25th FAI World Aerobatic Championships 2009, Silverstone (Final Day)


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22009 saw the return of the World Aerobatics Championships to the UK after a 23 year gap. The venue for the competition was Silverstone, home of British Motorsport. The airfield in the middle of the track is more commonly used for helicopter operation during major race meetings, but itself became a sporting arena for 13 days with the world's best pilots battling for supremacy. Sadly the championships were marred by tragedy when American competitor Vicki Cruse was killed in an accident during practice for the main competition.

The finale to the competition on the 30th August was the World "Freestyle" Aerobatics competition and an impressive closing airshow and ceremony. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography copyright of the Author.

2009 may have seen some very important anniversaries celebrated with high profile events such as the Fly Navy 100 celebration in London and Liverpool. However, one major event almost slipped completely by without much notice being taken. Sadly, the event did hit the headlines during the opening days of the competition when an Edge 540 aircraft crashed during the practice and qualification killing the American competitor Vicki Cruse. Our condolences go out to Vicki's friends and family.

The World Aerobatics Championships last took place in the UK in 1986 at South Cerney just outside the Cotswolds. The talk of that competition was centred on the Sukhoi Su-26M and in 2009, many competitors still used the type with the Russian team using the Su-26M3 version. But the 2009 competition was to be dominated by the new kid on the block, the Extra 330SC. Also taking part were a host of different aircraft with some familiar like the Extra 300S and CAP232 through to the very exotic types like the Sukhoi Su-31 (some even fitted with election seats!) , Edge 540 and the very new and sleek XtremeAir Sbach 300/342. .

A signal of just what a world beater the new Extra was that the French team had changed from the shighly capable CAP 232 to the new Extra 330SC and 330LC aircraft in time for the competition. The French went on to almost completely blow away the competition in their Extras with Renauld Ecalle taking the Individual honours and the French taking the Team competition from Russia. Elena Klimovich (Russia) took the honours as Individual Women's champion from Svetlana Kapanina (Russia) and Kathel Boulanger (France). The British Team had a good championships with Gerald Cooper taking 7th Place and Lark Jefferies in 10th. As a team, the British team came in just out of the medals in 4th 

Individual Results

Rank Team M/F Pilot Aeroplane Totals O/all %
1 FRA M Renaud Ecalle Extra 330SC 6155,26 78,51
2 RUS M Alexander Krotov Sukhoi 26M3 5952,45 75,92
3 FRA M Francois Le Vot Extra 330SC 5946,61 75,85
4 RUS M Mikhail Mamistov Sukhoi 26M3 5923,65 75,56
5 FRA M Pierre Varloteaux Extra 330SC 5888,76 75,11


Team Results

Rank Team Totals O/all %
1 France 17990,6370 76,4908
2 Russia 17760,7256 75,5133
3 USA 17324,2271 73,6574
4 Great Britain 16610,7816 70,6241
5 Spain 15898,5721 67,596

Saturday 30th August saw the "Freestyle" competition and the closing airshow and ceremony. The Freestyle is separate from the main competition and is very different from other rounds. The Freestyle is far more like airshow flying with competitors being allowed to use display smoke and many flying their routines to music. The master of ceremonies was Brendan O'Brien who did a fantastic job to bring the competition to life. There were some disappointments though with some top names like Mark Jefferies and Svetlana Kapinina not taking part but Jurgis Kairys did fly in from Lithuania with a Sukhoi Su-31M especially for the Freestyle competition. The flying was spectacular, if a little distance for many of the competitors. However, as the competition progressed, there were some performances that really stood out with stunning flying from Ramon Alonso (Spain), Eric Vazille (Great Britain), Jurgis Kairys (Lithuania) and Renauld Ecalle. Jurgis' spiral into his routine and Ecalle's seamless rolling loop were stupendous, but in the end, it was a close fight between the top two with Ecalle taking the honours less than 1% ahead of Kairys. There was also some success for Team GB with Vazille taking the bronze.  

Freestyle Results

Rank Team Pilot Aeroplane 4m Free Totals O/all %
1 FRA Renaud Ecalle Extra 330SC 3223,33 3223,33 80,58
2 LIT Jurgis Kairys Sukhoi 31M 3175,54 3175,54 79,39
3 GBR Eric Vazeille CAP 232 2905,40 2905,40 72,64
4 ESP Ramon Alonso Sukhoi 31 2899,66 2899,66 72,49
5 RUS Mikhail Mamistov Sukhoi 26M3 2861,73 2861,73 71,54

After the competition flying, it was almost straight in to the airshow flying which was opened by the Aerostars bringing a little nostalgia to WAC. Yak-50's were a regular sight at competitions before the advent of the super sophisticated Sukhois, CAPs and Extras. Further aerobatics came from the Swift Aerobatic Display Team with their mix of powered and unpowered flying machines. Team Guinot brought the barnstormers of the 1920's back to life with their highly entertaining wingwalking display.

Vulcan Effect

Avro Vulcan XH558 made for an impressive sight over Silverstone. It's appearance at Silverstone was supported by commentary from Sean Maffett. The Vulcan had a bust afternoon flying with the four Extras of the Blades display Team at Sywell, not that far away from Silverstone giving some very appreciative passengers a unique perspective of the Cold War Icon.

In total contrast to the lightweight aerobatic machine were the warbirds. Peter Teichman displayed his P-40M Kittyhawk still wearing it's "Red Tails" paint scheme from filming earlier in the year. Spitfire Ltd also displayed their Spitfire XVI and Messerschmitt Me109J Buchon in a mock dogfight under dramatic skies.

Later military might was represented by Kennet Aviation's Westland Wasp and the mighty Avro Vulcan B2 - perhaps the two most unlikely aircraft to appear at WAC.

Modern day military "flying" saw appearances by the RAF's Hawk T1 solo display and the Army's "Red Devils" Parachute Display Team. The show was closed by the four Extra 300LP aircraft of The Blades making the short hop from their Sywell base.

WAC 2009 was a fascinating event, though I don't feel that Silverstone was really the right venue. The clash with the BTCC round was quite distracting with long gaps for qualifying sessions. Though WAC did not quite have the "in-your-face" promotion and "edge of your seat" excitement that the Red Bull Air Race can often give, Flying Aces and the British Aerobatic Association certainly provided a great day of flying at a very prestigious event.

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