year were the Swift Aerobatic Display Team. This year will see the team performing two different team displays. Aside from the Swift and Extra combination, team leader Guy Westgate in S-1 Swift has joined forces with the RAF Halton based Lo100 and Piper Pawnee team (flown by Ian Gallacher and Paul Moslin) to present a dual tow of aerobatic gliders from very different generations.

Modern military aircraft have long been a feature of Abingdon's flying display. This year proved a little difficult to get displays to Abingdon with the 2008 Hawk pilot already being selected to join the Red Arrows in 2009 and having to join the team on their Spring detachment to Cyprus - lucky chap! Filling in was the RAF's Tucano T1 solo display flown by Flt Lt Stew Campbell whose display is very different from previous incarnations of the Tucano display. What is very striking though is the 2008 display scheme - there's no missing the giant RAF roundel on the underside and chevrons on the topside and fuselage sides. Helicopters were also represented by the Royal Navy's solo Lynx HAS3 display from RNAS Yeovilton which put on a typical display of the Lynx's agility.

It was perhaps a difficult day for Abingdon. The loss of the commentator I feel was very unfortunate as the show lost it's communication with the crowds and the late cancellation of the Chinook caused a few late gaps in the flying display that didn't help. However the show went on with some interesting and new flying displays and people still had a good time which is the important thing. Here's hoping for a brighter and luckier 10th Abingdon Show in 2009!

Flying High
Click to Enlarge



>>Click Here for Airshow Previews and Reviews

>>Click Here to Return to Homepage

AVIATION TOP 100 - www.avitop.com Avitop.com

copyright Flightline UK