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Yeovilton Air Day 2018

 

   

"...always awestruck by the shear audacity of his aerobatic display"

Before I head out to do any review I do religiously monitor the BBC weather app for at least a week before the event, in order to see whether I'll need my sunglasses or a Rainmac... Well as I am sure you are all well aware, we were at least 2 weeks into the longest, hottest, driest period since 1976. It was scheduled to be a scorcher and a scorcher it was... I had packed sunglasses, frozen bottles of water and suncream, although I stupidly forgot to apply the latter and didnt realise until around 2pm when my left leg started to sting. Needless to say it was quite badly burnt and I wasn't in a position to stay until the end unfortunately, so the last couple of items on the schedule will be missing from this review.

Having arrived around 9am there was time for a quick coffee in the tent after picking up my press pack before having a wander around the statics. RIAT it isn't, but Yeovilton do put on a decent sized static display with Sea Fury, Poseidon, C130J hercule, Lynx Heli's and much more. I was particularly please to see the Globemaster taking pride of place again near the entrance - it's always such a big crowd puller. That said, there was a distinct lack of F16's in the static display this year with the Danish Air Force having the only example on display.

 
 

The flying display kicked off at 11 with the RN Sea King (ASac7), Sea Fury and a pair of Wildcats. For those that don't know this particular Sea King is the one with the electronics "bag" on the starboard side, and it was performing what will be the last ever Sea King display in the UK as they finally retire in September (being replaced by the Merlin). A few minutes break while the Red Arrows arrived on circuit and landed was followed by a solo Wildcat display complete with pyrotechnics as LT Matt Hudson demonstrated how the helicopter uses flares to evade missiles, and also it's CAS capabilities.

Up next was the RN Historic Flight's Sea Fury accompanied by the Mig15 of the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron in a re-enactment of a historic event in 1952 when Lt "Hoagy" Carmichael shot down a Chinese Mig and with his colleagues damaged 2 or 3 more in the Korean theatre. This was followed by the first element of the RAF's contribution with a 10 minute Typhoon Display - because of the aforementioned sunburn I did unfortunately miss the Chinook and BBMF flight later in the afternoon, however I am led to believe that this was mostly the Dakota due to the Spitfires being "unserviceable" and having their display shortened.

 

The Hellenic Air Force F16 "Zeus" put on a spirited display on the back of the Gazelle Squadrons helicopters circling each other menacingly in front of the crowdline, before giving way to what (for me) was the 2nd best display of the day - Rich Goodwin in his Pitts Special. It doesn't matter how many times I have seen Rich's routine, I am always awestruck by the shear audacity of his aerobatic display, and I think having this on the billing makes any airshow special.

Complete with wooden rotor blades and an engine that sounded like an old petrol lawnmower came the Bristol Sycamore, a cold war relic brought back to airworty condition by the Flying Bulls and piloted by Blacky Schwartz, who had to learn this demanding helicopters flying characteristics himself as there is no longer anyone capable of flying with a valid licence for the Sycamore. A brief interlude then preceded the Red Arrows getting airborne again for their display, led for the first time by Sq Ldr Martin Pert and bringing a slightly modified routine for 2018, with the notable inclusion of the new "lightning" shape in recognition of the F35 which is jointly operated by the RAF and Royal Navy.

 
 

The Czech Air Force Gripen put on an impressive display of fast and slow passes, and agile turns interspersed with flares to provide a jaw dropping display, before things slowed down again with a more sedate routine by the RN Historic Flight's Swordfish. In the right light it is a beautiful aircraft to photograph but I did find it a little bit hit and miss from my vantage point in the press enclosure, with the sun's position in the sky couple with the increasing heat haze resulting in a few dark undersides or wobbly wings at shutters speeds low enough to blur the prop.

The display continued with the Danish F16, and then the Royal Jordanian Falcons, before what I consider to be the higlight of the show: The Royal Canadian Air Force Hornet in it's striking blue colour scheme. With liberal use of afterburners the display was Fast and Loud to say the least and put everything else in the shade today. The CAF Hornet will also appear at RIAT this year in a mini tour to celebrate RAF100, and if you didnt get to Yeovilton then you should make an effort to get to RIAT as this alone is worth the entrance fee and Yeovilton did well to include this in the Air Day.

 

The last item that I saw before I headed off at around 3.30pm was the French Rafale duo - always one of my favourite displays here with their noisy Role Demo. At the time of writing I am uncertain which display was voted the best and it is likely to be a close call, but I do think the CAF Hornet overshadowed the Rafale's this year - perhaps it was the absence of the Tiger Meet stripes...

As I said earlier I was in a lot of pain so decided to pack up and head home, which was a shame because I did miss the Junglies Assault Finale. I did however manage a short interview with one of the commanding officers who was very upbeat about the technological advancements the Merlins and Wildcats brings to the field over the Sea Kings and Lynx's now fully replaced. I had long heard rumour of a possible future deployment to the far east and it does appear that the Junglies will likely be in Malaysia again in 2019, but this time giving demonstrations of their capabilities - I'll be keeping my ear to the ground and hope it happens during one of my future trips to Singapore.

 

Overall another great day at Yeovilton Air Day, and despite the overbearing heat, it seemed everyone was smiling, not least the ladies in the Wardroom enclosure getting the photos taken with the Red Arrows as the walked the flightline meeting and greeting their fans.

Yeovilton being one of only 2 military bases in the UK now with and International airshow always put together a good mix of displays, and visitors will find no shortage of static aircraft to look around along with the very impressive STEM hangar. A good mix of food and drink outlets and also a selection of classic cars makes it a top day out in Somerset and little to no traffic problems that I am aware of. Definitely one you should add to your list for next year, I know I will...

Review by Airscene
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