end of September arrives and sadly the end of the air show season
is in sight, with the Southport air show being held this year
on the weekend of the 19th and 20th September. Southport air
show is the North Wests biggest air show, and a unique sea side
air show as all the action is over the extensive sands of Southport
Council always manages to put on an action packed line up, with
this show in its 24th year having higher anticipation due to
the advertised fly past display by both the Red Arrows display
team and the Mighty Avro Vulcan XH558 of Vulcan To The Sky Trust.
Sadly this reviewer was only available to visit on the Sunday
which did not include this never to be seen again display! Never
the less the Sunday line up still promised to impress with displays
from a wide range of operators incorporating War birds, classic
jets and several rotary winged aircraft.
for the show to start the weather was looking quite ominous
with lots of grey murky clouds with the odd darker cloud threatening
in the distance. The shows flying display opened at 12.30pm
in style with a rolling display from the RAF Display Team, The
Red Arrows, who despite the weather conditions performed flawlessly
next on the flying schedule was Ferocious Frankie, P-51D Mustang
owned and operated by The Old Flying Machine Company based at
Duxford air field. Sadly, Frankie was suffering with an electrical
fault and was unable to participate. This required some slight
adjustment to the flying schedule, luckily the Tigers Free fall
team were able to step up to the plate and perform their display
jump earlier than planned.
first of the Helicopter displays for the day began with the
arrival of the Royal Navy with their Westland Sea King HAS 5
in distinctive red and grey livery.The crew expertly performed
a display of their search and rescue ability by picking up a
simulated casualty on the beach from the coast guard rescue
boat. What made this display especially poignant was the fact
that the type is soon to be retired from Search and rescue duty
wit the Royal Navy as these duties are being passed across to
civilian hands in the form of American company Bristows, who
will carry out the duties currently carried out by the Sea King,
with new Agusta airframes. The Royal Navy Sea King Search and
Rescue Display will be sadly missed across the air show circuit.
the course of the show there were visits from air show regulars
such as the ever popular Blades aerobatic team who made their
final appearance of the air show season and performed to watching
crowds with their usual vigour and high energy acrobatics as
we all as other air show regulars including the Jet Provost
T5, which performed in a gently controlled and elegant manner
to the flight line and watchers within the VIP area of the pier
which strides out into the sands of Southport Beach.
the show reached the mid way point notable breaks and pauses
in the flying schedule were apparent, possibly due to the re-arranging
of the flying programme and the unfortunate cancellation of
the P-51D display. The break in action soon came to an end with
the appearance of two vastly different aircraft on the horizon.
The crowds were about to be treated to sight of old meets new,
in the form of the rather special formation of The Royal Navy
Historic Flights Fairey Swordfish Mk I and the Royal Navy’s
most up to date piece of hardware, the Agusta Westland AW159
Wildcat. The pair did a number of fly pasts to the crowds including
a touching salute from the two rear crewmen of the Swordfish.
Once the flypasts were complete the pair went their separate
ways to perform their solo displays, which included a spirited
performance from the solo Wildcat, showing the audience the
manoeuvrability and agility afforded to such a capable aircraft.
next part of the flying schedule was another flying duo, this
time in the guise of Spitfire PL965, a PR Mk XI, fastest of
the Merlin powered Spitfires owned and operated by Peter Tiechman
as part of his Hangar 11 Collection out of North Weald, and
Hawker Hurricane I P2921 based out of the Biggin Hill Heritage
Hangar. The pair arrived to the flying arena in view positioned
side by side and performed what could be looked upon as Southport
Airshows tribute to the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary
of the Battle of Britain. The pair soon finished their duo display
and broke off and went their seperate ways. The Hangar 11 PR
XI Spitfire returned to perform a solo display under the masterful
control of Peter Tiechman, who always puts on a beautiful display
exampling the power and grace afforded to the Spitfire. Todays
display was no exception with the Hangar 11 boss giving some
fantastic top side shots affording anyone with a camera the
opportunity to get a great cockpit shot.
to fly above the sands of Southport was what I can only describe
as the hidden gem of the show. An un-scheduled flypast display
from the Classic Air Force’s Gloster Meteor T7 and a Polish
built Mig 15UTI of the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron,
which has been doing a tour of the UK air show circuit this
year. The display that consisted of several flypasts including
some stunning top side passes was a real rare sight to behold,
one I am sure that will not be seen for some time to come. The
two silver air frames glided through the air almost with a whispering
quietness. Once the duo had completed their display they parted
company to conduct their solo displays.
Meteor, not seen at the Southport Air Show since 2012, handed
out some fabulous photographic opportunities for all those out
there with a camera, giving clear views into the post war jet
age cockpit. Once the Meteor had completed its programmed slot
in the flying schedule the Norwegian owned Mig returned to complete
its turn in the flying display. The 1952 built dual seat jet
with its gleaming silver cigar shaped fuselage and swept wing
design performed a graceful routine including some impressive
climbs to height before sweeping back down to the display line.
penultimate display of the day saw the final display of the
season by the Royal Air Force’s Hawk T.2 Role Demo from
Team Ninja, including a densely packed pyrotechnic display on
the beach. The pair based at RAF Valley, swept in from the left
hand side of the crowd line and continued down to the VIP area
of the pier before climbing to up and out to see to return to
display centre. The display consisted of several beat ups of
the beach line with pyrotechnic cannon fire popping up from
the sands and a simulated RPG strike attempt on the two glistening
black jets, accompanied with flares launched from the ground
to represent the aggressor fire.
particular element of the display included a dramatic break
from the duo, head onto the crowd line giving a great photographic
opportunity. The role demo came to an end with bang; quite literally.
The pyrotechnic engineers had buried a large number of fuel
filled barrels that ignited and promptly launched skywards on
the pair’s final pass, managing to test out car alarms
in the area and suitably warm up the slightly chilly crowd line.
It has since been announced that there will not be a T.2 Role
demo for 2016, so this could have possibly been the last display
ever, or at least for some time. What will fill the slot for
next year’s season?...
The final act of the day arrived, the Royal Air Force’s
very own weather maker, the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4, sporting
a Ruby Red tail to commemorate 29 Squadrons Centenary. The cutting
edge fighter displayed its incredible agility and power with
lots of after burner action glowing up as ‘Full Carrots’
against the grey skies, and incredible power climbs before diving
back in at incredibly steep angles of attack. Due to the moisture
rich air present on the Sefton Coast the crowd were treated
to lots of vapour action as the moisture in the air was ripped
from the wings during the High G manoeuvres. The display, another
last for this season definitely didn’t disappoint and
closed the flying in style.
team behind Southport Air Show have pulled off another fantastic
two day event of which other Air Shows should take note of.
Next year sees the 25th year of the Southport Air Show and
I for one cannot wait to see what they come up with to mark
their Silver Anniversary, with dates already announced as
the 10th and 11th September, it is clear that the plans are
by Jonathan Wintle