The 4th and 5th of July marked Waddington airshow in Lincolnshire. The show this year focused on NATO’s sixtieth anniversary. Charles Cunliffe reports for Fighter Control from the sun blessed event.
Waddington is the second biggest airshow in the UK and plays host to a varied amount of military aircraft from Tutors to TriStars. This year was no different with a great turn out from the NATO counties including Norwegian F-16s, a French E-3 and a German F-4F Phantom. The airshow is well loved by enthusiasts and families alike, because it has something for everyone from funfairs to fast jets. The organizers never fail to put on a top class show and this year was no exception.
To kick of the show was the ISTAR display carried out by the E-3 Sentry; the E-3 fleet is based at RAF Waddington and took to the sky to give a few passes for the crowd. As well as the E-3, another based aircraft was also presented in front of the crowds; a Sentinel R1 landed during the show after an operational mission – The Sentinel is a fairly new aircraft to the RAF and is part of the Airborne Stand-off Radar (ASTOR) programme. Also part of operations for the day was another E-3 Sentry and a Nimrod who as described by the commentator “Went off to do whatever it is they do”.
Up next was Team Orlik from Poland, flying their PZL-130 Orliks which explains where the team gets their name. The aerobatic display team was formed in 1998 and performed a stunning display. The team flew a verity of formations such as goose, arrow, delta and classic diamond 9. The whole display lasted about 20 minutes.
Then the tiny Tutor appeared from the clouds and performed a dazzling display for such a small aircraft. The 2009 RAF Tutor Display Pilot is Flight Lieutenant Bill Ramsey – Having retired in 2008 after 36 years of regular RAF service, Bill is a Full Time Reservist Qualified Flying Instructor at the No 1 Elementary Flying Training School Instructor Training Squadron, recently allocated the title of 115 (Reserve) Squadron. This year’s aircraft is painted with blue stripes along the wings and elevators with the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund logo painted on the underside of the aircraft.
The morning display continued with two demo teams consisting of the Blue Eagles and the world famous RAF Red Arrows. The Eagles put on a great display showing how flexible the Apache and Lynx platforms really are. It was a totally different display compared to 2008 when the team consisted of a Gazelle, Lynx, Wasp and Apache. This year has seen major cut backs and now the display is just the modern Apache and the fastest helicopter in the world – the Lynx.
The Red Arrows as usual put on a crowd thrilling display with some new formations for the 2009 season as well as the usual dare devil maneuvers, The Reds will soon become a familiar sight to the locals at RAF Waddington as it was decided last year that the Red Arrows would move from RAF Scampton to the base in 2011, however all is not lost for Scampton, the team are still expected to use the aerodrome to perform their practice displays.
The French Alpha jet was next to take centre stage wowing the audience as it performed barrel rolls in landing configuration and performing both low speed and high passes down the display line, but the inverted passes were certainly the maneuvers that pleased the crowds.
Next, another formation display team took to the skies in the form of The Blades. An interesting fact about The Blades is that due to them holding an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) they are the world’s only aerobatic airline. The team performed a great display at the show with a mixture of high g turns and death defying rolls. The Blades were formed in 2005 by Chris Norton OBE DFC and Andy Offer OBE who both left their distinguished careers in the Royal Air Force as Wing Commanders to create a unique, aviation-based communications business.
The Alpha Jet aircraft was displayed again at Waddington, this time in the shape of four Belgian Alpha Jets. The team performed some formation passes with smoke and disappeared into the great weather. The Alpha’s were flown all the way from Belgium to display before returning the same day.
Next the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) Naval demo team graced the skies with their two FR Aviation Falcons and four Black Sea Hawks. The six aircraft put on a flawless display with many high speed passes and close formations. FRADU regularly carry out simulated ship attacks by using the Hawk’s as various weapons; the unit works in support of Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) in conjunction with Cobham. Cobham operate the Dassault Falcon 20 aircraft from Bournemouth airport, providing ECM and radar threat simulation in addition to target towing.
The loud noise of piston engines could be heard as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) flew down the crowd line in a tight formation. Each aircraft then did a solo demonstration and the display was wrapped up with a fly-past of all three aircraft. The BBMF are based at a nearby RAF Coningsby and display their aircraft throughout Europe. They also operate three other classic propeller aircraft; one DC-3 Dakota which is an iconic ex RAF warbird and two De Havilland Chipmunks – also ex RAF examples.
The Vampire was next to take-off with its wonderful classic sound. The aircraft performed a short display of high speed crowd line passes and some top-sides showing the beauty of the Vampire. The Vampire Preservation Group operates WZ507 (G-VTII) and is believed to be the only airworthy de Havilland Vampire T11 currently flying in the world, so we’re very lucky to have it on our airshow circuit.
Up next was Team Viper consisting of four Strikemasters. Each aircraft was showcasing a different colour scheme which was previously worn during their service with four air forces – Kenyan Airforce, Sultan of Oman Airforce, Royal Saudi Airforce, and Royal Singapore Airforce. The Stikemaster creates quite a noise on its own from its Rolls-Royce Viper Mk.535 turbojet but four together creates an ear bending sound of classic jets performing a great show.
After Viper had finished their display, Team Breitling taxied to the active to make their Waddington debut. It was an outstanding performance from the men in blue; they kept their formations tight throughout the display and wowed the crowd with their stunts. The team fly seven L-39 albatross jets in the colour of their sponsor, Breitling. The team displays across Europe and the Middle East and each year undertake a busy schedule of engagements, including major international airshows and Breitling corporate events.
Lastly the two T’s finished the show, first was the three engine RAF work horse that is the L-1011 TriStar, the TriStar only performed one “clean” pass before departing back to its home base at RAF Brize Norton, however the show was very lucky to get a fly-past from the TriStar at all as 216 Sqn are very heavily committed with current operations at the moment and aircraft are very rarely spare to attend these sort of events.
After the TriStar, the RAFs latest front line fighter the Eurofighter Typhoon performed the best solo display of the day! This year’s display pilot is Flight Lieutenant Scott Loughran, who is a Qualified Pilot Instructor with 29(R) Squadron. He put the Typhoon though its paces with complex manoeuvres and body crushing turns showing what this outstanding aircraft can really do. The display involved lots of reheat from the Typhoons two EJ-200 engines which pleased the crowd. To finish up the display he performed a breath taking loop over the runway threshold to land.
One of if not the biggest talking point of the show was the fact that the worlds only flying Vulcan – XH558 was unable to display over the weekend as it’s permit to fly had expired only a few days before show. Following the announcement by TVOC on the 4th of July that the aircraft would be unable to display, there was out roar on aviation forums; demanding a reason as to why the aircraft was flown in to the airshow on the 3rd (the day its permit expired) knowing that the it wouldn’t be able to display over the weekend and therefore grounding it away from its operating base. An announcement a few days after the show stated that the aircraft should be granted its CAA permit to fly within a matter of days.
All in all Waddington was a great day, it was blessed with good weather and a great turn out from the NATO countries.