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RAF Cosford Airshow 2011

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I had been looking forward to RAF Cosford’s 2011 Air Show for quite some time and as the date drew closer I was keeping a keen eye on the weather, alas the forecast for the Saturday was pretty awful with a band of rain stretching some 170 miles across the country. Its at times like these that kind of dampen the spirits of even the most hardened aviation fan as there’s nothing better than a bit of blue sky, a few fluffy white clouds and patch of the archetypical English turf on a airbase to enjoy your picnic whilst watching the RAF boys and girls show off the results of years of intensive flight training.

The journey to Cosford started at 4am and as the weather dept had predicted it was raining, not overly heavy but enough to make you tut and shake your head a little, anyway some three hours and a cup of coffee from a service station later we came across the motorway sign on the M54 directing all traffic onto the hard shoulder to queue for the airshow entrance, little did we know that we were in for a wait and some wait it was too. We were approximately three and a half miles from the slip road!! Now I would guess that traffic would move a bit better if it wasn’t for the amount of thoughtless drivers who decided to jump ahead of everyone patiently queuing on the hard shoulder and jumping in just before the sliproad itself. I honestly cant see how this situation can possibly be improved due to the close proximity of the airbase to the M-way slip road.

We still managed to get in to Cosford just before the start of the show and after I had met the guys in the media centre I decided a little wander was on the cards for me to sample some of the shows culinary delights……. Okay a tea and a bacon butty from one of the shows vendors and it went down a treat, next a visit to some of the stalls to see what goodies were on offer to help me part with my hard earned cash, if I had worked harder I would have came home with some stunning paintings by the artist Robin Smith and definitely some of those fantastic wooden models would have came with me too.

 

Embarrasingly I seemed to have wandered what felt like miles from my vehicle which still had my photographic equipment still in the boot when the first aircraft went up, so started the rush back to the car only to be thwarted by another stall selling cars, not models but real cars, bear in mind while all this is happening to me the public were taking shelter in almost every stall and every museum exhibition, I couldn’t actually get in to one of the hangars as it was absolutely packed with spectators, well it was raining quite heavily after all and while waiting for the show to start most people were visiting the museum exhibits and learning a thing or two or visiting the trade stalls which cant be bad.

Naturally and I expect most of the visiting public were all too aware that the inclement weather was going to play its part in cancellations and some re-jigging of the original programme of events, with the state of play as it was anyone who grumbles about why this isn’t showing up or that isn’t flying maybe doesn’t fully understand the implications of even trying to fly some of the older machines in those sort of conditions, the general feeling from the crowd line seemed to be “oh well, never mind eh?”

The show was opened by the Turbulents display team who didn’t seem phased at all by the 800ft cloud base and managed to do their full display routine including flour bombing, limbo and balloon bursting, (I was still on my way back to the car and royally soaked by now).

Next up was the Royal Navy Black cats who seemed to revel in the conditions and gave the crowds a grand Arial ballet with the 702 Sqn Lynx pair from RNAS Yeovilton. After the Lynx pair Juliette “Jules” Fleming decided it was time to liven things up a bit and gave a very impressive flat display routine with vapour pouring from the wing surfaces and streamers from the wingtips accentuating the Hawks speed in the murky conditions, always a good show from Juliette, she can give me a blast around in the RAF Valley Hawk anytime.

The SWIP team almost fitted in a complete display in what must have been the brighter conditions of the day.

I managed to watch the Augusta A109BA from a bit of a distance as I was trying to avoid my view being blocked out by all the umbrellas. Appearing at the show were the best display team in the world, the Royal Air Force Red Arrows, presumably one of the team jets went tech but still they gave a great performance up until the display had to be cut short and the eight reds returned to base.

One eye catching display scheme is that of O’Briens flying circus with the vividly painted Piper Cub J3, Now unfortunately Brendan wasn’t able to display due to an appointment with his manicurist and stepping up to the plate was a chap who is known as captain Boogaloo, who sounds from the running commentary like a womanizing beer swilling doughnut eating short sighted 101 year old, he had a bit of trouble finding the runway so they sent a mobile runway down the runway to assist him with landing the Black and Yellow J3, several very entertaining aborted attempts later in howling wind and rain he managed to put down on the runway proper to a big round of applause from the weather beaten admirers. To be honest Captain Boogy didn’t half look like Brendan O’Brien!

Hiding hunkered down by now behind a carp brolly trying desperately to dry my camera off the unmistakable roar of the Panavia GR4 let everyone know it was time for some noise and excitement, not to mention the warming pyrotechnics of the XV Squadron Tornado GR4 role demo duo. With the low cloud base a very flat role demo took place and upon the first Tonka bursting into the display line it was as if Cosford had a sudden invasion of spectators who presumably had been sheltering in there cars, the roar of the GR4’s afterburners had some of the younger visitors transfixed on where the GR4 was coming from only to be startled by the amazing thump and the subsequent fireball from the simulated attack.

I didn’t find out why one of the Tornadoes disappeared of into the murk but the remaining one gave a great display of the GR4’s ground support in adverse weather capabilities, always a great display that the public admires and I suspect would want to see it continue. After the GR4 demo, the RAF Grob tutor went up to assess the cloud base and decided it was not safe to continue., cold and very wet I decided to beat a hasty retreat to a warm vehicle just as the Blades came in overhead to perform what was the show closer.

To sum up, it was evident that the RAF Cosford display organizers, ground crews and commentator Sean Mofett had a monumental task handed to them by the great British summer (well the lack of it anyway) and they deserve a huge round of applause for not disappointing their loyal rain soaked fans and provided what they could given the disappointing weather. You only need to look at Planes TV highlights on youtube to see just how much of a challenge it was for both the organizers of the show and the participants too. Looking forward to a sunny Cosford 2012.

 
Review by Ken Brannen - click HERE for Ken's Showcase