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Yeovilton Air Day 2015

 

 

The weather forecast was not brilliant this year with the possibility of rain during the day. However we were lucky in that a cloud base of about 4000 feet was the order of the day and with occasional blue sky appearing. Often at the most appropriate time for everyone.

This year marked the 75th Anniversary of Royal Navy Air Station Yeovilton. There were many old veterans planned for the both the flying and static displays during the day. It was also going to be the last time that the famous Sea Kings would be in the display as they are all being retired over the next few months – now replaced by the Merlin Helicopter. The Sea King in varying marks and upgrades has been a work horse for over 40 years and is easily recognised anywhere in the world.

 
 
 

As you entered the airfield probably the first thing that you noticed was the mighty C-17 Globemaster and the E-3A Sentry AWACS aircraft situated on the static line. There was a long line of visitors waiting to get an inside look to this huge aircraft the wait continued inside for the Cockpit viewing. Talking with the crew, who were based in South Carolina USA, where they had in excess of 50 C-17’s based. All the crew were very friendly talking to and answering all the questions that visitors were asking of them.

Taking a stroll around all the remaining static aircraft showed us that this year there were some unusual visitors, including the A10 Thunderbolt, German Air Force Sea King and Lynx and an old F4 Phantom. The Royal navy Merlins, Sea Kings, Lynx and Wildcats were also on static display as well as flying.

The air show got under way in the traditional way with the Royal Navy Ensign being flown along the crowd line by a Sea King. Once the opening had been completed, the show got under way with the Sea Fire, showing how agile this still is.

The next aircraft to take to the air was the Pitts Special flown by Richard Godwin, if you have never seen this before it is something quite unreal. As soon as it is airborne and only tens of feet of the runway, Richard turns the plane to 45° and continues along the runway with white smoke billowing out of the exhaust. It is quite some spectacle to see. During his display he puts the Pitts Special muscle biplane through a display which can only be described as pushing the boundaries of both man and machine and without the use of any G suit.

After a quick take off by the skyvan with the Royal Navy raiders on board and a camera crew the Sea Vixen, Vulcan and 2 Vampires took to the air in quick succession. The first of them to display was the 2 vampires working in perfect formation over the airfield.

The Lynx replacement – The Wildcats soon took to the sky to perform their unique display taking over the mantra that the Lynx has set over many years.

 
 

What followed the Wildcats can only be described as a truly unique event that will, in all probability, never happen again. The crowd were treated to a one off event where The Sea Vixen, the two vampires and the Vulcan performed a couple of low levels passes as a V jet formation. The sheer size of the Vulcan compared to the much smaller counterparts was considerable. The formation was followed around the circuit by the Skyvan capturing all the air to air photographs that will be treasured for many years to come.

The Skyvan then broke off ready to do its other duty today in getting to a good height for the Royal Navy Raiders parachute team to drop into the airfield. This was done with such precision by all the parachutists hitting the drop zone perfectly.

With the sky ever threatening and getting darker and lighter every few minutes we all wondered what type of display the Red Arrows would perform, as it turned out they could only do their mid display as the cloud base was below 4500ft. With the new formations for the 2015 season being watched by all. Despite the low cloud base the crowd, as always, loved the display by the RAF Red Arrows team.

Following on from the Red Arrows the whole tempo changed from the Hawk fast jets to the elderly Avro Anson now owned and run by the Famous Shuttleworth collection, the Anson performed some very gentle turns showing how she could still perform despite her age.

Back to the fast jets when the Vulcan came back for her display after also appearing at Swansea earlier in the day. This being her last flying season nothing was held back for the crowd achieving the famous Vulcan growl as the air is sucked in to the 4 Rolls Royce engines and the power being applied at each opportunity. Upon landing we were treated to the rare sight of the parachute being used to slow the mighty air frame down. XH558 has now flown more than 110% of her original planned life. It really is a credit to all those who have worked on her over the past decade to get and keep her in the air.

Being a Naval base, helicopters are a fact of life with so many that may want to display, we were treated to the unique display of the UH-1 (Huey) made famous by the TV programme MASH. The distinctive sound of the rotors cutting through the air and allowing some brilliant aerobatics.

Carrying on with the nautical theme the two displays that followed were by the sea hurricane and sea vixen. The sea vixen is now the only airworthy example in the world and after doing the formation earlier with the Vulcan it was now time for its own display. Showing off the hook that would have stopped the aircraft when landing on board an aircraft carrier years ago.

Another regular appearing was the Swordfish, one of only a couple left in the world now. The static hangers also had a swordfish that you could get up to a lot closer for a good view of what it was like to have flown this aircraft with very little protection against the cold and any weapons that would have been fired at the crew.

As this was also Agusta Westlands 100th Birthday weekend, and they are based down the road from Yeovilton at Yeovil, we were treated to an unique display of the AW 609, nothing was heard until the aircraft was almost with you very quiet entrance, however the unique part of the AW609 is the ability to tilt its rotors, so it went from a normal two propeller aeroplane into a two rotor helicopter. The quietness was then reduced as the normal rotor sounds as the rotors turned skyward while airborne from their normal front facing position. The AW609 could then do everything that a normal helicopter can do. This was a strange sight to see a Plane that does become a Helicopter.

The airday was fortunate to have an RAF Chinook display this year, the first in quite a few which was always down to operations. With the almost hand brake turn that the Chinook performed you could hear the crowd gasp in amazement at how this huge twin rotor helicopter could be “thrown” around the skies with such ease.

Taking to the skies were the two Super Etendards and two Rafale M from the French Air Force. The Super E’s were quite striking in the air with their swept back wings. The Rafales soon shook the place though with the Reheat switched on for most of the display the sheer noise and power shown was breathtaking. Displaying the jets capabilities as far as they could.

As is the tradition at Yeovilton the end of the display is marked by a Commando Assault of the airfield with marines having to recapture it from “terrorists” . To see the Sea Kings in this, their last assault at Yeovilton, was so great with them working alongside their replacements, the mighty Merlins along with Lynx and Wildcats it was probably the best finale in years. With the usual pyrotechnics being deployed both on land and in the air the whole crowd was kept on the edge of their seats yet again.

With the air display over you could now have a slightly more leisurely walk around the static aircraft on show.

Well done to the organisers for a great airday and look forward to see what 2016 can bring.

Review by Ian Birdsey
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