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Waddington Airshow 2012

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RAF Annual Review 2011


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We arrived at RAF Waddingon after three and a half hour journey a via the A15 at around 08:10 and to our surprise there were no traffic tailbacks as in previous years attending the Waddington International air show and went straight onto the the airfield to a very small queue at the ticket booths and from then on it was smoothly onto the parking areas with no trouble at all, a very good effort by the organisers and traffic marshalls.

After signing in at the press enclosure I thought I would join the masses who were already filling the flightline and found a suitable gap to setup my folding chair and camera gear ready for what was advertised on the Waddington air show website. we were in for some rare treats this year which I will go into detail later. A few minutes after setting up the skies darkened and the heavens opened up in time for the start of the show which was the flypast from the Rivet Joint and Sentinel R1, both 54 Squadron displaying at their home base RAF Waddington, sheltering under our umbrella we grabbed a quick couple of shots but these were purely for the record considering the deluge we were under at the time.

 

The Dutch display team in its resplendent orange livery was up during a nice break in the clouds, which lent itself well to airshow photoraphy and a superb take off from Captain Stefan "Stitch" Hutten of the RNLAF accompanied by the deafening roar of the General Dynamics engine with the afterburners in full swing was a visual treat with the backdrop of fluffy clouds and sunshine accentuating the display from the Orange F16 with its accompanying smokewinder system.

XV Squadron's Tornado GR4 role demo with the Tornado GR4 pair' always gets the publics attention (callsign Poker1 and Poker2) with the explosive pyrotechnic display and the high speed wing swept simulated attack on insurgent postions showing how their cummulative years of training are put to the ultimate test. The Panavia Tornado GR4 role demo is high on my list of favourite airshow appearances and those in the forces and the airshow community were both shocked and saddened to hear of the recent incident and subsequent loss of crew which two of XV reserve Squadron's Tornado GR4's in the Moray Firth which was on the news only a few days after Waddington 2012.

I then decided on my customary walk around of the trade stands and to have a look at the static displays which were covering much more ground than I had anticipated. I was very happy to see a GAF Phantom as it is an aircraft that has eluded me for some time and I was wanting a few shots of it static or flying before the Phantom's imminent retirement.

So after quite a few shots from different angles for my archives I moved further down the static display until I arrived at the Panavia Tornado GR4 of 41 Squadron Coningsby where one of the crew was quite happily answering questions from various members of the public about the role of the Tornado and life in the forces, a gent with a few kids in tow was also talking to the crew member and then the youngsters were invited to have their photograph taken alongside the GR4 and the pilot which made their day and put a huge smile on their faces.

Further down on the static display I noticed the 100 Squadron Hawk which has the paint scheme of a WW2 Lancaster bomber and the skull and crossbones on the tail, In my view all trainer aircraft should have some scheme as the Hawk in question looks amazing. Luke Carlyle was there to answer questions from members of the public and after a brief chat with Luke about the hawk I got brave and asked if I could have a look around his aircraft, he was very helpful and let me have a look around XX318.

One thing he pointed out to me and I hadnt noticed was that the skull and crossbones was also on the underneath of the Hawk. I asked whether it was RAF maintenance crew who done the livery on XX318 but he explained it was done by Babcock and a superb job they have done. The finish really is very glossy when you get as close as I did to theses aircraft, nice work from Babcock, lets have a few more schemes like this! Many thanks to Luke Carlyle from 100 Squadron for showing me around and sharing the knowledge of how the skull and crossbones ended up being an insignia for the Leeming based squadron and to 100 Squadron for sending a very interesting Hawk for static display.

Something new and exiting on this years air show circuit and seemingly on everyones must see list was the Republic of Korea Air Force display team the Black Eagles with a superb paint scheme on the T50's which were transported in by air cargo earlier in the year and re-assembled for the display season, some superb commentary accompanied equally super display flying during the ROKAF display slot, starbursts, close passes and some rather sneaky passes kept the viewing public on thier toes watching out for where they would appear from next, I however got caught out by each one of the sneak passes as I was transfixed by the formation work going on at the time. I have since learned that the ROKAF Team won the best overall display award, well done guys on a well deserved award.

The Royal Air Force Red Arrows arrived to applause from the whole crowd and were displaying seven of the BAE Systems Hawk Tmk1, I have to say it seemed like the whole of the crowd were flying with them when they flew the tribute to Flt Lt Jon "Eggman" Egging and Flt Lt Sean Cunningham and there the tributary applause and cheers came from all around and no doubt many of the spectators felt a lump in the throat as I did during this poignant part of the display, I am unsure as to why there are only seven of the aircraft displaying this season but that did not detract from a perfect routine from the team who recieved a well deserved ovation at the end of a perfect display.

Switzerland's contribution to Waddington International came in the form of the Super Puma and the f18 Hornet, The aerial display from the Puma was to say the least quite remarkable and for those who are lucky enough to get to Axalp will also see this Helicopter with the beautiful backdrop of snow capped Swiss mountains and flares by the bucket load, thats something we still seem to be lacking at UK airshows is the use of countermeasure flares, if the role demo can fire off huge pyrotechnics then lets have flares back too for those split second photo opportunities.The Saudi Hawk team in the very striking green and white liveried Hawk Tmk1's also gave a grand debut Waddington display and seem to be becoming regulars on the air show circuit.

Colour scheme for this years solo RAF Display Hawk is a rather snazzy version of the Union Jack and very photogenic it is too, Flt Lt Phil Bird ably demonstrated the agility and speed of the patriotic Red White and Blue Hawk which despite its trainer label is a very agile aircraft and slips through the aerial routine with ease.

Frecce Tricolori to me are one of the most impressive large display teams with a colourful fast paced commentary, the commentator even told told the crowd by a "3-2-1 Now" countdown of when to grab that perfectly timed photograph at key points during the display routine, one of my favourite parts is still the solo pilot with his "crazy flying" routine and of course the smoke-on for the national flag colours.

Carrying 35 WW2 veterans to Brize Norton and on to Waddington International air show stopping at 4 different destinations on the way to the UK from New Zealand was the NZAF 757-200. The passengers were all veterans of the forces who saw action during the worlds most turbulent time during1939-1945

There is plenty of treats on offer from the various catering vendors located around the airfield and though we usually take a picnic to these events we also like to indulge in some fresh doughnuts etc. depending on what takes our fancy at the time, at the end of the show we dont always dash off to the traffic queues but take a leisurely saunter around and this time we stopped at a catering van and ordered sausage and chips, the caterer gave us extra sausages for free as it was the end of the day (bargain! and tasty too).

In summary I would have speculated that last years Waddington International would be very hard to beat but they done it again from an organisation and participant point of view, getting in and out of the show was no trouble at all. I would love to keep coming to Waddington as it is a show I really enjoy attending but with an alarm call at 3am and finishing work at midnight it was quite a long but thoroughly enjoyable day for me and the spectators too. Hopefully work permitting I will be there again next year.

Many thanks to Flt Lt darren Scales for the press pass and to the Media and Communications office for keeping me regularly informed with participant updates and press releases. Well done to all who volunteer their time and and through commitment and hard work have given the general public an airshow to remember for many years to come.

 
Review by Ken Brannen
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