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  Biggin Hill Festival of Flight - Biggin Hill Airfield, Kent 14th June 2014

 


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It was a great shame when, in late 2010, it was announced the plug had been pulled on Air Display International’s Biggin Hill International Air Fair.  The show had been a regular and favourite event on the air display calendar since 1963.  It was therefore welcome news when a new event was announced for 2014 albeit on a much smaller scale than the old Air Fairs with the focus on showcasing Biggin Hill as a centre for training and economic growth in the local community.  This main hook of the event, titled the ‘Festival of Flight,’ was a celebration of the Red Arrows 50th display season, the team having made their public debut with 9 red-painted Folland Gnats at Biggin Hill back in 1965.

In addition to the Red Arrows, who flew the penultimate display on the day, there were 2 other hour long segments of flying, the first including a solo Royal Navy Black Cat Lynx HMA8 and a number of civilian display acts (including The Matadors, Breitling Wingwalkers and Glider FX) while Peter Teichman flew a typically polished and dynamic routine in P-51D Mustang ‘Jumpin Jacques.’

The second section was opened by The Blades aerobatic team followed by B-17G Flying Fortress ‘Sally-B,’ an aircraft it is all to easy to take for granted yet only still flying due to the Herculean efforts of Elly Sallingboe and her team of engineers, volunteers and supporters.   Sally-B was followed by unfortunately typical views of the undersides of a pair of Spitfires from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.  The Trig Team’s Pitts Specials also flew in this slot along with Anna Walker in CASA Jungmann G-BSAJ.

The final slot was opened with a Battle of Britain sequence representing Biggin Hill’s Second World War history.  First to fly, in the hands of Lee Proudfoot, was Hispano Buchon G-BWUE in its Luftwaffe Battle of Britain film markings.  Home based Hurricane I AE977 and Spitfire IX TA805, flown by Clive Denney and Dan Griffith respectively, provided the ‘defence.’

So it came to the final displays, the Reds forced into their flat, rolling routine by the weather, while Spitfire IX MH434 closed the show in the hands of Paul Bonhomme in a tribute to the late Ray and Mark Hanna who flew MH434 so many times at Biggin over the years, Ray also being one of the founder members of the Red Arrows.

In terms of the event itself there were quite a few teething troubles.  With gates not opening until 12pm everyone turned up at this time meaning queuing to get into the airfield and then parking took over an hour (mind you, at Waddington this year it took me about 2 hours to do the last 2 miles and park!)  Catering was woefully inadequate with a 40 minute wait for food. 

Whilst we managed to get off the airfield in 20 minutes or so, leaving right as the Red Arrows finished, reports of 1 ˝ to 2 hour waits to get off the airfield were seen afterwards causing a lot of frustration amongst those who attended.  In addition, having the breaks in the flying program concentrates everyone at the food/stalls/rides at certain times compounding queuing issues if there are not enough outlets.  What was promising for future events was the dialogue with the organisers on social media afterwards and hopefully this event will go from strength to strength.

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