After a stunning show in 2013, the organisers of the RAF Cosford Air Show had set the bar high for 2014’s event. Adam Chittenden reports for AeroResource from the West Midlands’ most distinguished and popular air event.
After celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Cosford’s opening last year with a record breaking attendance, Flying Display Director Bill Hartree’s team put together an attractive lineup for 2014. Whilst the RAF C-17, RNHF Swordfish and AAC Defender were announced as cancelled on the 3rd of June, Classic Air Force’s Venom FB50 was confirmed as attending which went some way at least to make up for the unfortunate yet unforeseeable cancellations. It was clear the Organisers worked hard this year to overcome the traffic issues which dogged the event in 2013, there was a much higher presence of car parking attendants and traffic management outside of the aerodrome.
On arrival, the sun was out and everyone was expecting a clear day like last year, unfortunately this wasn’t quite the case. After 12:00 when the display started, the clouds rolled in. During the course of the flying display, there was the occasional shower and then some periods of sunshine. It didn’t stop people getting burnt though!
The static was dominated by the home team and the museum airframes. Unfortunately the visitors were far and few between although they had dragged the Kestrel FGA 1 from the Museum which more than made up for the sparse static. They had all of the Harriers lined up nicely alongside the Kestrel as a nod towards the 50 years of the ‘Jump Jet’ and at the far side of the aerodrome, three Jaguars were lined up nicely providing good photo opportunities.
Two resident Jaguars started off the show. XX847 ‘EZ’ and the gloss black special, XX945 taxied down the runway, turning around and showing all angles of the aircraft. This demonstration shows exactly what happens at RAF Cosford when the Air Show isn’t there. Being a home of the Defence School of Aeronautical Engineering, these taxiing airframes are fine examples of the work the students perform, preparing them for work on live airframes.
Before the main air display, the Large Model Association displayed their remote control scale models. WW1 airframes featured heavily with the 100th Anniversary of the outbreak of WW1 this year. Dave Johnson displayed his 1/5 scale Avro Vulcan, painted anti-flash white, weighing 129kg and with a 240 inch wingspan it was certainly a hefty bird and in silhouette, difficult to differentiate from the real thing.
The UK’s premier parachute display team, The RAF Falcons, returned this year to Cosford to open the flying display. Hailing from No. 1 Parachute Training School at RAF Brize Norton, Gloucestershire the RAF Falcons have been displaying publicly since 1961. Initially known as ‘The Big Six’, in 1965 they were adopted by the RAF as their official parachute display team, numbers increased and renamed the RAF Falcons. This year saw 8 parajumpers, performing a 6-man stack after jumping out of their brightly painted Cessna Caravan; the display looked refined despite the wind’s best efforts.
The Breitling Wingwalkers also returned this year with former airline pilots Steve Hicks and Al Hoy put the two Boeing Stearman through their classic routine with their wingwalkers, Freya Paterson and Nikita Salmon. Al Hoy has displayed the Vampire, Venom, Pitts Special and is a former Red Arrow pilot whilst Steve flew Jaguars and Harriers in the nine years he was with the RAF. After head on passes, wingovers and inverted flight, they concluded their display and proceeded on to Welshpool Air Show.
A rare treat was up next with the Belgian Air Component Red Devils Display Team. Flying four SIAI Marchetti SF.260 M aircraft painted in red with the Belgian flag on the tail, the team have only been flying since 2010 after being disbanded no less than 3 times since 1951 with the last occasion in 1977. Pilots Snr Cpt Paul ‘Paulo’ Lees, Snr Cpt Davy ‘Daffy’ Vanhaeren, Snr Cpt Corentin ‘Regio’ Leveau and Cpt Steve ‘Mag’ Malburny gave us a really tight and enjoyable display and a different plan form than the norm.
The Great War Team then took the skies for their full 9 aircraft show. Whilst all of the aircraft are replicas due to the original aircraft being too delicate and irreplaceable, they are one of the best displays on the UK circuit. A Sopwith Triplane, two Fokker DR1 triplanes, a Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c, three Royal Aircraft Factory SE5As and two Junkers CL1s performed a dogfight routine involving tight turns and steep dives. It gave you a real sense of the chaos and opportunistic approach to air warfare during the First World War. The announcer described the different roles the aircraft had and how they developed during the course of the war. The display was really enjoyable and despite the challenges of the strong wind at Cosford, they made it look easy during the 100th anniversary year of the outbreak of World War One.
Flt Lt Dave Kirby, the 2014 display pilot of the Short Tucano T1 returned to the Cosford display line after initially holding to demonstrate the capability of 72 Squadron’s basic fast jet trainer. Flt Lt Kirby, or Kirbs as he’s known, previously flew C-130s out of former RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire completing numerous operational tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now an A2 Flying Instructor at RAF Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire, he has stepped up from Display Manager to Display Pilot this year. The 2014 display aircraft sporting ‘Lest We Forget’ underneath the aircraft and poppies around the nose performed loops, half cubans, stall turns and reverse wingovers finishing with a low pass and a Canadian Break before also going to display at Welshpool. In great demand, the Tucano display is the 3rd of 4 being conducted over this weekend alone with the first two at Folkestone and Throckmorton on the 7th and Cosford before Welshpool’s Airshow today.
A chance to see the RAF’s newest addition to their troop movement, cargo and air-to-air refueling inventory was presented with a fly-past of a Voyager. Based on the Airbus A330-200 airframe, the RAF’s most recent aircraft was delivered to RAF Brize Norton from Airbus Military’s factory in Getafe, Spain on the 29th of May this year. Whilst this is the 8th delivery, it’s technically the 6th tanker to be delivered as ZZ336 is still an A330 as (G-VYGG) and ZZ334 is a trials aircraft. The last two years has seen RAF Brize Norton’s based aircraft radically change shape with the retirement of both the Vickers VC-10 and the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. Powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 772B-60 turbofan engines pushing out a combined 144,000 lbs of thrust, the Voyager is expected provide tanking services for the next 30 years under the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) programme.
Acknowledged as the world’s first and only display team featuring a Canberra, the Midair Squadron launched officially in 2013. The silver pair ran in from the left with their Canberra PR9 XH134 and Hunter T7 XL557 and proceeded to captivate the crowds with their formation passes. For many people, this was the first time they’ve seen a display involving a Canberra and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Once they split and went into their individual displays, the sheer power and speed of the Canberra was evident. The climb rate is unbelievable and the noise evokes the heritage and power of a bygone era. In the bomber and clandestine reconnaissance role, the English Electric Canberra with its twin Rolls Royce Avon Mk20601 was fairly advanced for its time. By the time it retired from service in 2006 there had been 34 different variants built, serving 17 different countries. The Canberra does live on however in its B-57 guise. The licence-built B-57 was first introduced in 1954 by the Glenn L. Martin Company as a tactical bomber and reconnaissance aircraft and now serves NASA as a test bed and communications aircraft. It has several tours of Iraq and Afghanistan to its name and is designated the WB-57. NASA now have three aircraft in their inventory.
The familiar sound of a Merlin engine echoed around the aerodrome as Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XI PL965 ran down the display line. Previously based at RAF Cosford in 1944, she returned for a really spirited display showing off the curves of the most iconic and easily recognisable WW2 aircraft. Returning to the skies in December 1992 after calling the Dutch War Museum in Overloon home since the 60’s, she became a Hangar 11 resident at North Weald in 2004. Alongside Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk 43-5802, Hawker Hurricane Mk IIB BE505 and North American P-51D Mustang 44-72035, Hangar 11 are one of the most active war bird operators in Europe led by Chief Pilot Peter Teichman. They show off their rare and historic aircraft at over 80 displays per season on average.
Taking to the skies was the 2014 Tutor display, The Grob G 115 is an advanced general aviation fixed-wing aircraft, primarily used for flight training. It is built in Germany by Grob Aircraft (Grob Aerospace before January 2009).The E variant with a 3-blade variable pitch propeller is in Royal Navy and Royal Air Force service as an elementary flying trainer. Every pilot in the RAF, RN or AAC have flown a Grob Tutor which is entirely built from composite materials and is capable of basic aerobatic maneuvers limited to +6G and -3G. The 2014 Pilot, Flt Lt Andy Preece has been in the RAF since 1991, joining initially as a Navigator, Andy was posted in the Tornado GR1 at RAF Bruggen in Germany with No. 7 (F) Squadron. Retraining later as a pilot whilst he was at RAF Cottesmore, he has since flown the Tornado GR1, Hawk, Tucano, Harrier GR7/T10 and Dominie. Beginning his display by flying directly at the crowd, Andy pushed the aircraft up into the vertical before rolling 108 degrees and pushing over the top with negative G. Andy’s display, despite being tamer than the fast jets was very tidy and precise even with the strong on-crowd wind.
With the sound of two EJ-200 turbojets filling the air, Flt Lt Noel Rees in the 2014 RAF Typhoon FGR4 display aircraft, ZK343 ‘BK’, screamed in at 100ft and 400kts beginning his display with an oblique loop and an aileron roll. The 2014 jet, with special XXX tail-art continued with his display, pushing the FGR4 through its paces with plenty of high ‘G’ turns, half cubans and tons of burner thrown in for good measure. It really was an enjoyable display, climaxing in a vertical climb to 8000ft with 20,000lbs of thrust before departing to Welshpool Airshow. Flt Lt Noel Rees, from 29(R) Squadron at RAF Coningsby started his career with the RAF flying Panavia Tornado F3s for 56(R) and 43(F) Squadrons at RAF Leuchars. He later moved over to 19 Squadron at RAF Valley as a Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI) on the BAE Hawk T1 conducting Tactical Weapons Training. Noel was posted to the Typhoon Force in 2011 as an instructor with 29(R). He now contributes to the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) protecting our airspace.
Next up was the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Part of Royal Air Force No. 1 Group and operating from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, the C-47 Dakota is one of the most successful aircraft designs in history with over 10,000 built. The Dakota equipped twenty two RAF squadrons and three RCAF squadrons under RAF operational control. Dakotas served in every theatre of the war, most notably in Burma and also during the D-Day landings and the airborne assault on Arnhem in 1944. Of course, the Dakota has been particularly busy over the last few weeks with the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, performing in France to the veterans and general public alongside other airworthy Dakotas. Joining the C-47, the Griffon-powered Spitfire PS915 (Mk PRXIX) and Hurricane PZ865 (Mk IIc) flew in formation and individually giving a poignant display of 70+ year old aviation.
Performing a search and rescue demo again this year, the Sea King HAR Mk3 is the tried and tested workhorse of 22 Squadron’s ‘C’ Flight. The helicopter, based at RAF Valley in Anglesey demonstrated a ‘rescue’ on the display line. Previously operating torpedo bomber Vickers Vildebeests and later Bristol Beauforts during the Second World War, the modern 22 Squadron comprising of three flights, ‘A’ based at RMB Chivenor in Devon, ‘B’ at Wattisham in Suffolk and the aforementioned ‘C’ flight based at RAF Valley in Anglesey live up to their motto “Valiant and Brave” whilst undertaking their life-preserving duties on a daily basis.
GliderFX, known previously as the Swift Aerobatic Display Team flew the two-seat MDM1-Fox towed by a Piper PA25 Pawnee. The glider was dropped over the crowd and commenced his display of rolls, a loop, stall turns and wingovers. With smoke trailing, it was a really good display considering the glider is unpowered.
The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, celebrate their 50th display season this year. Commemorating this milestone, the BAE Hawk T1 aircraft are sporting special tailfin artwork. Since their first display at Former RAF station Little Rissington, Gloucestershire in the May of 1965, the Red Arrows have become one of, if not the most well-known of the many aerobatic teams worldwide. They came over the top of the crowd trailing the red, white and blue to commence their display. The formation work was as tight and disciplined as ever and with the team splitting into Gypo (Front) and Enid (Rear) groups, they commenced their individual displays to perfection. It was definitely the best display I’d seen for many years which is credit to the hundreds and hundreds of hours they put in to training at RAF Akrotiri and RAF Scampton reflecting how the Red Arrows remain the public face of the Royal Air Force.
Up next was the latest addition to the schedule after confirming on the 3rd of June. Classic Air Force’s deHavilland Venom WR470. Storming in from the left, the first generation jet fighter performed a high-speed pass before pulling around and providing everyone with a topside pass. After suffering a wheels-up landing at Biggin Hill in 2001, many hours were spent nursing her back to full flying condition. She was sold to Aviation Heritage Ltd (Of Miss Demeanour fame) before being donated to Classic Air Force. Whilst marked up as WR470, this jet is in-fact CAA registered as G-DHVM. The paint scheme is designed to represent a 208 Squadron jet from the 1950s however it was actually built by Pilatus in Switzerland. After serving with the Swiss Air Force for almost 30 years, it was retired in 1984. WR470 changed hands many times before being brought out of storage in 1998.
702 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) featured on the display lineup in the form of one of their Westland Lynx HMA8 helicopters. The 2014 ‘Black Cat’ solo display demonstrated the agility and speed of the tried and tested Lynx airframe. Whilst not as sprightly as the Army Air Corps Lynx AH7 due to the added weight and drag caused by the under-nose radar installation and the electro-optical sensor on the nose, it still provided an enjoyable display. Sadly, 2014 heralds the last display of this aircraft, being replaced by the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat in 2015.
The Blades had taken off earlier in the program and returned to begin their display, arriving over the crowd. Their display was as tight and synchronised as ever, the little Extra 300s were however visibly shaken by the strong on-crowd wind and it was clear the pilots were battling inside their cockpits before finishing with their signature move, the ‘Blade Break’. The Blades are a full-time civilian aerobatic display team. Made up entirely of former RAF Red Arrows pilots who have amassed over 30,000 flying hours between them, the low-wing, high performance aircraft owned by 2 Excel Aviation Ltd is designed for pure, unadulterated aerobatics and are made up of modern lightweight materials. A little known fact is that Blade 4 has a different Lycoming engine than the rest of the team, this is so he can call on more power during his solo display. Andy Evans, the pilot of Blade 4 used to be Red 10 and manage RAFAT between 1997-2000.
There was a familiar aircraft in the sky over to the North East of the airfield, the delta shape was unmistakable against the white cloud and you could the see the crowd starting to point. The announcer, Sean Maffett who is known as ‘The Voice of XH558’ was proud to announce the arrival of Avro Vulcan XH558 and she came in from the left jumping straight into the display we’re so familiar with. Hearing the howl again was nice and Pilot Kev Rumens put her through her paces. There was a fair bit of full throttle but you could tell that XH558 was being returned to idle very quickly after powering up to altitude or finishing a maneuver. Completing her set with another huge wingover which she did much to the delight of spectators back at Waddington last July, Kev ensured he made himself known as the best Vulcan display pilot amongst the enthusiasts.
After the Vulcan display, it was the turn of the Jet Provost. The classic trainer which served with 10 different air forces around the world performed some basic maneuvers to display 1950s-era aviation. Not officially retired until 1993, she served 38 years with the RAF as a fast jet trainer before eventually being replaced by the Short Tucano.
Richard Goodwin dived in from quite a considerable height in his Pitts S2.S, G-EWIZ. He performed a good display although at times it felt it was a little distant from the crowd compared to other acts. Rich, an airline pilot by trade was a former GR1 pilot including Gulf War tours. He’s now an award winning aerobatics master who also displays internationally. He carries out a fair amount of the work on his aircraft himself after initially starting his career in engineering.
The familiar slap of the blades signaled the start of the Apache display. A Cosford regular, the AAC have provided some very good displays in the past, this year’s display however was out of this world entirely. With an awesome pyro display simulating Hydra rockets, Hellfire missiles and the Apache AH1’s formidable 30mm cannon, it was one of the favourites of the day.
The Bücker Jungmann formation display team, the ‘Old Buckers’ G-BZIV and 72-36 entered the display line and kicked off their display. The old Bücker Bü 131 ‘Jungmann’s aircraft painted in Spanish Air Force colours and with original Tigre engines they’re becoming a regular on the display circuit. They performed formations and crossovers, whilst slow and steady, they were very maneuverable and would have been produced in great numbers back in the 1930s. While they have a Hirth HM 504 four-cylinder inverted inline engine, pushing out less horsepower than most modern cars, they did fairly well.
The finishing touch to an already excellent day was the Yakolev display. The YAK-50 and 52s performed precise, yet graceful formations, high speed crosses and other aerobatics. By this point, the car parks were starting to empty out which was a little disappointing owing to the unique-ness of the Yak aircraft and the display it was performing.
The RAF Cosford Airshow remains one of the UK’s top family air shows. With so much to offer, you can spend all morning in the Museum hangars and then settle down to watch an emphatic flying display program for the afternoon. They really nailed the traffic management this year after last year’s issues which has gone a really long way.
The author would like to thank the team at Cosford airshow for their help and assistance during the event.