Heart Air Display & Classic Car Show, Rougham


Flying Displays
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Rougham's main air display of the year took place in August. It has grown over the years to become a major event in the local area. Held over a weekend, Saturday sees a small "interlude" flying display alongside a major car rally while Sunday gets a full five hour airshow. 2009 saw the return of fast jets to the program alongside a host of airshow favourites.  Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography copyright of the Author.

Rougham Airfield is just 2 miles east of Bury St Edmunds. Like many East Anglian airfields, it has it's roots in the Second World War as a former base for the United States Army Air Force. The 322nd and 94th Bomb Groups used the airfield during the war when it was officially known as Station 468. Opening in 1942, the station briefly hosted the 47th Bomb Group with A-20 Havocs before being replaced by B-26 Marauders of the 322nd BG later in the year. However, 1943 saw the 322nd swap bases with the 94th BG at Earls Colne. The 94th BG used the iconic B-17 and Earls Colne proved to be unsuitable for the type. It was the B-17 and the 94th BG that became synonymous with Rougham and the unit's identification marking, an "A" contained within a square has become part of Rougham heritage, now used in all the posters and marketing for airfield’s flying events.

The atmosphere at Rougham was certainly unique.  Despite being quite a large event, Rougham still felt like a local fete. Many of the stalls were from the local area and there was a distinct American influence. The lines of military vehicles and classic cars were impressive and the central arena was busy all day with parades and bands. Throughout the morning, the skies above Rougham were busy with aircraft arriving, not just for the display, but also a large fly-in.

The show was opened by a De Havilland Chipmunk flown by Jon Higgins, nephew of the Jersey airshow organiser Mike Higgins. jon is one of the youngest holders of a Display Authorisation and has been tutored by Charlie Brown from the Historic Aircraft Collection. Following Jon was Martin West flying his Piper Arrow. The Piper may be an unlikely display aircraft, but Martin put on an impressively tight display.

Staying with the light aviation theme, Bob Grimstead displayed a Fournier RF4 in a graceful sequence of aerobatics. Other aerobatic solos included Peter Lawton's Vans RV8, David Jenkins's Laser Z200 and Nigel Wilson's Yakovlev Yak-52 all of which took full advantage of Rougham's curved display line producing some great opportunities for photographers. In total contrast to these high-octane aerobatics was John Elliot's MT03 Autogyro.

However, it was historic military aviation that formed the bulk of Rougham's display. The early days of aerial warfare were represented by the Great War Display Team with a pair of SE5a replicas and a further pair of Junkers CL1 replicas.

A Battle of Britain section of the flying display saw Howard Cook flying the Historic Aircraft Collection's Hawker Hurricane and Clive Denney in the 108 Group's Messerschmitt Me108 Taifun. There was a further Hurricane later in the display with Peter Teichman and his Hurricane IIb "Hurri-Bomber." It was the end of a successful first display weekend for Peter's new Hurricane which debuted at Eastbourne on the Friday evening before the show.

During a summer's afternoon in East Anglia, it's not uncommon to see the odd Boeing Stearman or two bumbling around the sky. The area is home to a number of the type and there is none better than local pilot Gerry Honey, who specialises in the restoration and maintenance of the famous biplane. Gerry also leads the Stearman Formation Team, a regular sight at East Anglian airshows such as Rougham.

At the heart of this year's flying display was a recreation of a 1944 "Breakout." As well as aircraft, the theme involved historic military vehicles and re-enactors. In the air, the theme was opened by Jeanne Frazer and Leah Hammond flying their Piper L4 Grasshopper and Taylorcraft Auster representing the important observation role the types provided during the liberation of France. Moving on to the heavy metal, Alistair Kay gave a scintillating account of OFMC's P-51D Mustang Ferocious Frankie. Closing the sequence was the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster B1. As well as the Lancaster display, the BBMF also provided displays on the Saturday with a solo Hurricane IIc and the flight's Dakota.

The highlight of the afternoon's warbird displays was the pair of OFMC fighters - the aforementioned P-51D Mustang which flew with Spitfire IX MH434, the latter flown by Brian Smith. Early in the display, the pair flew an awesome routine of tight formation aerobatics in a style that has become the hallmark of the OFMC - with plenty of fast passes and high energy manoeuvres. The pair then joined with B-17G Flying Fortress Sally-B. MH434 also made a solo appearance at the end of flying making several topside passes before disappearing back to OFMC's Duxford base. The B-17 was making it's first display since May after another summer of engine problems - let's hope all is now solved with the troublesome engines and Sally-B can enjoy flying at more shows in 2010.

One of the major changes to the display for 2009 was the reappearance of fast jets over Rougham. Saturday saw a display from Flt Lt Matt Barker flying the RAF's solo Hawk T1. Though the main display on Sunday did not see the Hawk, there were a number of civilian jet types on display. The Hawk's predecessor in the Royal Air Force was the Folland Gnat and a pair of them displayed at Rougham on the Sunday under the guise of the Gnat Display Team.

Another welcome returnee to the display circuit was Tom Moloney and his "new" Strikemaster. The aircraft wears the colours of the Kuwaiti Air Force and Tom put on a great display showing off the jet with some eye-catching low passes with lots of noise.

A late addition to the flying display was Golden Apple's F-86A Sabre. The Duxford based jet is the oldest airworthy F-86 and the only flying example of an "A" model. Flown by Mark Kinney, the Sabre has been a popular display act throughout 2009, but it is rumoured that 2009 maybe have been the last chance to see this wonderful vintage jet in the sky.

Another late addition to the flying display closed the show - the Swift Aerobatic Display Team. The team had a busy weekend transiting straight up to Rougham from the Eastbourne International Airshow on the South coast to close a wonderful day of flying. Peter Eager and the rest of the Rougham events team should be congratulated for creating a charismatic and varied flying display. We hope that Rougham's events will continue to grow and prosper.

Flying Displays
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