This show was always going to be remembered for the public display debut of ARCo’s Bristol Blenheim Mk.IF, but it offered a great deal more, with HAC’s Hawker Fury also debuting, and a number of other new schemes and rarely seen aircraft – such as HAC’s Hurricane in Polish Sqn. colours, the beautiful ‘Mystery Ship’, Norwegian Spitfire Foundation’s Mustang ‘The Shark’ (previously a regular at UK airshows as ‘Old Crow’), and for many a final chance to see a Sea King display before the type is retired from service. Ground events focused on the VE Day theme, with visitors encouraged to join in with the celebrations. Sadly the weather remained overcast for most of the day, just about breaking for the final acts of a highly original and enjoyable flying programme.
One of the most unique events commemorating the centenary of the beginning of the First World War took place in the grounds of Knebworth House on 5 July as part of the Sonisphere rock festival. As a prelude to Iron Maiden’s set, and incredibly involving the band’s lead singer Bruce Dickinson piloting his Fokker Dr.I Triplane, nine reproduction British and German First World War fighters displayed in a dogfight over the estate. Their appearance was introduced by a short film played on the big screens of the aircraft apparently starting up and departing their airfield bound for Knebworth and backed by the band’s song titled Paschendale – itself an epic track based around that WWI battle.
Dickinson is an experienced pilot and bought the Fokker Triplane earlier in the year, following which he joined the team which displays at airshows and in commemorations, and who are particularly busy in this centenary year. The aircraft operated for the event from Henlow and after returning from Knebworth Dickinson journeyed back to Sonisphere by road to take to the stage with Iron Maiden as the headline act for that night of the three day festival.
The tens of thousands of heavy metal fans who had gathered early by the main stage area especially for the display – supported by Maiden’s Trooper beer brand and titled ‘Fokkers at 6 o’clock’ – were clearly appreciative of the unique occasion, especially when commentator Stephen Slater highlighted Dickinson’s parts in the complex routine!
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.