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Dawlish Airshow 2014



Dawlish has been in the news a lot this year from the February storms that wreaked havoc along the sea wall, some of the scars can still be seen and tis has had an impact on the Airshow, this coupled with the Channel 4 documentary about Great Western trains has certainly put Dawlish on the map. This was to have only one outcome – a huge turnout for the airshow, coupled with 2 lancasters and the sea. Dawlish normally has about 25000 people of a normal summers day around the town and the campsites, the estimated total for this years show is between 80 – 100,000!

The airshow has now really grown from a one day event to two days, with plenty of activities for everyone with a “pre airshow day” on the Friday followed by the airshow on the Saturday.

Friday saw three helicopters land in the early afternoon at Dawlish Warren, The Police Helicopter came in first and then had to vacate the area after about 1 hour for the main arrival of the day, the Apache, with the police Eurocopter landing back again, the third arrival then landed, the Griffin.


With people milling around the helicopters meeting the crews and getting up very close and personal to the 3 helicopters. The Eurocopter was the first to leave, followed by the remaining 2 about an hour later. Flying over to find its landing zone was the Whirlwind helicopter, taking the scenic route to finally land at the Smugglers fields on the other side of the town, meeting up with the Griffin and an aerospatiale Allouette III. One famous face was helping today and that was Angus Nairn from the BBc series Motorway Cops, lending a hand with the landings.

On the lawn area saw many different side stalls from RAFBF to a few fair ground rides, a hunter cockpit was also on display for people to view.

Friday evening saw the Pilots party, where anyone can come and meet some of the crews, and have a drink or two.

Saturday morning saw a few clouds come over and looked quite menacing, but come noon the clouds started to disappear and blue skies and high level clouds and thousands of spectators seemed to appear from nowhere appeared.

First down was the Royal Navy Raiders, the 5 parachutists dropped from a RN Sea King, watching this from a high vantage point you could see the drop zone on the beach. The only moment where you almost heard a huge intake of breath was when the 5th parachutist narrowly missed running into the sea wall as he landed, thankfully there were a few inches between his face and the sea wall.

First aircraft in was a Grob Tutor, not on an air cadet experience flight but performing all the rolls and turns that any air cadet can experience during an air experience session. Owned and operated by Babcock, these small but highly agile aircraft are great to be seen, this was promptly followed by the Tucano, the RAF fast jet trainer. This carried on the rolls, turns and dives that the Tutor had set prior.

Following on the heals of the Tucano were the blades, in their Extra EA 300L aircraft, these were also seen on the Friday practising but also giving one lucky person a special view as the Red Arrows flew over Dawlish.

The Blades have become a regular at Dawlish not just on the airshow day but also on their fund raising events held at Dawlish Warren earlier in the year.


There were ghasts of amazement from the people around at the sheer spectacle of 4 small propeller driven aircraft performing as they do. The stall turn, perfected to an almost stall, you could hear the crowd holding their breath as the white smoke almost hung in place as they went over the top against a lovely blue sky. With crossovers completed not on the straight but on a vertical climb. What a sight in seeing the 4 blades flying in formation and displaying against a blue sky with the sea as the only backdrop.

From the new to the old, as we were taken back to the fast jet age with the Jet Provost T3, flown by Neil McCarthy, this was his debut at Dawlish, having flown down from his base at Newcastle airport. This former trainer aircraft was put through its paces with many fast passes and climbs out of the bay up into the still blue sky.

Dawlish, as it is on the coast, has regular search and rescue helicopters in the area and being not far from Lympstone Royal Marine Training camp they are not an unusual sight, but to see the RAF Sea King perform what it does best in searching for, then deploying and then taking back onboard the winchman after being dropped off into an RNLI inshore rescue boat. Standing high above the sea king you get a very different aspect view of both the rescue and the sea king before it banks sharp left before the red sandstone cliffs. You are really on eye line with the pilots at this point.

The Red Arrows, as expected, were spot on time at 2pm from across the town to the sea front, performing a spectacular entrance trailing the red, white and blue smoke. Standing on a high level area, you feel as though you are at the same height as the Hawks as they pass each other on the low level passes that everyone loves to see and with the roar of the engines echoing along the cliff faces it is always something special seeing them at Dawlish.

Rich Goodwin returned this year with his Pitts Special “muscle biplane” and really amazed everyone with his display, he had altered his display slightly, as with no runway to take off from and turn the plane to 45 degrees, rather this time he just flew the plane parallel to the sea at 45 degrees angle on the airframe. He really does push the limits of both the plane and himself, this is something that you will not forget in a hurry.

One of the new visitors to Dawlish this year was the beech 18/C45 Expeditor, also known as the “Twin Beech”. Giving such a graceful display with the twin engines almost purring away, it looked very appropriate that the beech was in Royal Navy colours and being seen over the sea where it would have spent most of its original working life.

Our next treat came in the shape of a duo, namely the Yak 52 and Chipmunk, these replaced the scheduled T-6 Texan and Boeing Stearman – both failing to appear for technical reasons. The mk22 Chipmunk was flying in the colours of the Portuguese Air Force, both aircraft gave several flypast as a pair and then split to display on their own.

From the mild mannered propeller engine yak 52 and Chipmunk to the fast jet engines of theMidair Squadrons’ British Electric Canberra flew in from its base down in Newquay, with many fast flypasts and fast turns and climbs it was an exceptional display.

From fast jets it was back to the slow Sea king, this time it was the Royal Navys turn in showing how the Sea King can be used for Search and Rescue, this time it was to locate and retrieve a stranded person in the sea, again with support from the inshore RNLI lifeboats.

The airshow culminated in the 2 avrolancasters, VERA and Thumper displaying over the sea with the Red Rocks and Exmouth in the background, what a sight and such a beautiful sound with all 8 engines running. They were flanked by a Spitfire and Hurricane. There was a huge round of applause for the two lancasters appearing, it certainly sent a shiver down my spine watching these 2 great world war 2 planes flying together for the first time in over 50 years. Whilst Dawlish was not the first to get them flying together it was the first and probably only ever time they will fly over Dawlish and the surrounding area together.Nothing can take away though, it was not just lancasters in the war, the Spitfire and Hurricane had done their fair share of the work as well.

Across the sea front and all the areas that people were at, a round of applause started for all the BBMF pilots and crews.

With all the display flights at Dawlish they all command one unique feature, the sea and the red rocks that face the sea together, there can be no greater place to display aircraft than this lovely south Devon coastal town.

If you have never been to Dawlish before to see an Airshow with such beautiful backdrops then pay it a visit next year, book early though.

The volunteers who organise the event can hold their heads up very high for such a culmination to this years show, how they will top that next year will be anyones guess but I am sure they will have their ideas.

Review by Ian Birdsey
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