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  RAFA Battle of Britain Airshow - Shoreham Airport, Sussex 16th September 2006
 


Review -
Supermarine Spitfires returned to Shoreham Airport on the 16th and 17th September in numbers not seen since World War Two. Moved back from its traditional ‘slot’ by two weeks, the Shoreham-by-Sea Branch of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) annual airshow was the only major air event held on Battle of Britain weekend. The organisers took this opportunity to remember the Battle through an impressive airfield attack and scramble sequence, which for many was the highlight of the show. The sequence was organised by the Aircraft Restoration Company’s John Romain and began with a pyrotechnically enhanced strafing attack on the airfield by Dan Griffith in desert camouflaged Nord 1002 Pingouin II 'Me108' G-ETME. In response a section of Hurricanes took off to do battle, pursuing the ‘Messerschmitt’ through the smoke, while six Spitfires followed in a mass scramble, despatching the intruder and embarking on an almost lyrical tail chase through the West Sussex skies. Leading the Hurricanes was Keith Dennison in Peter Vacher’s MKI R4118 G-HUPW while his number two was Ian ‘Shiny’ Simmonds in the Historic Aircraft Collection’s MK.XII Z5140 G-HURI. The Spitfires were led by Rod Dean in Griffon powered MK.XVIII SM845 G-BUOS, and following were Dave ‘Rats’ Radcliffe in Irish Air Corp liveried Tr.9 G-CCCA, Cliff Spink in MKXVIe TD248 G-OXVI, John Romain in MK.IX TA805 G-PMNF, Peter Teichman in PRXI PL965 G MKXI, and Charlie Brown in MK.Vb BM597 G-MKVB. On the ground re-enactors played the part of pilots and ground support personnel with an authentic dispersal area set up which, set against the backdrop of Spitfires and the south downs, created an evocative sight.

At this point mention must be made of the inclement weather that started the weekend. Low cloud and mist and a strong gusting wind on the Saturday morning meant that the Spitfires and one of the Hurricanes were dotted around southern airfields and could not get to Shoreham to begin the scramble, so on the Saturday the Spitfires played the part of Duxford’s big wing arriving overhead as top cover while the Hurricanes pursued the hapless Me108 below. Other acts ‘weather bound’ at home bases created a challenge for the organisers but with exemplary professionalism the program timings were amended during the day to allow those acts, which included the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, to arrive and carry out their displays once the weather had improved. The wind also affected the early part of the display and special mention must go Peter Teichman who opened the show in his Spitfire PR.XI and the Yakovlev formation team for coping admirably with the conditions. Fortunately the weather on the Sunday was ideal.

Warbird heavy metal featured throughout the show with Peter Teichman’s North Weald based P-51D Mustang ‘Jumpin Jacques’ G-SIJJ and P-40M Kittyhawk G-KITT putting in impressive performances, flown by Peter and Stuart Goldspink respectively. Maritime operations were represented by the Royal Naval Historic Flights Bristol Centaurus powered Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 VR930 while Brian Grant put Sea Vixen ‘Foxy Lady’ G-CVIX through its paces in typically noisy fashion. This included a touch and go on the Sunday of the show, it being fifty years to the day since Sea Vixen tyres had last touched Shoreham’s runway. Rather more sedately the white paint scheme of Plane Sailing’s PBY-5A Catalina G-PBYA stood out well against the blue sky. Stearman power came in the shape of the Utterly Butterly wingwalkers flying one of their last displays under the current sponsors.

Modern RAF participation was high with the Merlin and Chinook battling it out for most impressive display of rotary power. Rather than have the fixed wing types dotted throughout the day, Display Director Peter Eager should be congratulated for putting these together into a ‘Trainer to Frontline’ segment which showed the progression of a modern day pilot in the RAF and began with displays from a Grob Tutor primary trainer before moving onto a Tucano basic trainer, Hawk advanced jet trainer, Harrier GR7 and finally the mighty Typhoon, which gave its first full display at Shoreham and seemed willing to fly in any attitude except straight and level – probably too dull a task for such a machine!

The ultimate aim of the show is to raise money for the RAFA Wings appeal charity, which supports serving and former servicemen and their families in times of need. This year, the shows seventeenth, saw record breaking crowds attend and the total amount of money raised by successive shows has now broken the million pound mark, a remarkable achievement for an event that started out as a garden fete.

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