RAF Waddington International Airshow 2009


Flying Action
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The RAF Waddington International Airshow is the RAF's largest and most important airshow of the year. In terms of size, it's second only to the Royal International Air Tattoo and often attracts participants from throughout Europe and beyond. The 2009 show was the 15th in the series of Waddington Airshows and is very likely to be remembered more because of what didn't fly than what did which is a great shame as there was plenty on offer. The flying displays may have lacked the fast jet participation of other shows, but three national display teams, the Breitling Jet Team plus a number of other gems in the static park made it a worthwhile trip. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photogrpahy copyright of the author.

Vulcan Debacle

The Vulcan did not participate in the flying display during the Waddington airshow  as it "Permit to Fly" was not renewed in time. The application for renewal was receieved as normal but the CAA could not renew the permit on a technicality.

That technicality was that some research work on the Fin bolt has not been completed. Normally, such work would damage the airframe so the work was due to carried out on another Vulcan; XM603 at Woodford and owned by BAE Systems. which is due to scrapped. For what ever reason, the work had yet to be completed by the time of Waddington and a the Permit could not be re-issued.

It was undubtly a frustrating and embarrassing situation for the team behind the Vulcan who have had to face questions about the projects future ever since, Hopefully issues over the Permit can be resolved soon so the Vulcan can continue it's airshow season.

RAF Waddington is situated just three miles south of Lincoln, a city with very close ties with the Royal Air Force. Infact, the whole county of Lincolnshire has become a "mega-base" for the Royal Air Force with several famous active stations such as Scampton, Coningsby and Cranwell all located within it's borders. The airshow itself is run for the benefit of two RAF charities, the Royal Air Forces Association and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, as well as some other local charities.

Being the RAF's main airshow of the year, it also gets perhaps the strongest RAF support of the year, even over RIAT. One type that was sadly missing this year was the Tornado F3. One had been due to join the static park from 43(F) Squadron which is due to disband later this year. However, an aircraft and crew were lost in a training accident just before the show which led to an understandable withdrawl. However, much of the RAF's fleet was represented, though not in the numbers of previous years. In the static displays there were the first appearance by an in-service Hawk T2, the latest generation of the Hawk family which is entering service at RAF Valley. The front line was represented by a Tornado GR4 and a Typhoon F2, the latter from 3(F) Squadron based near by at RAF Coningsby. There were also rare static appearances by a VC-10, a C-130K Hercules and a 41(R) Squadron Harrier GR9.

In the air, the RAF had all of it's regular display teams on show headlined by the Red Arrows who were displaying publically for the first time since it was announced that RAF Waddington would become their future home. Joining them were the Falcons Parachute Display Team who dropped from the Chinook HC2 which also displayed later and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. All the solo display items on display too with impressive performances from the Typhoon FGR4, Hawk T1, Tutor T1 and King Air B200. As ever, Waddington also had a little extra in the flying. The traditional show opening returned with fly throughs by the E-3D Sentry AEW1, Sentinal R1 and Nimrod R1. The flying display also featured a very rare appearance by a Tristar C2 fro RAF Brize Norton. Though not strictly part of the Royal Air Force, the RAF Gliding and Soaring Association sent Team Condor, a pair of ASK-21 Gliders from RAF Halton for their unique formation and syncronised display. The team are a rare sight at airshows, making only one or two appearances each year.

The other UK armed services also supported Waddington well. The Royal Navy sent a number of aircraft for a small preview of their "Fly Navy 100" celebrations that will be seen at RNAS Yeovilton Air Day. On the ground there was a Merlin HM1, Jetstream T2, Gazelle AH1, Sea King ASaC7 and one of the specially marked Hawk T1 from FRADU. Further examples of the special marked Hawks were in the air display alongside the Cobham Falcon 20ECM aircraft. Also in the flying display was a solo Lynx HMA8 from 815NAS at RNAS Yeovilton.

The Home Team

RAF Waddington is fome to the RAF's ISTAR fleet. ISTAR stands for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Aquistition and Reconnaissance. Performing this role are four different types of manned aircraft based at Waddington. The E-3D Sentry AEW1, Nimrod R1, Sentinal R1 (aqll pictured in the opening display) and the Shadow R1 (which was not displayed)

The Army Air Corps was solely represented by the Blue Eagles display team comprising of the Lynx AH7 and Apache AH1 helicopters from the School of Army Aviation at Middle Wallop. Rather than a pure team display both helicopters perform synchronised manoeuvres with each other which is quite unique and entertaining.

QinetiQ, the defence research agency brought in a number of star items for the static display. There was a very rare appearance by one of their BAC 1-11 aircraft in full Empire Test Pilots School Colours. Parked alongside was the equally rare ETPS Gazelle and the first public appearance of a QinetiQ Alpha Jet A in their new gloss black and white paint scheme.

As in previous years, the show clashes with some other major international airshows on the continent. This year the show clashed with the Belgian show at Koksidje. The organisers talk to each other and this did bring some benefits to both shows though it will always mean that international particpation will never reach the levels of RIAT which is often seen as the prime UK show for many air forces to attend. Having said that, the static parks at Waddington were graced with a number of interesting visitors.

The Austrian Air Force sent one it's ex-RAF C-130K Hercules marking a very rare appearance in the UK by the Austrians. Other European highlights included a quartet of Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons from the Dutch and Norwegian Air Force, Belgian SF260, a very rare appearance by a French Air Force E-3F Sentry, Czech Air Force An-26, Polish Air Force CN235 and a Fokker 50 from the Netherlands,

Star of the european line up in the static park was possibly one of the very last appearances was a Luftwaffe F-4F Phantom II. The Phantoms are gradually being withdrawn and superceded by the Eurofighter EF2000 in Germany (two of which will be at RIAT later this month) so the chances of seeing this charismatic and historic military jet are dwindling, not least here in the UK. The americans also made a splash at Waddington with a KC-135R Stratotanker. F-15C Eagle and a F-15E Strike Eagle in the static area.

Visiting nations also contributed to the flying display as well. The biggest turn out came from the French Air Force with a selection of Alpha Jets! Performing on both days was the Alpha Jet E solo display. Flying from Koksijde on Sunday were the Patrouille de France with their eight Alpha Jets with a typically gallic and polished performance. The Belgian Air Component supplied further Alpha Jets on the Saturday when a fourship flew through following their participation at Koksijde. 2009 is actually a milestone year for the type which is celebrating it's 30th anniversary so it was fitting to see so many at Waddington.

The Polish Air Force sent Team Orliky with their PZL-130TP Orlik trainers. The team are one of two national teams for the Polish Air Force and are a very welcome addition to any airshow they attend with their unique mix of formation and solo aerobatics. Each time the team have appeared in the UK they have improved their display and we hope it's not too long before they visit the UK again.

The RAF's new Hawk

Just before the show on the 2nd July, the RAF offiicially received the first of it's 28 Hawk T2 advanced jet trainers. at RAF Valley, home of 19(R) Squadron.

Air Vice Marshal Baz North, Air Officer Commanding 22 Group, responsible for all RAF training, sang the praises of the aircraft: "The Hawk has long been the backbone of fast jet training but this new advanced version will be far more representative of the new generation of jets that our trainee pilots will go on to fly on operations. It will provide real benefits in enabling pilots to move more rapidly to full combat readiness."

As ever with Waddington there was a large civilian contingent. The static saw a multitude of different types from general aviation through warbirds to classic jets. Amongst the latter category, there was again a large collection of Jet Provosts dotted around the static area.

In the flying displays, there were further examples from the family courtesy of Team Viper, a new classic jet display team flying Strikemasters. Joining them was the Vampire Preservation Group's Vampire T11 with another smooth display.

Warbirds were very few in number at Waddington apart from the Battle of Britiain Memorial. The only civilian piston fighter in the display was the Spitfire IXT flown by former OC BBMF Paul Day who is a very experienced Spitfire Display Pilot. Peter Vacher's Hurricane I was on static display.

One of the more unusual displays of the afternoon was that given by John Calverley in his Antonov An-2. The big russian biplane is capable of a very compact display showing some excellent agility and slow speed handling.

There were a number of aerobatic displays. Phil Burgess, a serving member of the RAF at Waddington put on a display in his little Pitts S1C Special G-FCUK while John Taylor gave another excellent account of solo aerobatics in Ultimate High's striking Extra 300L. Team displays come from the The Blades in their Extra 300LPs who gave a excellent display and  the Breitling Jet Team in their seven L-39 Albatross jets. Led by civilian and air display guru Jaques Bothelin, the rest of the Breitling team consist of former french military pilots and they have performed around the world to great acclaim and were very warly received by the Waddington crowd.

Waddington 2009 was once again a hugely enjoyable show with a number of varied displays and attractions on the ground and in the air. Despite the Vulcan debacle and the credit crunch, Waddington's flying still had lots of offer in the fine weather conditions that prevailed. It is becoming more difficult for overseas air arms to commit to airshows due to operations and financial constraints so it's credit to the Waddington team that they have attracted a number of participants and countries that will not appear again in the UK this year. Waddington 2010 will be held on the 3rd-4th July.

STOP PRESS::Sadly, one of the historic types on static display at the Waddington Airshow, a Provost T1 crashed shortly after departing Waddington on the 7th July with the sad loss of it's pilot John Fairey. Fairey was a well known and experience pilot, not least for his displays in his Flycatcher replica and the Provost. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Static Displays
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