Sitting on the North Wales coast in the shadow of Snowdonia, the annual airshow held at the seaside resort of Llandudno has a lot to offer for enthusiasts and families alike. Michael Lovering reports for AeroResource.
Following the atrocious weather experienced in 2014 and the subsequent participant cancellations, the organisers of Llandudno’s 2015 airshow must have breathed a sigh of relief on the morning of Saturday 23rd May 2015 when they arrived to a dry but hazy promenade, which over the course of the day turned into clear blue skies and sunshine.
With a small but varied flying programme including warbirds, vintage jets and the 2015 public debut of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Display Team (The Red Arrows), visitors were treated to an enjoyable afternoon of flying in a location bursting with unique vantage points and backdrops. In addition to the dynamic display, a number of static helicopters were positioned on the promenade including the Huey and Loach Vietnam helicopter pairing operated by Phil Connolly, and a Griffin from the Defence Helicopter Flying Training School.
The show was opened by The Old Bückers, a pair of Bücker Jungmann biplanes flown by Peter Gaskell and Andy Cumming. Resplendent in their original Spanish Air Force markings, the pair performed an elegant routine combining close formation work with swooping aerobatics as they made a number of close passes down the beach.They were followed by Avro Anson T21 G-VROE operated by the Classic Air Force (CAF) which did a good job of standing out in the morning haze with its overall silver RAF training colour scheme.
The second contribution to the display programme from the CAF was Gloster Meteor NF.11 WM167 (G-LOSM), an aircraft absent from the airshow circuit for a number of years that should be seen more regularly in 2015 in addition to their other Meteor, WA591. The distinctive extended nose of the night fighter variant divides opinion on appearance, but the display was up to the usual high standards of the Coventry based operator. Other vintage jet action came in the form of locally based BAC Strikemaster Mk82A G-SOAF flown by Mark Petrie. The aircraft, a strike variant of the popular BAC Jet Provost, served with the Royal Air Force of Oman and continues to be displayed in the gloss grey paint scheme it wore in frontline service.
World War Two fighters were represented by a Spitfire and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and P-51D Mustang Jumpin’ Jacques from the Hangar 11 collection, the latter closing the show in the best light of the day. The BBMF had originally also allocated Lancaster PA474 to Llandudno prior to the unfortunate engine fire at Coningsby on 7th May, and as a result provided the only cancellation of the day’s flying activity. The two BBMF fighters; Spitfire Mk XVI TE311 and Hurricane Mk IIc PZ865, performed a number of formation passes and highly polished solo displays, at points diving in straight over Great Orme much to the delight of the gathered photographers.
Completing the line-up of warbirds was Duxford based Catalina G-PBYA. A stalwart of the UK airshow scene, it is easy to overlook the beautiful lines of this historic amphibious aircraft at larger shows, but at Llandudno the coastal setting suited the Catalina perfectly. Numerous low passes were flown in front of the rugged cliff-faces and grey sea evoking powerful imagery of the coastal patrol and air sea rescue roles this aircraft carried out during the war.
Dawlish is often talked of as “the” place to see the Red Arrows. After witnessing their rolling 2015 display from the summit of Great Orme it’s safe to say Llandudno is a worthy challenger for that crown. Aided by the appearance of the sun and the photogenic 2015 display season Union Flag tails, the dynamic second half of the Red Arrows display was superb to watch as the synchro pair cavorted over the water backed up by the various formations of Enid and Gypo. One of these was the welcome return of the mirror roll: Whilst many display teams perform a mirror pass, very few include four aircraft and perform a roll along the crowdline! The 2015 display was well received by everyone present and will no doubt be the highlight of many displays over the summer.
In conclusion Llandudno Airshow 2015 was a superb day out. Very few venues have such a picturesque location providing a long crowd line on the promenade for families and raised viewpoints at both ends of the display line for photographers. The programme was varied and had a good mix of warbirds and jet aircraft which were arranged to provide variety and keep interest. The only minor criticism of the show would be of the often lengthy gaps between displays. Although this is difficult to solve the show would have benefitted from starting later or booking more participants. The traffic was also heavy exiting the town following the P-51 finale. This of course was not helped by Llandudno’s geography being at the end of a peninsula. Despite these points, this unique show is bound to grow in popularity over the coming years. Make space in your diary for 2016!