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Yeovilton Air Day 2016

 

   

"...the Sea Vixen may not have the agility of the Typhoon but it's certainly not lacking in grace"

The BBC weather app had suffered it's usual vagaries in run up to Yeovilton Air Day this year, threatening prolonged heavy rain showers one minute , then promising blue skies the next... well it was cloudy to start off, with a stiff breeze and there was one light shower followed a but later by a very heavy shower. Later on the sun came back out and for the rest of the afternoon it was pretty warm - so much that my head was peeling skin a few days later

The static aircraft consisted of the usual C17, Sea harrier and F4 Phantom, but there was a nice mix of other aircraft such as the Tornado and a bunch of F16's. Before anyone comments it should be noted that the Union Flag atop the mighty C17 was NOT upside down... in truth it wasn't even a proper Union Flag!!

 
 
 

Although no flag bearers to carry the RN ensign this year following the retirement of the Sea King in the latter part of 2015, the Royal Navy did perform their usual flypast to get proceedings underway - this year the honour went to a pair of Wildcat's accompanied by a pair of soon to be retired Lynx helicopters.

Rich Goodwin kicked off this year's Air Day in his Pitts Special... following a very fast, short take off Rich had flipped over to point the belly at the audience and proceeded along the length of the runway at a 45 degree angle, much to the delight of the expectant crowds. Rich then levelled out before going vertical and at the top of the manoeuvre we were treated to the first "hover" of his routine demonstrating why this truly is a "muscle plane".

Rich continued to entertain with a series of loops, inverted loops, rolls, tumbles, flips, backflips... this is the 2nd time he has performed at Yeovilton and judging from the applause received at the end, he is a big favourite amongst the Somerset faithful.

 

Next on the agenda was the Royal Navy Helicopter Display Team aka The Black Cats, continuing the theme of a pair of Wildcats. A single Wildcat was introduced in 2013 to the team, which had previously used a pair of Lynx helicopters (the remaining fleet is due to be retired in early 2017).

Piloted this year by Lt Cdr Dave Lilly and Lt Chris Rebbeck, the team pulled off an admirable display whilst battling the brisk sidewind, proving once again why they are one of the UK's best display teams.

 
 
 

Other items on the morning schedule included the Corsair, Bronco, Wasp, Mig 15 and the Seafire, however it was another RN classic which stole the show in the first half of the display - the venerable Sea Vixen...

Polited by former Royal Navy Sea Harrier pilot Commander Simon Hargreaves, XP924 is a twin turbo jet carrier based aircraft which first flew in 1963. Simon's routine provided ample opportunities for the assembled photographers to capture the amazing twin-boom design with flypasts showing both the top and the underside of this wonderful classic jet - the Sea Vixen may not have the agility of the Typhoon but it's certainly not lacking in grace.

The final item prior to a short lunch break was the RN Raiders parachute display team jumping from a Skyvan which due to the weather had to run in a few times before finding the correct altitude for the drop.

 
 

The second half of the airshow was brought back into life by the Red Arrows doing what they do best - drawing pretty shapes in the skies and providing endless opportunities for the photographers to capture their perfect roll, pass or break.

The afternoon display featured the Apache role demo, Gazelle Squadron, B17 Memphis Belle and the Polish Orlik Display Team in their PZL-130's - it is at this point I have to say I felt slightly disappointed... I don't recall ever seeing Team Orlik display before but did find myself questioning "really?" as the commentary for the display included the words "breathtaking" and "dynamic". Sorry but I just wasn't feeling it! Now I don't know if changes to display regulations over the last 12 months have had much impact on the viewing of the display (e.g. furher away, higher up) but from where I was stood the RN Swordfish gave a more dynamic display - Team Orlik for me were rather pedestrian at best.

Other items in the afternoon included a stunning twin Rafale display, the Jordanian Falcons and the Junglie Assault.. For those of you who have never seen this it is basically a mock up of a whole bunch of Merlins, Wildcats and an Apache taking out a bunch of terrorists (with the help of some Marine Commando's of course) - a bit like Middle Wallop's Massed Approach but with significantly more action.

The highlight of the day though was the Typhoon display, which to use the words of an earlier commentator was truly breathtaking and dynamic and quite possibly the best Typhoon display ever seen - a view echoed around the press enclosure at least - well done Flt Lt Mark Long! If you haven't seen the Typhoon display yet this year, then check out this video of the above display at RNAS Yeovilton this year... www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-wHppItF2c

 
 

If you have never been to Yeovilton Air Day and were wondering whether you should, then Airscene would definitely recommend you put it in your diary for next year. It may not be as big as RIAT or Farnborough, but it provides a good mixture of aircraft and is very family friendly.

The crowdline is not as deep as I have seen at some other airshows, and this is mostly down to family groups content with sitting further back to watch the display and picnic away from the bustle at the front. Arriving and leaving Yeovilton Air Day by car is generally reported as good, particularly as on-site parking is exclusive to customers for the grandstand or one of the enclosures - for everyone else it's a short walk away.

The enclosures do offer good value for money, particularly if you want a good central position (grandstand) or if you want catering and a bar (Swordfish enclosure) - both options include souvenir brochure and air day admission as does the rather upmarket Flightline Club enclosure if you fancy Champagne and Canapes... don't forget this is RN catering, and they do tend to be rather good at it.

I think it would be nice if Yeovilton linked up with the US Navy and got the Blue Angels over here for 2017, but regardless it's a great day out and Airscene is looking forward to the 2017 Yeovilton Air Day.

Review by Airscene
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