it was people were still buzzing from the Rafale’s"
weather app reported cloudy overcast conditions for almost a week
ahead of this year’s Air Day, then changed it’s mind in the last
24 hours now saying there would be the occasional break in the
clouds with a little sunshine. I decided to have a look at the
and Southampton Metar reports which suggested a lot more sunshine.
After last year getting a peeling head I had put a leather
Australian Outback Hat on my birthday wish list, which proved to
be a good move as the clouds dispersed around midday and it was
another scorching afternoon. Traffic was pretty good on arrival
with a short queue after coming off the A303, although we could
see no reason for it, as it soon dispersed.
Having settled in
and drunk my first mug of coffee there was time to have a look
around the hangars and static aircraft display. The Royal Navy
Historic Flight were originally scheduled to display the Sea Fury
just before lunchtime but instead this sat with the static
aircraft along with the Flight’s Fairey Swordfish. It was a shame
not to see these up in the air again but understandable given the
ongoing isues with it’s aircraft in recent years, however Lt Cdr
Chris Gotke did give a graceful solo display in the Flight’s
Chipmunk later in the day.
Other aircraft on static display included
Phantoms, Yak 52’s, Merlin helicopters, a replica F-35B and the
USAF C17, which always proves to be very popular with visitors and
incidentally was awarded “Best Static Display”. Alongside the
aircraft there were also a variety of military vehicles and
classic cars, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to these but will
put them on my ToDo list for next year.
The show kicked off as it has in recent
years with Rich Goodwin’s Pitt’s Muscle Bi-plane display. Kicking
off in what is a now “traditional” knife edge take off which
quickly got the crowds attention, Rich continued to flip, roll and
tumble through his almost gymnastic routine. The kids in the
enclosure next door were squeeling with delight and I am certain
this aerobatic display won Rich a new legion of fans.
Next up was Andrew Whitehouse in his (West
Lift’s) Westland Whirlwind HAR mark10, giving a masterly
demonstration of this helicopter’s Search and Rescue capabilites.
The Belgian Air Force were back at
Yeovilton with the F-16 in it’s “Blizzard paint scheme, piloted by
Tom De Moortel. Tom put the F-16 through it’s paces with an
aerobatic display that saw some really tight turns at low level
and firing of flares at high level. Later in the afternoon was the
Danish Air Force’s turn with their F-16 which performed some
really fast passes which must have come close the the speed of
sound as we all turned and looked at each other asking “did anyone
get that shot?”. It turned out to be “No” as it had already left
the airfield perimeter before we even heard it!
Another Yeovilton regular arrived shortly
after in the form of the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron’s
Mig15, always a delight to see this small but nimble jet fighter
perform, and it did so quite admirably again this year.
Another change to the scheduled display came as Kennet Aviation’s
North American Texan stood in for the grounded Skyraider, followed
up shortly after by Peter Teichmans P-51D Mustang “Tall in the
Saddle” which Peter restored to it’s original Tuskegee Red Tail
markings a year or so back.
Closing out the first half of the display
were the Royal Jordanian Falcons and the Raiders (RN) Parachute
Display team. If I am honest it all felt a bit sedate for me at
this point so time for another cuppa! Besides taking on fluids
started to become the order of the day as the sun was starting to
make it’s appearance and to ensure no-one got dehydrated during
the day the RN laid on free water at several distribution points
and made regular announcements to remind the public – Nice Touch!
The Red Arrows
opened the 2nd
half of the display and impressed the crowds as they always do,
with a new routine for 2017 with “Tornado” now looping in front of
the crowd to the return of the ever popular “infinity break”.
Not a lot to else to say about
the Reds, except to say they are loved wherever they go and the
Yeovilton crowd are no exception, giving them a big cheer as they
Next it was the turn of the heli’s with the
Merlin following the Apache’s lead. Lots of pyrotechnics are you
can imagine as Major Jim Trayhurn takes us through a ground attack
demo with Sgt Mark Bowker. BTW I still haven’t managed to get that
now famous shot of the Apache in front of the resulting fireball!
Two appearances from the Czech Air Force
helped to fill up the afternoon’s schedule, firstly with a Saab
Gripen solo display and later on an L-159 ALCA duo with more
pyrotechnics during their CAS demo. Following on from the Gripen
came the aforementioned Danish F-16 and then the Wildcat Maritime
Role Demo and yet more black smoke ensued.
Now approaching 3 o’clock and it was the
turn of the French Navy Rafale Pair, the lead of which was
sporting it’s “Snow Tiger” paint job used for this year’s NATO
Tiger Meet. Words can’t really do justice to their performance,
sure it wasn’t really an aerobatic display but the pilots mixed
noise with afterburners and gave an appropriate demonstration of
the Rafale’s performance. Everyone I spoke to agreed this was the
highlight of the day, and perhaps more memorable because of the
black and white stripes!
Having been awarded Best Fixed Wing Display of the day, the
Rafale’s proved a difficult act to follow, even for Lt Ryan Lawton
in the Typhoon Solo Display. Perhaps if it was moved back a bit
then it might have been more interesting, but as it was people
were still buzzing from the Rafale’s.
The last hour
of the day saw a solo display from the BBMF Spitfire and 3
flypasts from the
before she departed, then the Czech ALCA duo. This year however
there was no “Junglie Assault” finale as unfortunately military
duties do tend to be a priority. Instead that went to Patrouille
Suisse Display Team who were back at Yeovilton after a 10 year
absence. In their Northrop Tiger’s and with a precision display
that reminds me of the USAF Thunderbirds, the Swiss team put on a
great performance to close this year’s Air Day.
Moving on, I again keep my fingers
crossed that Ralph and the team at Yeovilton might consider
bringing Fat Albert and the US Navy’s Blue Angels over next year,
even if it is just the once. Yeovilton is a very popular military
airshow as evidenced by the crowds in attendance which I
understand numbered aroujnd 35,000. If you haven’t been yet, do
put it in your diary for next year and enjoy what is certainly one
of the best on the UK calendar.