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Waddington Airshow 2011

 

 

The alarm went off at stupid ‘O’ clock and it was time to get up for the long-ish journey to Lincolnshire for Waddo’s annual air show, some 152 miles later I reach the airbase on the A15, strangely the satnav took me on a mystery tour last year but got it right this time. Blue skies with fluffy white clouds seemed to be the order of the day so the optimism for a cracking day was high and we were not disappointed, last year I pitched up at the far end of the runway which was nice and quiet with not many people around, this year I was in the thick of it at the opposite end in the media enclosure.

A brisk wander about once I’d signed in and set my kit up and yep you guessed it, time for a coffee and some munchies after the 3.5 hour journey to the Lincolnshire RAF base, so fuelled up and raring to go my first port of call was the Vulcan Village, all sorts of goodies available for the avid Vulcan fan, some of which are not cheap but hey she is probably the most special aircraft in the world. As I was browsing around the Vulcan Village a volunteer asked me if I would like to buy her nipple?? The grease nipple from one of the Avro Vulcan’s many parts which had been removed and replaced by a new one, a good way to make some much needed funding for the Spirit of Great Britain but alas I myself have far too much in my own house that the loft simply cant take the strain so had to politely decline her offer.

 

You can if you fancy getting up close and personal with XH558 pay a few quid for a tour of the Vulcan when she is parked up and again a good idea to help keep her where she belongs. I did buy a VTTS mug for my eldest son who wasn’t with me on the day. Turning back the way I came a stroll through the many stalls and static displays one of which was the Tigermeet F16 of the Belgian Air Force, imagine my disappointment that this was for static display only, why do the display teams send a fantasticly painted fighter and display the standard grey one, surely it would be better to send up the special paint jobs and leave the grey ones for static display, or even better send 2 special paint scheme fighters, one for the ground and one in the air, anyway I digress, the F16 has such a striking paint scheme which looks like quite a few man hours went into that job, top marks to the designers and artists who done it.

The first aircraft to fly for the show were the Boeing E3 Sentry and RC135 Rivet Joint, sadly for me neither of these aircraft have the appeal of the Nimrod which are being or indeed some already have been phased out, I meant to get a shot of the few remaining Nimrods but time constraints meant I couldn’t get to where they were.

The USAF Thunderbirds display team was an eagerly anticipated first for me, based at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, Nevada. The squadron tours the United States and much of the world, performing aerobatic formation and solo flying in specially-marked McDonnell Douglas F16’s. and the build up to the take off was long and intense, I have to say the suspense was a bit too much, with the team commentator announcing their readiness with “ladies and Gentlemen, the words you have been waiting for… Thunderbirds run em up” now that took a lot of us by surprise and caused much mirth amongst a group of togs who where expecting “Thunderbirds are go!!”

A first class display of tight manoeuvres and precision formations mixed with a few sneaky fast passes ensured an enjoyable team display all the while listening to the commentary from the PA system, which brings me on to a very minor point that had a couple of people nearby commenting about said PA system, the speaker by the media enclosure was placed on the ground but nearby they were mounted up on poles? Why cant they all be placed on the ground so the public don’t have to have them obscuring the view of aircraft or getting a snapshot of the Vulcan taxiing back with a speaker sticking out of it?

BBMF Avro Lancaster Phantom of the Ruhr (PA474) was out in view at the A15 end of the runway while she was being checked over prior to her usual graceful flight and she was looking resplendent in the sunshine, the camouflage livery looked quite colourful from where I was stood so a few snaps of her on terra firma were bagged for the record. Ditto for the Vulcan but I got a shot her with the BBMF flying over too. The RAF red Arrows were on song for their display at Waddo which includes a new manoeuvre called the whirlwind, not an easy move to capture a descriptive photo like for example the other moves which represent shapes like the Typhoon, Diamond 9 etc but an impressive addition to the repertoire.

During one of my walkabouts I was visiting the display team stall of one of the participating F16’s and heard bagpipes getting louder and closer so I quickly went out to see where it was, marching up alongside the trade stalls and static displays were the Royal Air Force pipes and drums playing the bagpipes and of course the drums, this was enjoyed immensely by all the spectators who were parting to allow the band to continue pretty much unhindered, some very good playing from the guys at Waddo, well done lads!

The RAF Chinook put on a stomach churning display which certainly made me happy that I was not in the back of it and just a mere spectator on good old terra firma:- the firma the ground the less the terra (I love that line which an elderly gent quoted to me some time back). Always impressed by how maneuverable the Chinook is, its almost like it climbs, slams on the handbrake in mid air and slews with a violent pirouetting grace back toward the direction it came from emphasized by some very loud blade slap, also equally impressive is the ability to travel backwards on the ground with only the rear wheels on the runway, makes you wonder if its possible to do a three point turn on two wheels?

Another participant was the North American OV10 Bronco which I had seen for the first time at Abingdon Air and Country show earlier in the year, quite an odd looking (in a nice way) aircraft the Bronco, and as I remember Tony de Bruyn made quite a “spirited” departure from Abingdon so I figured we would also be in for quite a good show from the Bronco Demo Team coupled with the loud paint scheme, I have to say I really love this aircraft!! Our very own home grown talent Flt Lt Juliette “Jules” Fleming gave the RAF Valley Hawk Tmk1 a good wringing out and it was great to see the performance in good weather with the vapour from the wingtips against the blue skies in between the breaks in the clouds, finally got some half decent shots of it.

Team viper came into the fray with the Hawker Hunter, a former cold war era jet, the two with the colourful paint schemes only took part in a couple of flybys and then landed, which was a shame as I wanted to try and shoot them seperatley but maybe next time, as always the Hunter gave a few nice bluenote passes which were nice and loud. Two Vampires from the Norwegian heritage flight were also looking fantastic in the late afternoon light.

What about aviation enthusiasts who come with families and lets say a member of that family isn’t really into the aerial ballet itself? Well there are a few offerings to keep them amused one of which we found adjacent to the English Electric Lightning cockpit tour, Great British Sportscars LTD had there Zero on display, and Roadrunner Racing’s SR2, these small two seater open top sports cars which are available in kit form or go the easy route and have them build one to your spec, You could have a blast with a qualified racer in the arena opposite the Lightning tour for the sum of 10 pounds and most of that ride will be spent sideways and doing doughnuts in a pall of tyre smoke with amazing precision round the traffic cones, I had to have a go and couldn’t stop grinning about it for hours!

As always at the end of an airshow you have to get out and make your way home, usually through horrendous traffic jams, so we decided to stay for a while longer and let the ashphalt gladiators battle it out and grabbed a bite and a cuppa near to the media enclosure, upon leaving we encountered no traffic problems at all and the journey home passed by quicker than the journey to the event. All things considered with the current defence cuts, which is a worldwide occurrence with defence spending under review pretty much everywhere and not just affecting us here in Blighty, I personally think that the organisers at RAF Waddington managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat this year, well done ladies and gents, give yourselves a pat on the back for this years show.

 
Review by Ken Brannen
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