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Midlands Air Festival 2024
‘Seeing 30 Balloons take to the skies together is impressive, but Sunday morning eclipsed this with a phenomenal flight of well over 100 Balloons.’
The Midlands Air festival is now a well-established event in the UK’s aviation calendar. Arguably, it has the most beautiful setting for any air show in the UK. Ragley Hall is an impressive country estate in the heart of Warwickshire, it is the ancestral seat of the Seymour-Conway family, Marquesses of Hertford. The striking parkland layout made an idyllic backdrop for both a mass Hot Air Balloon launch, model aircraft flying and a full flying display of aerobatics, barn-storming and historic warbirds. The crowd line sits just in front of the stunning 17th Century mansion (still home to the current Marquesses of Hertford) and looks down into an awe-inspiring parkland, which appears to have been sculpted by the great Capability Brown over 300 years ago with the view of hosting an air show! The parkland even has it’s own short grass runway perfect for the smaller aircraft of the show to use as a base.
Airscene have been lucky to be able to attend almost every Midlands Air Festival since it first took place in 2018. It has been fantastic to watch this initially small show grow, into the huge event that we now witness. The Weekend starts on Friday with a range of activities from around mid-day including a late afternoon air show, culminating in a ‘Nightfire’ aircraft display, evening Balloon ‘Night-glow’ and a fireworks finale. Visitors can also expect two full days of flying on the Saturday and Sunday from dawn till dusk. Weather permitting, each day starts and ends with a mass hot air-balloon launch which now attracts the largest gathering of hot air balloons anywhere in Europe. Unlike any other UK air show this is a true festival and offers a full weekend of aerial activity celebrating all aspects of flight with a real family friendly vibe.
Entrance into the event was slickly managed by the security team and after a short drive through the gorgeous estate we were parked up and ready to go. This year Airscene attended all 3 days of the show and except for Friday experienced no issues leaving the site either. Friday was a little busier due to the fireworks finale and although delays were experienced, the staff did a good job to get a large volume of cars offsite safely. There were two options for parking this year, which included a premium car park that was closer to the venue than the standard parking – either option involved a short walk from through the gorgeous, landscaped lakes and park land before entering the show area. Despite, the all-important bag checks, entry into the showground was a breeze.

Sadly, the winds blowing around Warwickshire for the first two days were a little too strong for all but the most experienced Balloon pilots. Friday evening saw a staggered launch of around a dozen balloons, including a few special shapes such as the Independence Day UFO complete with smoke machine and LED lights. The Saturday evening launch was a little more dynamic with around 30 balloons flying. Seeing 30 Balloons take to the skies together is impressive, but Sunday morning eclipsed this with a phenomenal flight of well over 100 Balloons. Airscene were lucky enough to hitch a ride capture the spectacle from the air.
The mass balloon ascents are planned for early morning and late evening to fly in the optimal conditions, but this does leave a pause in the main aerial entertainment. There is of course plenty to see in the main arena including plenty of stalls and exhibitors. Plus, the Cameron Arena provides an area to inflate and tether some of the more interesting balloon shapes. Also, the Warbird and Jet Display Team from TJD models also provided some specular entertainment prior to the main air display with a wonderful pyrotechnic show simulating an airfield attack from the Second World War. The team brought along their realistic looking large scale-models of a range of warbirds from Stukas to Thunderbolts, they flew them with considerable skill through the fireworks providing an explosive beginning to the afternoon. The Highlight for us, was the skilled-flying of the A10 Thunderbolt – a huge, jet-powered model!
Sandwiched in between all of this activity came a very generous traditional flying display which was split into two segments on each day. The star attraction of this for many was the RAF Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows who were performing their first public displays in the UK for almost two years. They appeared as a 9-ship for the first time in several years. They performed an immaculate display featuring some new moves for 2024 including the drawing of a giant 60 in the sky to mark their diamond anniversary. The brilliant clear skies allowed for a full flying display on Sunday. The traditional crowd-rear entrance surprised many visitors before the 9 jets performed a series of slick formations and dynamic aerobatics.
The RAF have been excellent supports of the Midlands Air Festival over the last few years, providing the Red Arrows for three days was a fantastic boost. However, the tragic loss of pilot Flt Lt Mark Long in a recent Spitfire accident affected other plans. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight remain grounded whilst the investigation is ongoing. The loss of the Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfires will leave a big hole in any show. Additionally, Mark was a former Typhoon display pilot, so the team decided to perform the missing man flight in his honour with a series of flypasts, before new display pilot Flt Lt David Turnball pull up in and headed skyward in the freshly painted display jet which marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day. The Red Arrows also dedicated their ‘spitfire’ formation to Flt Lt Long.

There was a wide range of other acts within the flying display, to cater for all types of visitor. The show pitches itself as a great family day out. With this in mind, we saw plenty of entertaining aerobatics. The Stampe Display team comprising of pilots Richard Meredith, Richard Ward and Richard Barliand performed on all three days. The team were here today flying formations and aerobatics with their Stampe SV-4 biplane aircraft. Claiming to be the oldest display team in the World, the exciting Turbulent Display Team offered a daring display of barnstorming in their diminutive Turbulent aircraft. The four brightly coloured tiny monoplanes performed flour-bombing, limbo flights and low opposition passes – a wonderful display for the families to enjoy. Adam Parnell, Richard Vary, Dave Brothers and Alex Reynier were at the controls this weekend for this entertaining and interactive display.

Elsewhere in the display Steve Carr ran his radio-controlled Yak-54 through some gravity defying moves. It may be a model, but it was almost as big as the Turbulent aircraft and was certainly more agile. Team Raven also provided a tight-aerobatic performance in their self-built Vans RV-8 aircraft. The team have been performing formation aerobatic displays since 2014 and have displayed all across Europe. The name ‘Raven’ came from a play on the letters ‘RV’ in the aircraft name. The RV-8’s 180hp engine has an excellent power-to-weight ratio, which combined with an efficient airframe gives the aircraft the performance and fighter-like handling that make it perfect for formation flying. The pilots demonstrated this to its full effect, despite some blustering conditions.
The Aerosuperbatic Wingwalkers are always a popular feature at a family friendly airshow. Wingwalkers Kirsten and Emma bravely stood above the top wing of the Boeing Stearman biplanes and performed synchronised moves in line with the dynamic barn-storming display flown by pilots Dave Barrell & Steve Noujaim. Again, the windy conditions must have made this a physical challenge, particular on the Friday and Saturday. The Wingwalkers team have been performing since 1984 and have worked with several sponsors during this time including Cadbury’s and Utterly Butterly. They perform around 60 displays each year.
The newly formed Taylor Mono Display Team were also performing on each day, in their brightly coloured blue and yellow aircraft. The young duo of Ben Gilmore and Bruce Buglass still in their early twenties performed a fantastic display showing experience in flight control well-beyond their years. Usually, the team operate two Taylor monoplanes but over the weekend they were forced to adapt and incorporated a Steen Skybolt, home-built aerobatic biplane into the routine instead. The duo should also be applauded for filling in the gaps of other unavailable aircraft after performing on all three days despite being booked initially for just one. The Midlands Air Festival line-up would not be complete without Peter Davis in his Autogyro, once again he performed a crowd pleasing display in his diminutive gyro-copter.
Whilst the audience was predominately families, the show had plenty on offer for the aviation enthusiast too. Boeing B17 Sally B was another last minute replacement covering for the unfortunate loss of the Avro Lancaster, and the Rolls Royce Heritage Flight provided their superb Mk XIX to represent the warbird scene. Classic jets were also on show this weekend, the Jet Provost was another last-minute replacement, but a welcome visitor non-the-less. One of the most keenly anticipated displays was the Saab Draken from the Swedish Historic Flight. The unique double-delta is a fairly frequent visitor to the UK, but its rare we get to see it as part of an in-land flying display.
Possibly the biggest scoop for the organisers this year was securing the Flying Bulls all the way from Germany. They have an impressive fleet of aircraft of which four were initially booked for the show. Sadly, only the DC-6 and B25 were able to make the jump across the channel to perform but the two metallic aircraft put on an impressive display. Seeing such a large aircraft like the DC-6 being rolled around the sky is a remarkable sight. The historic B25 was also a welcome visitor, both are very rare aircraft in the skies now, we are grateful to Red Bull for keeping these fantastic aircraft flying.

There were many stand-out highlights over the weekend, but the Friday evening ‘nightfire’ is a must for any visitor to the show. Chris Burkett was up first just as the sun had set, he appeared in his LED-lite Extra 300sc and performed a sensational solo routine. Father and son team Tim and Tom Dews followed in a graceful aerial ballet which included on board fireworks! The evening concluded with a night glow balloon performance which consisted of several tethered balloons igniting their burners in time with music.
This really was a great effort by the team; an excellent flying display, well-organised Hot Air Balloon Launch and an impressive line-up of model aircraft. The team were forced to work hard and replace a number of last-minute cancellations, but you would not tell given the vast range of aerial entertainment on offer. I cannot wait to see what the organisers do for 2025 – I have already packed my tent; I am going all weekend again!


Review by Lee Chapman.