Aviation at the Goodwood Festival of Speed – 27-29 June 2014

Although much of the FoS is centred around the various four and two wheeled aspects, there is a winged presence both in the air and on the ground. The ‘Aviation Exhibition’ included Goodwood Aviation’s Harvard (with friends!), Ultimate High’s Extra 300 and Bulldog, Tracey Curtis-Taylor’s Stearman as well as a number of showroom examples from Bell, Cessna and Beechcraft, and various sales tents and features such as the ICON sculpture illustrated below. The area was sponsored by Midair (in association with Air BP and Textron) whose Canberra and Hunter would also take part in the air displays. Other aircraft seen in the air were the RAF’s Red Arrows and Typhoon and Avro Vulcan XH558.

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On completion of their display on the Sunday the Midair Hunter and Canberra pulled back around to run at speed along the display line parallel with the hill climb. A Midair press release fills in the details:

‘The Goodwood Festival of Speed air display took a new turn on Sunday, as the Midair Squadron Hawker Hunter XL577 set a flown time of 9.98 seconds across the notorious Goodwood Hillclimb in front of Goodwood House. As the first and only attempt of this kind, the Hunter, piloted by Squadron Leader Dave Piper (retired) reached a top speed 361 knots (415 mph), as he weaved his way to the top of the course.

The driven record is held by Nick Heidfeld in a time of 41.6 seconds set in 1999 in a McLaren MP4-13-Mercedes Benz with an average speed of 104 mph, meaning the Midair Squadron’s time shaved 32 seconds off Heidfeld’s time – admittedly in a jet!

Midair Squadron leader Mike Davis said: “It was an opportunity we couldn’t resist. After setting the world air speed record in 1953, the Hunter has continued to be acknowledged as one of the fastest and most agile fighter jets ever built. This new way of timing the Goodwood Hill Climb brings a whole new dimension to the Festival of Speed and we look forward to a challenge in 2015; regardless of any future outcome, this is a wonderful tribute to British engineering and the piloting skill of the Midair Squadron.” ‘

The Hunter entering the time zone:

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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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Midair Squadron First Performance – Cotswold Airport (Kemble) – 30 April 2014

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At the onetime RAF Kemble – once home to the Red Arrows – a new display team gave their inaugural display to announce their arrival on to the air display scene. Canberra XH134 made its debut at the Goodwood Revival in September 2013 (Goodwood Revival 2013), and that has been followed by Hunter T7 XL577 returning to the air for the first time since 2009, just this week, resplendent in its new silver scheme.

Twenty-three PR.9 photo-reconnaissance Canberra versions were built by Shorts from 1955, with XH134 constructed in 1959. They served with three RAF squadrons from 1960, but from 1976 just with 39 squadron, latterly at RAF Marham in Norfolk. PR.9s have carried out operations at hot-spots around the world, more recently including Bosnia, Iraq, Rwanda, Kosovo, Somalia and Afghanistan, right up until the type’s retirement in July 2006. In the final months of service just three Canberras were in use; XH131, XH134 and XH135. XH134 was painted with a special retirement tail scheme and became the focus of attention as the Canberra era drew to a close. At its height the Canberra force comprised 63 RAF and Royal Navy squadrons, with over 800 of all variants serving the country from bases around the world, and was also an export success, so these last few months of operations before retirement were seen as a focal point for a celebration of one of the all time greats of aviation – and XH134 took centre stage. It was displayed at airshows and made special flypasts, sometimes as part of a formation – including with the Red Arrows in their current Hawk jets.

The end of the Canberra’s stalwart service for its country took place on 28 July 2006, with all three aircraft being transferred to a new owner at Kemble. XH131 returned ‘home’ by road to the Ulster Aviation Society in 2010, leaving ‘134 and ‘135 at what is now titled Cotswold Airport. C2 Aviation Ltd. was formed in 2013, and owners Midair stated that their objective was to create ‘The Midair Squadron’ which would comprise XH134 and the addition of two Hawker Hunters as a package available for airshows and commercial advertising work – including the possibility of having company logos applied to the aircraft. To this end it was decided that all of the aircraft would be repainted into all over silver as a ‘blank canvas’ which sadly would mean the loss of XH134’s special tail scheme, although that has been carefully recorded. ‘134 made its maiden flight in civilian ownership on 19 July 2013, just in time to fly the short distance to Fairford for a static appearance at the Royal International Air Tattoo later that day. At this point the Canberra was still in its RAF hemp colour scheme, giving the public a last chance to see it before repaint.

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XH134 came out of the paint shop in its new scheme on 2 September with thoughts moving to its first display appearance in the air. Certain strict criteria would need to be met before the Civil Aviation Authority would grant permission for Midair to display the Canberra, but that they did and with the mountain of paperwork in place ‘134 made its display debut at the Goodwood Revival just eleven days later, to the great delight of the aviation community. It is currently the only flying Canberra in the UK.

Hunter XL577 first flew on 30 April 1958 (making the event its fifty-sixth ‘birthday’), and was previously with Delta Jets on the airfield until their demise. The second Hunter planned to join the Squadron is XL600 which is currently stripped and undergoing major work towards making it airworthy. The other silver Hunter seen in the images is non-airworthy T8 XE665 named ‘George Wellesley Wesley’ which was also previously with Delta Jets.

Sadly the good weather of the morning failed to hold so the display took place in hazy overcast skies, but did not disappoint. The routine opens with the pair together before a break head-on to the crowd followed by individual displays, as illustrated:

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Images from the display:

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Canberra display pilot Dave Piper:

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Owner Mike Davis (above) stated:

“It’s a wonderful day to celebrate the addition of XL577 to the Midair Squadron. Following twenty-four months of extensive restoration fuelled by a personal passion and a dedicated team, I am delighted to see these aircraft flying together. Our pilots have put on a show stopping display routine for our guests this afternoon.”

“Today marks the start of the busy display season for the Squadron, one which we’re very much looking forward to and delighted to have become involved in”.

Local celebrity Willie Carson dropped in and was very interested in the aircraft. He was surprised at the ‘coal hole’ position for the crewman in the Canberra, finding it hard to believe that anybody could spend so long in the air seated here:

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The Midair Squadron is scheduled for their first public display at the Abingdon Air & Country Show on Sunday 4th May, followed by the Canberra displaying at Llandudno Air Show at the end of the month.

The Midair Squadron will be seen at international events throughout the coming season. Further details of the events will be found on www.midair-squadron.com.

They’ll most definitely be a highlight at any show at which they appear.

The Goodwood Revival – 13-15 September 2013

‘The Revival’ is a unique event, taking the visitor back in time to a world of classic vehicles, vintage aircraft and re-enacted street scenes. Moreover the public are encouraged to join in with the theme and attend wearing period costumes, and do so in such great numbers that the visitor becomes a part of the event, creating an atmosphere unlike any other. The motor racing around the historic track is quite rightly the centre of attention but the Revival also hosts a static aircraft display and a number of flying items – both of which are of the highest quality.

The Freddie March Spirit of Aviation enclosure offered some stunning pre-1966 aircraft, many of which are rarely seen elsewhere. There are no barriers to spoil the views, with the public trusted to behave in keeping with the transition back to simpler times.

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With the layout at Goodwood not allowing the necessary safety margins the flying displays are restricted to passes along the ‘A axis’, but the pilots make the most of it by offering close top side passes with extremely tight formations from the multi-aircraft routines. Each day opened with a Dawn Patrol by either or both of the OFMC’s Spitfire IX MH434 and Mustang ‘Ferocious Frankie’, and on the Saturday evening these two aircraft performed a sunset display before taxiing in to greet the specially invited guests to the Ball. The pair also took part in other sequences during the event, along with the Fighter Collection’s P-40B and P-40F.

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The BBMF are also regulars, though sadly Lancaster PA474 couldn’t beat the weather to appear as part of the Dambusters 70 commemoration.

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Perhaps one of the most anticipated display items of the year was the debut in its new colours of Midair’s Canberra PR9. The classic jet looks stunning in its silver scheme, and will be the star attraction of any event it attends in 2014.

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Track action included everything from pedal cars to machinery worth many millions of pounds – with most raced without limits, resulting in some serious repair bills for an unlucky few. The weather contributed to much sideways action, especially on the Sunday afternoon.

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And then there is the atmosphere. Hopefully the following will offer some idea of what makes the Revival so special:

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And, if you’ll excuse me, that brings this report to its end:

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