South East Airshow – Manston Airport 22 June 2013

Returning as a location for an airshow after a break of almost twenty years, the South East Airshow taking place at the one time RAF Manston – now Kent International Airport – created much interest when first announced. At a time when we are more used to losing shows, gaining a new one was a most welcome change. Although it has its roots in the seafront displays around Margate the content of the show was clearly more akin to a ‘proper’ airshow, with the added bonus of viewing the participants and their movements on the ground. Back in the days of the RAF displays the location of Manston created serious traffic headaches, and this proved to be the case again with many visitors being stuck in the queues for up to five hours whilst others gave up and headed home. The terrible weather on the day also created cancellations to the flying programme and limitations for those that flew, but despite this a highly entertaining and varied afternoon’s display did take place with content of the highest quality. Commentary was provided by George Bacon, recently announced as part of the two-man RIAT team.

Warbirds displaying included the Navy Historic Flight Sea Fury:

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Peter Teichman, who opened the show in P-40 ‘Lulu Belle’, returned from North Weald in P-51 ‘Jumpin’ Jacques’:

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The ever popular Sally B:

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Fittingly the show was closed by ‘The Kent Spitfire’ Mk IX TA805 from Biggin Hill:

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Returning to the scene after three and half years of restoration Dutch B-25 Mitchell was flown in a vigorous manner much missed:

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Classic jets provided a gratifyingly large proportion of the show opening with perhaps the main cause of the greater than expected crowd numbers, Avro Vulcan XH558:

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Last year ex-Red Arrow Ben Murphy filled-in on the occasions that Jonathon Whaley was unable to display stunningly-schemed Hunter ‘Miss Demeanour’, whilst at Manston Patrick Tuit took a turn – this being his display debut in ‘Miss D’. Patrick is the chief pilot and trainer for the Dutch Hawker Hunter Foundation.

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Another debut display was the long awaited appearance of the Red Star Rebels, although only two of the L-29 Delfins flew at Manston. The intention has been to offer four of the classic jet trainers but the team has been through a long gestation period before making this initial showing. The idea behind the team is to finally turn the ‘Cold War’ into a very heated scenario, with the Eastern Bloc aircraft attacking the West’s airfields – which they accomplished with impressive pyrotechnics:

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Though unconnected as far as the story-line of the show progressed, these explosions were soon outclassed by the NATO offering, the British Army’s Apache:

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The lighter side of aviation was represented by a couple of aerobatic demonstrations, with Nigel Willson displaying his Yak 52:

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and Chris Burkett in the G-Force Extra 300:

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A number of aircraft were displayed on the ground, including an RAF Hawk and this Tornado GR4 from Marham:

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A number of aircraft could also be seen around the airport in various conditions, such as these two 747s and DC-8 in derelict state:

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After the show there was much heated debate around the serious congestion issues with many pointing the finger at the organisers, stating a lack of traffic management and planning as the main causes. The initial statement from organisers AS Enterprises and Heritage Events was: ‘All parties recognise the problems that people faced travelling by vehicle to the South East Airshow and apologise to those who experienced long delays and were unable to attend the event. There will be a full debrief with all parties and once we have collated all the feedback, we will be able to make a more detailed statement. We would ask for people to email their views and their personal experiences to enquiry@heritage-events.co.uk so we can respond appropriately to each person individually.’

This was followed by a more detailed response:

We planned this event for months and took the advice of all the experts but could never have dreamed that so many people would want to attend without having bought a ticket in advance. We pre-sold 15,000 tickets and expected about another 5,000 more. In reality we had almost 30,000 people get through the gate and enjoy a great day out. We had a car park which had enough spaces for 16,000 cars and even at the busiest time we had 5000 spaces, We had three entrances, 2 of which flowed smoothly all day and three exits as well as 10 car parking teams working flat out all day. Also on the same day was the final of the Amateur Golf Championships in Sandwich, the Jazz Festival in Margate, a luxury boat sale in Ramsgate and Canterbury College’s Open Day in Broadstairs so there was lots of other things going on too. I can’t apologise enough for the fact that one particular road became totally gridlocked and we will do better for any future events’.

It must be hoped that improvements can be made and that future shows of this calibre can continue at Manston, although it has to be accepted that the road layout approaching the airport will always create problems – as they always did.

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Trooping the Colour and Queen’s Birthday Flypast – 15 June 2013

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Trooping the Colour is a ceremony performed by regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies. It has been a tradition of British infantry regiments since the 17th century, although the roots go back much earlier. On battlefields, a regiment’s colours, or flags, were used as rallying points.  Since 1748 Trooping the Colour has also marked the official birthday of the British sovereign.

The royal family, marching bands and participating troops proceed from Buckingham Palace, along The Mall to Horseguards Parade where the ceremony takes place.

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A return route takes the royal family back down The Mall to the Palace in time for the flypast, which the Queen and royal party view from the balcony.

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IWM Duxford Spring Air Show – Remembering the Mighty Eighth – 26 May 2013

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Duxford’s first show of 2013 commemorated the 70th anniversary of the arrival at the wartime Cambridgeshire airfield of the 78th Fighter Group of the US Army Air Force. Initially equipped with P-47 Thunderbolts and arriving in April 1943, the Group traded them for P-51 Mustangs in December 1944, and both types played a significant part in the commemorations – not just at the show but also as part of the following day’s flypasts over other significant airfields with links to the USAAF and also the Cambridge American Cemetery at Madingley – see Madingley flypast .

As part of the ‘Eagle Squadron’ P-47 ‘Snafu’ and P-51 ‘Princess Elizabeth’ were joined by a Hurricane and Spitfire representing aircraft flown by volunteer US pilots at a time before their home country had joined the battle, and these squadrons flew under that title. Flying as a four-ship, with B-17 ‘Sally B’, with the Red Arrows and in pairs, the ‘Eagle Squadron’ was one of the most eagerly anticipated display acts of recent years – and they didn’t fail to deliver. Led by British pilot Paul Bonhomme in the Hurricane, the remaining members of the quartet were the three pilots that make up the ‘Bremont Horsemen Flight Team’ – Dan Friedkin (Spitfire), Ed Shipley (Mustang) and Steve Hinton (Thunderbolt). The trio normally fly Mustangs and have been seen before at Duxford doing so in a mix of UK-based P-51s and specially imported US-based airframes.

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The US theme ran through the whole show both in the air and on the ground. ‘The Three Belles’ delighted the crowds on the ground:

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whilst Golden Apple Operation’s F-86A Sabre made a welcome return after its engine issues:

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US warbirds included a couple of P-40s (Pearl Harbor survivor P-40B illustrated), TF-51D Mustang ‘Miss Velma’ (a two-seater which took ‘Bud’ Anderson aloft before the display started and again on the Monday commemorations) two DC-3s, a Harvard pair and two L-4 Cubs.

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Other warbird content included the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane, Westland Lysander and the pairs display of the ‘Grace Spitfire’ with ARCo’s Buchon.

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Civilian teams gave added colour to the show with the Trig Aerobatic Team, RV8tors and the solo Breitling Stearman wingwalker making good use of the sunny conditions.

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The focus of the event was quite rightly aimed at the historics, but the RAF did send the display Tucano in its homage scheme:

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Due to delays the Tucano pilot hadn’t received his display authorisation in time to take part in the show. The RAF did though make an impact in closing the show with the Red Arrows making their UK 2013 debut, and flying nine Hawks for the first time since the tragedies of 2011.

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Duxford’s first show of 2013 was an all-round success and heavily attended. Hopefully setting a trend for the rest of the year.

The next airshow at Duxford is the Flying Legends event over the weekend of 13 and 14 July.

With thanks to Esther Blaine and the IWM staff.

Hangar 11’s P-40 Rolled-out as ‘Lulu Belle’ – 2 June 2013

On Sunday 2 June at North Weald, Essex Hangar 11’s P-40 Kittyhawk G-KITT was unveiled in its new scheme as ‘Lulu Belle’:

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The scheme is that of a wartime P-40 flown by Lt Philip R. Adair:

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The Kittyhawk should make a number of display appearances around the UK in 2013.

‘Eagle Squadron’ honours the US fallen fighting from UK bases during WWII

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On Monday 27 May, B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B and four fighters – ‘Eagle Squadron’ – carried out a commemorative flypast of East Anglian Second World War airfields to honour the American airmen who gave the ultimate sacrifice whilst operating from these British bases. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the United States Army Air Force arriving at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, to join the fight against Germany. The USAAF began arriving in the UK in 1942, and continued to build a mighty force which played a large part in taking the battle to Germany, through D-Day and on towards victory in Europe – but paid a high price.

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Flying from Duxford airfield the formation flew over the Cambridge American Cemetery at Madingley, where a memorial ceremony was being held. 3,812 US airmen are buried at Madingley, and inscriptions remember a further 5,127 missing in action. It was a poignant and historic commemoration to the American airmen who lost their lives fighting for freedom from British shores. For 38 years, the UK’s last remaining airworthy B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft, Sally B, has been maintained and flown as a memorial to the 79,000 Allied airmen who lost their lives in Europe during the Second World War. See http://www.sallyb.org.uk/ for more information on Sally B. The B-17 is operated entirely from public donations and requires more help to continue flying.

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Sally B was joined by the ‘Eagle Squadron’; a Hurricane X flown by Paul Bonhomme, a Spitfire I flown by Dan Friedkin, a P-47 Thunderbolt flown by Steve Hinton and P-51C Mustang flown by Ed Shipley.

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Also included in the formation was TF-51D Mustang ‘Miss Velma’ flown by Pete Kynsey. Being a two-seat aircraft the TF-51D allowed for the inclusion of a very special passenger – United States Army Air Forces veteran Col. Clarence ‘Bud’ Anderson.

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One of the airfields visited by the formation was the former RAF Leiston in Suffolk. ‘Bud’ flew his P-51 Mustang Old Crow with the 357th Fighter Group from this airfield.

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With thanks to Esther Blaine and the IWM staff.