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RAFBF East Kirkby Airshow 2011

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Not Just an Airshow - a good day out for all the family

I stumbled across this airshow on Airscene’s useful Air Display Calendar. I know that Lincolnshire is full of operational and disused airfields, but I had not heard of RAF Kirkby near Boston.

This event was being held in support of the RAF Benevolent Fund, so I pre-booked my ticket at a very reasonable £13.00 and, on Saturday morning, I set out for Lincolnshire. The base is easy to find and with tickets limited to just 3,500, I arrived about 10.30, relieved to find there were no traffic queues and parking was only a few hundred yards from the entrance – Disabled Parking was even closer.

Flying was not scheduled to begin until 1330 but, in the meantime, there was plenty to see and do. My attention was immediately drawn to the Lancaster parked on the apron. Looking in great condition, it seems that, although she is only used for taxi-ing on the airfield at present, she now carries a live UK Registration which is a pre-cursor to the eventual aim of getting her “airborne” again.

The restorers are in the process of building up the massive stocks of spares that will be needed for the refurbishment – they already have 3 airworthy rebuilt engines, a replacement turret for the Lancaster Mark 7 and many of the parts that will be required, once the work is started. Let’s hope that the UK soon hears the sound of another 4 Merlins and that she does, indeed, eventually, fly again. In the meantime, she is used to give taxi trips to those lucky enough to be able to afford it - £220 a ride I believe!

Throughout the morning aircraft continued to arrive including the Breitling and SWIP Teams and Dennis Neville’s Flying Circus. Unfortunately, we knew that the 2 P51’s would not be attending and that, due to a shortage of pilots, the BBMF would only include the Hurricane and Spitfire and not the Lancaster.

Undaunted by the news, I did a quick walk up the flightline to check out the DC3 and the PBY Catalina. There were other aircraft parked up including the Chipmunk and the WW1 Replicas.

This Lincoln Aviation Heritage Centre event certainly isn’t the biggest but you also get access to their static exhibits and dioramas and there are plenty of commercial stalls with aviation related goods. There were some “rather dubious” ladies clad in 1940’s attire (including seamed stockings – or were they pencil lines – nylons were in short supply as many USAAF 8th Air Force personnel would tell you!)

There was a good smattering of military vehicles around the site, along with a display of classic sports cars – and it can’t be bad when you find a stall manned by a gentleman, sporting a miniature group including a DFC, who flew Lancasters and many other types during the war, yet was too modest, even now, to expand on his exploits.
Add the 1940’s music, pleasant, helpful volunteer staff and reasonable weather and you have the recipe for an enjoyable day for any aircraft enthusiast.
The day started with the RC Models. At a quarter scale, they gave a great display - with the stars being the P51 and the Wellington – scale models they may be but, once airborne, and with the clouds as a backdrop, they looked and sounded pretty impressive.
The Breitling Wing Walkers gave their usual impeccable display. These fearless young ladies continue to gain our admiration for the way they fearlessly perform their act. My own partner has expressed a desire to try wing-walking - despite her no longer being the sylph like girl she once was. I am now searching for a suitable aircraft for her - do Airbus Industries make a wing-walking conversion kit for an A320, I wonder?
The Flying Circus gave the usual display of great flying and silly games – including football and balloon bursting – the high score for the latter being achieved by Mrs Neville. Shame on you “Magnificent Men”! The 2 paratroopers were new to me and added to the day.

For aerobatic thrills, we were given the solo display by the YAK and an impressive program by the SWIP duo. I am no expert on aerobatics but I am, surely, right in thinking that the precision and spectacle by such aerobatic pilots gets better and more enjoyable year on year.

The BBMF duly arrived with the Spitfire and Hurricane and gave the usual impressive display but the Lancaster’s absence did make it all seem a little flat and lack-lustre.

Finally, hands up all those who own a Landrover Discovery. If you refer to your handbook, it will, I am sure, stipulate a safe, maximum towing weight. Now, I don’t know what the all-up weight of a Catalina PBY is, but would YOU hitch one to your Discovery and tow it about half a mile on a grass field – no, nor me, but, they did at Kirkby!

With such a lengthy start-up time the PBY was towed to the runway to prepare for take off. There is little doubt that this is a beautiful aeroplane to watch and she continues to be very popular with air display crowds. The display was a real photo opportunity and to make it even better – as she took off, the sun came out.

Flying finished around 4.30pm. Kirkby didn’t provide the number of aircraft types we are used to her and there were some large gaps in the flying program but, for a relatively cheap and an interesting day, it was worth the visit.
Review by Dave Briers