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Culdrose Air Day 2014



From the weather forecast on the day before, you may well have decided to give the air day a miss, what a mistake that would have been! Following the road signs the traffic getting onto the site was well managed and once on site there was plenty of Royal Navy staff to direct everyone to their relevant parking area.

RNAS Culdrose is located on the south west tip of England on the way down to the Lizard, Britains’ most southerly point on the mainland. It is not uncommon for this headland to be covered in a fog at any time of the year. With blue skies with high level white cloud it was looking good, in the distance were large amounts of black thundery clouds but were kept at bay by the strong breeze across the airfield. It is also one of the UK’s Search and Rescue (SAR) and its sea kings can be seen over Devon and Cornwall on a regular basis.

11am saw the start ofthe warm up with a few aircraft displaying. The first in the sky was the Muscle bi-plane, flying along the runway at 45 degrees is still quite a sight that seems to defythe normal laws of physics.


A beech 18 was next up, also known as the C45 Expeditor doing some gentle rolls and twists.

Harrier jets are grounded at the moment, but that does not stop a ground run being completed, with 3 harriers performing what they would have done on an aircraft carrier, a taxi along the runway, followed by turning and then return to the hanger, great sight to see these magnificent single jet fighters still rolling along. Behind the crowd line was a row of 6 harriers all showing varied squadron markings.

Following this there was enough time to have a quick walk around the static aircraft where the was a well balanced mix of old and new, British and foreign aircraft with crews that were more than happy to talk to the visitors. With a Mig29 and CASA C295M from the Polish Air Force –neither were flying but were nice to be able to see on the ground at relatively close quarters.


Other static aircraft were Sea King and Merlin helicopters along with Gliders from the Air Training Corps, a Cessna C182 amphibian sea plane.

Heading back to the crowdline for the start of the main air show where the Merlin Helicopter was first up showing the crowd what could be done.

An old airshowfavourite , the P51 Mustang was following the Merlin and gave an impressive display of aerobatics to an eager crowd.

The Blades, who all ex RAF and former Red Arrows pilots you know you are in for something of a thrill and spectacular aerobatics display with these guys. You were not disappointed by the display with plenty of high flying aerobatics followed by the close crossovers that are a hallmark of any good aerobatic team.

To me, the highlight of this show was to see two hunter jets and a Canberra flying together, all part of the Midair Squadron. What a sight to see these old aircraft flying so well together and bearing in mind that the “old” Canberra was still flying with the RAF into the 1990’s. With graceful ease the pilots put the three through their paces as a threesome, then the two hunters peeled off to let the Canberra give its own show. The two hunters gave their display...

Following the fast jets of midair was the more sedate sounds of a Spitfire and Hurricane, with the spitfire in D-Day markings. The hurricane was in its normal camouflage colour scheme.

Over to the left of the crowdline in the distance you could make out the unique shape of the mighty Vulcan, XH558, which flew up from its temporary home at Yeovilton following last weekends display, As graceful as ever she entertained the crowd giving the mighty engines a good run as she turned each corner after each flypast. The Vulcan did not land at Culdrose, instead after her display she made her way home back to Robin Hood Airport.

Breitling wing walkers, always a crowd pleaser. With two lovely looking ladies “walking the wings” this was going to be a good show, with many high climbs and quick dips it was like watching a roller coaster but with 2 aircraft and 2 ladies standing and handstanding on the upper wing of these biplanes. The two ladies face wind speed of upto 150 mph and upto 4G during their routine.

The RAF flew over in a Hercules aircraft that done a couple of low level flypasts followed by a very short land, reversing back down the airfield and a very short take off, back to its home base.

The RV8tors took over the air space for their display, similar to the blades although there are only two of them. Again performing some breath-taking twists, turns, dives and climbs within the aerobatic display.

The sea fury was the penultimate display for 2014 at Culdrose. After a great display by XX the sea fury was on final approach when a red flare was seen and only one part of the landing gear was down. Everyone realised that there was a problem. As the Sea Fury touched down with just one wheel down it was kept on the level as long as possible before lurching over to the starboard side and veering across the edge of the runway with the remaining wheel collapsing under the imbalance of the aircraft. Coming to an abrupt halt on the grass to the edge of the runway and away from the crowdline the pilot got out very quickly as the emergency services arrived. There was a spontaneous round of applause from everyone in that what could have been a major incident was safely dealt with. The emergency services were ready with hoses and foam in case of fire, of which there was none – thankfully. Everyone waited with baited breath for an update, pilot OK, aircraft damaged.

With the runway blocked with emergency services the decision was taken to cancel all the remaining flying of the day, all that was left was the helicopter finale featuring the sea Kings and Merlins. They came back to base without performing.

Plenty of time now to have another look around the static aircraft that are parked around the area.

This was my first time at RNAS Culdrose air day, and despite the traffic trying to get on & off of the base it was a great day and definitely one to go to again. The ground staff were some of the friendliest I have met at an airshow and nothing appeared to much trouble for them, well done to all the RN team involved in Culdrose 2014 Air Day.

Review by Ian Birdsey
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