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  RAF Waddington International Airshow - Lincolnshire, 5th July 2014

 


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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 in 2016. 

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