Abingdon Air & Country Show 2009


Around the show
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Civilian Displays
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Classic Jets
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The 2009 UK airshow season got underway on the first bank holiday weekend of May with displays at Old Warden and at Abingdon. The Abingdon Air & Country Show has grown over the past years into a significant airshow with some of the best acts from the military and civilian world. 2009 was a major milestone for the event which celebrated it's 10th anniversary. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography copyright of the Author.

2008 was a season to forget weather wise and like many shows, Abingdon endured some quite dreary weather that year. It was therefore a pleasant bonus for the first airshows of the year to see a mainly bright day, albeit with a chilly wind. The weather extended throughout much of the country allowing a full fly-in of many varied vintage and civilian types included Chipmunks, Austers, a Harvard as well as several other civilian types. The show has supported the Thames Valley Air Ambulance Trust for the past couple of years. The Air Ambulance itself, a Eurocopter EC135 put in a fleeting appearance before the start of the flying programme. Last year's show raised £5000 for the trust, and with record crowds the donation for 2009 could be greater!

However, if there was one aircraft dominating the aircraft parks in 2009, it was the C-17A Globemaster III from 99 Squadron, RAF Brize Norton. The aircraft was flown in before the crowds arrived to allow the gigantic transporter to park up safely and set it self up for tours of the cavernous cargo hold. The manoeuvring was spectacular with the aircraft performing an overhead join before a short field landing and using reverse thrust to find it's way to it's place in the showground pulling spectacular moisture vortices off the tarmac! After the show, the C-17 departed using very little of the Abingdon runway and performing a final flypast to conclude a very welcome and rare appearance by the type.

The C-17 was not the only RAF aircraft taking part, in fact the majority of the 2009 solo displays were also part of the display. The specially marked Tutor T1 made it's first appearances at the end of the 2008 season in the hands of Flt Lt Andy Preece. For 2009, the aircraft is being displayed by Flt Lt Bill Ramsey,e full time RAF reservist QFI from No 115(R) Squadron based at RAF Cranwell with 1EFTS. The new colours certainly make the little aircraft stand out more and as ever the Tutor's flicks and low level aerobatics are always a pleasant change from the more noisy end of the RAF's displays.

RAF C-17 Fleet reaches 50,000hours

The RAF's fleet of six C-17A Globemaster III aircraft reached a total of 50,000 flying hours just before the Abingdon Show.

Officer Commanding 99 Squadron, Wing Commander Simon Edwards said: ‘We are enormously proud of achieving this important milestone. The RAF C17 fleet exists only to support our deployed forces and we are delighted to have done so much so quickly. The more we use the aircraft, the more we learn about what it can do. This only increases the demand for our services, yet we continue to exceed expectations. 99 Squadron is fortunate indeed to have a wonderful aircraft, operated and supported by an incredible team’.

The other RAF trainer display for 2009 is the Hawk T1 sporting a totally new scheme for the 2009 season celebrating the team's links with the RAF Benevolent Fund in it's 90th Anniversary. The Hawk, flown by Flt Lt Matt Barker from 208(R) Squadron at RAF Valley, features the fund's logos on the nose of the aircraft and on the underside. The display appearance by the Hawk was sponsored by our friends at Fighter Control.

One of the stars of the show however was the Chinook HC2 flown by Flt Lt Russ Norman and crew. Not only were the crew sporting some rather natty orange gloves but the display has been renewed with spectacular results. The display should be one of the stars of the 2009 season. The Chinook also doubled up as the drop aircraft for the Tigers Parachute Display Team who were the first such team to appear at a Abingdon show.

As well as the Globemaster, No 78 Squadron brought one of their new Merlin HC3A helicopters for static display. The Merlin Force are based locally at RAF Benson near Wallingford along with the Pumas of Mo 33 Squadron. Both Pumas and Merlins use Abingdon Airfield for training during the year and are a regular sight in the skies above Oxfordshire. No 612VGS are based at Abindgon Airfield with their Grob Vigilant T1 motor gliders. The school provides air experience flights for air cadets during the year, but for Abingdon they took up organiser Neil Porter for his first flight at the Fayre since it began 10 years ago!

Alongside the military displays there were a fair number of civilian displays. The Dukes of Cassutt led by Richard Grace made their Abingdon debut with their three distinctive Cassutt Racers. The aircraft are Formula One Pylon racers, a sport which has all but died out outside America. The aircraft all wear similar liveries, but all have slightly different aerodynamic parts, just like they would have done for competitive races.

Another trio of aircraft came from the Swift Aerobatic Display Team, fresh from their trip to the Al Ain Aerobatics Show in January. As ever, the team showed off their aerobatics skills as a team and individually with the SA180 Twister flown by Peter Wells and the S-1 Swift glider flown by Guy Westgate with Ian Gallcher flying the PA25 Pawnee tow aircraft from RAF Halton.

Solo aerobatics came from Nigel Wilson in his colourful Yak-52. Sponsored by Anglian Flight Centres at Earl's Colne, Nigel has been a familiar sight at airshows in the east of england for a number of years flying in the Horizon Formation Team at the Ipswich Air Fairs before moving on to solo aerobatics in the Cessna Aerobat and the Yak-52.

The warbirds at Abingdon reflected an American theme. Peter Teichman is an Abingdon regular and displayed his P-40M Kittyhawk. Peter and the Kittyhawk have recently returned from filming in the Czech Republic for a new George Lucas film following the history of the Tuskagee Airman, the all afro-American unit that never lost a bomber during their escort missions. Peter's Kittyhawk was still wearing the temporary "weathered" paint scheme applied  for the filming and looked stunning in the bright Abingdon skies.  Joining Peter was Rob Davies in his P-51D Mustang Big Beautiful Doll. Rob and the P-51 were also involved with the filming though the aircraft had it's temporaryscheme removed by the time of the show. Rob was based at Abingdon during his service career so it was very appropriate for him to display over his former base!

One of the stars of the flying was the DC-3 Dakota Drag em oot flown by John Dodd and crew. The "Dak" was put through a gentle yet spectacular low level display showing off it's authentic USAAF D-Day strips to the crowd. This aircraft's log book reveals it was an active participant in the war towing assault gliders as well as other transport duties. It's currently based at East Kirkby in Lincolnshire.

The Cold War was also well represented by a number of Abingdon regulars. Andrew Dixon showed off "Percy," his Pembroke C1. The Pembroke is a regular on the show circuit representing a type which had an interesting career with RAF Transport Command in the UK and Germany. Another Abingdon regular is the Jet Provost T3 flown by Neil McCarthy. Having been on static display at previous shows, Neil gave his debut flying display at Abingdon in the jet showing off the classic lines of the iconic jet trainer. Continuing the jet trainer theme, the Vampire Preservation Group presented their very shiny Vampire T11 flown by Matt Hampton. This aircraft is the only example of the T11 left flying and is lovingly maintained at North Weald by the group.

In many ways, 2009 saw Abingdon come of age with a much improved show and flying display. Sean Maffet took over the commentary for the airshow which really brought the display alive while the continued publicity of the event brought the show record crowds. That popularity however did cause a few traditional airshow problems with traffic arrangements and toilets being inadequate to cope with demand. Neil Porter and his team are rightly proud of what they have achieved in the last ten years, and long may it continue!

Stars and Stripes
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RAF Abingdon
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