Red Bull Air Race – Ascot – Saturday 16 August 2014

Ascot opening day was full of surprises with Canada’s Pete McLeod winning the qualifying while championship leader Hannes Arch of Austria had an off day, finishing fifth. Britain’s Nigel Lamb was third and Paul Bonhomme a lowly seventh in front of a home crowd numbering 22,000.
Paul Bonhomme, the reigning Air Race World Champion said: “I think the wind changed the game hugely today. In training yesterday we had virtually no wind and suddenly we’ve got a monster wind from the west today. Down here in the Ascot bowl it feels quite calm but you go up there and you suddenly get a 25-knot wind. Picking the right line is quite difficult. We’re happy with the flying. We had two little engine setting issues, that’s a factor. We were very happy with our training time earlier. He added: “People keep asking me about the home crowd pressure, but I’m not feeling flustered. The pressure is from all the other guys going quickly. Everyone seems to have a quick run here and then a duffer. It’s going to be a completely new day tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”

McLeod mastered the challenging course set up above the historic horse race track west of London on a bright but blustery day and posted a winning time of 1:10.698. France’s Nicolas Ivanoff was second on 1:11.585 while Lamb took third in 1:11.842. McLeod said: “I had a great time and I’m really happy with my position. I’m definitely satisfied with my performance today. I had a lot of confidence and executed my strategy. I think my first run set me up nicely for my second qualifying run. I just took some more risks on the second run, turned in a little earlier on the gates but I wanted to fly penalty free and even though I risked a bit more in the second run it worked. I know I need to work on avoiding getting a penalty for exceeding the 10g limit. I wouldn’t use the word ‘dominate’ here after qualifying because Hannes has the ability to run this track even a little bit faster. He was having a good run in Quali 2 but he just got a little rattled or something. It doesn’t get any better on qualifying day than to take first placed. I’m definitely satisfied. It’s been a good progression for me on this track, from training to qualifying.”

The 12 pilots in the world’s fastest motorsport series delighted the big qualifying day crowd, fashionably dressed as they watched from the grandstands and grass terraces, as they roared past from the first standing start in the sport’s history. The cheers were loudest for Britain’s Bonhomme, who is second in the championship behind Arch, and Lamb, who is third overall. Both put in solid runs on the undulating course filled with trees, shrubbery, ponds and other obstacles.

Also taking place on Saturday at Ascot was the Challenger Cup with pilot Halim Othman of Malaysia claiming the top step of the podium. A smiling Othman proudly held the flag of Malaysia while his national anthem played, as the 48-year-old won the first Challenger Cup podium of his career. The decorated Malaysian air display team leader and former top gun pilot in the Royal Malaysian Air Force put in a strong effort on the first track of the season over land instead of water to jump from last place in the standings to the top six.

The Challenger Cup is a new element of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, which gives the next generation of promising pilots the chance to develop their low-altitude flying skills under racing conditions.

“I’m very happy – I didn’t really expect this,” he said after congratulating his fellow podium finishers, England’s Tom Bennet in second, who got a rousing cheer from the Ascot crowd, and Claudius Spiegel of Germany in third. The Challenger Cup contenders will have their next opportunity to earn points when the Red Bull Air Race comes to Fort Worth, Texas, in the United States in September.

 

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Abingdon Air & Country Show – 4 May 2014

The season-opening airshow at the old RAF base in Oxfordshire (now Dalton Barracks) is always an incredible achievement by the small volunteer team, and held in aid of the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust. The 2014 event suffered slightly from a few cancellations, but still managed to deliver a great show. The following is a pictorial record of the weekend, including the practices and arrivals on the Saturday 3 May and that evening’s night-shoot, which itself generated a very a welcome boost to the charity’s total.

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Royal International Air Tattoo – Fairford – July 2013

A photographic look at RIAT 2013 from the Friday and Saturday of the event. Sadly the weather on the Saturday was far from the lovely sunny and warm forecast.

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Midair’s Canberra back on the scene, to be seen in an all silver scheme at the Goodwood Revival – coverage of which will be available soon:

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Royal Netherlands Air Force Display Teams 2013

The Royal Netherlands Air Force solo display teams have long been popular and colourful supporters of UK airshows over the years, and 2013 has been no exception. The Orange Lion F-16 flown by Captain Stefan “Stitch” Hutten has displayed at Waddington and RIAT, whilst the AH-64D Apache joined it at RIAT, and additionally appeared at Culdrose and Sunderland. Their calendars also cover a number of other countries around Europe.

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The home base of the RNLAF F-16 Demo Team shifts between Volkel and Leeuwarden Airbases every two years. In early 2012 the Leeuwarden team handed over their responsibility to Volkel Airbase and the personnel from the 312 and 313 Squadrons.

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The team have been using J-015 in this stunning orange scheme since 2009, and the ‘Viper’ is fitted with a brake chute in national colours.

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Crewed by Captain Major Raymond Laporte and co-pilot Captain Harm “Kaas” Cazemier, the Apache is operated by 301 ‘Redskins’ Squadron of the Defence Helicopter Command stationed at Gilze-Rijen Air Base. Unlike the F-16 the team’s Apache is decorated with decals which can be removed should the attack helicopter be needed on operations. The display can include flares, though sadly these are not often cleared for use at UK shows.

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“Through wisdom, effective and immortal” is the motto of 301 Squadron. This motto is clearly displayed in the Squadron’s emblem which features a centaur as the central figure. This centaur combines the strength of a horse with the upper body of a warrior displaying its wisdom and strength. The display scheme also includes markings commemorating 100 years of Netherlands military aviation.

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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.