||RAF Waddington International Airshow - Lincolnshire,
5th July 2014
The 2014 Waddington International Airshow achieved several firsts and
milestones. This included the only airshow appearance of the RAF's
first of three RC-135W Rivet Joint SIGINT/ELINT aircraft, this machine being
ZZ664 and on the strength of 51 Squadron, ex-operators of the Nimrod R1, the
RAF's previous intelligence aircraft retired in 2011. The show also
saw the first public dynamic display of a Westland Wildcat HMA2, this
example flying as part of the Royal Navy's 'Black Cats' team, the machine
having only left the factory 3 months previously. Another first was
the UK display debut for Tony de Bruyn in Rockwell OV-10B Bronco G-ONAA.
Tony was badly injured in 2012 in a crash during a practice display at
Kemble. Tony's determination to recover and return to the display
circuit is an example to us all, and it was great to see his display after
seeing the Bronco in the static at Abington in May. As if this wasn't
enough the show also saw the UK debut of the Patrulla Aspa, A Spanish
helicopter display team flying Eurocopter EC120s.
In terms of milestones this was possibly one of the last displays by a
search and rescue helicopter manned by members of the UK armed forces (here
a RAF 202 Squadron Sea King HAR3) with the SAR 'contract' going to Bristow
helicopters in 2016. It was also possibly the last show at RAF
Waddington. With the runway being rebuilt and lengthened at a cost of
£35 million, there will be no show in 2015 and this has raised uncertainty
as to the show's long term future.
A final note that caught my attention was the announcement that the
Vulcan has clocked up £20,000,000 of funding since the Vulcan to the Sky
project began. It is a complex debate with strong views on both sides.
I, for one, am amazed and awed to see the machine in the sky having
witnessed some of the deafening and chest rumbling RAF displays in the 80s
and 90s. However, when you look at the money spent and still being
poured into the kitty, coupled with some of the lacklustre 'flybys' (it was
difficult to see them as displays) seen over a couple of previous seasons
(please, please, please can we have just one decent topside pass along the
crowdline... just one!!) and the often unheard plight of other operators
(Sally-B has to spring to mind here) who are struggling to keep their
aircraft viable, it is sometimes difficult to wonder whether some of that
public generosity could also support other equally deserving projects.
Now to the rest of the show! For me, the big draw was the Swedish
Air Force Historic Flight's SAAB Draken and Viggen, the latter in particular
putting on a mesmerising performance. This was the first time I
had seen either aircraft in the sky and the trip was well worth this alone.
Fast Jet fans were also treated to the Turkish Air Force F-16C 'Solo Turk'
alongside a cracking display from the RAF Typhoon FGR4 in D-Day anniversary
markings and a vapour-filled thunderous, fire breathing show from the Swiss
Air Force F/A-18C. Classic Jet fans were treated to Gnats, Hunters, Canberra
and Vulcan while Sally-B and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flew the
flag for warbirds. Rotary fans also had the AAC Lynx, Apache and RAF
Chinook displays to enjoy.
Unfortunately I was unable to commit to going to the show until a few
days before and, by that time, the show was sold out with dire warnings for
people not to turn up if they didn't have tickets. At the same time
social media sites crawled with people crowing about how they were able to
book their tickets months in advance and, well, what do you expect if you
leave it until the last minute! Fortunately a friend lived in
Peterborough and was able to pick up a ticket form their local Morrisons the
day before so a quick stop on the way saw me with a valid form of entry!
However, despite leaving at silly o'clock it still took two hours to get
parked once I had joined the end of the queue, something there seems no cure
for other than to get up before I went to bed! It was well worth the
effort though and all possible appendages are crossed for a return to form
airshow photographs from 2014