Celebrating its 70th anniversary as an air station, RNAS Yeovilton held their annual air day on the 10th July 2010, the aim of which was to showcase most of the types that have been based here since 1940 when it was first established as HMS Heron. Yeovilton still conducts the same role as it did all those years ago and that is to train Royal Navy air crews for operations around the world. Aero Resources’ Richard Cliff and Adam Cutler joined the fun that was Air Day 2010.
This year was blessed with good weather which was a pleasant change from previous events and the appalling year all round for air shows in 2009 which cancelled most of the flying displays throughout the year at all of the major events. The arrivals and rehearsal day, held the day before, was the hottest day for years and provided an insight of what was on the static and display once inside the perimeter on show day. Arriving early, around 8.00am, we were greeted by the French Navy Rafale landing along with the fantastic sight of the AW159 Wildcat which was set up by the trade enclosure.
The static was clear of the public audience and provided an opportunity to walk around the aircraft without the guard rails in the way and of course aircraft were still arriving as we stood deciding what to look at first. Apart from the static aircraft and stands, the usual trade setups were provided inside the hangars. Some very interesting models and mock ups of various hardware, which will be fitted to aircraft eventually seeing service at Yeovilton. This included the AW159 Wildcat’s primary missile system, radar and electro-optical sights along with the AW101 Merlin Air Refueling demonstrator which was provided by AgustaWestland.
Static was way down on previous years and in particular the lack of any heavy type was apparent. Unfortunately, the NATO E-3 Sentry (AWACS) cancelled at short notice, as did the RAF VC-10 which would have made very welcome additions to the static display. But, what was on offer was still very good. A type previously operated by Yeovilton and with only a handful still left in the world flying operationally, the German Air Force F-4 Phantom was a great coup for the organizers of the show of which provided a very smokey arrival the previous day.
With no less than six F-16 Fighting Falcons at the show, a couple were on offer in the static along with other fast jet types such as the Rafale, Alpha Jet, Sea Harrier, Sea Vixen and of course the Phantom. A French Navy Falcon 10MER arrived also to support the Rafale. Helicopters were in abundance as usual ranging from the Fleet Air Arms Lynx and Seaking to the old Scout and Wasp together with various civilian types.
Inside the hangar the Royal Navy Historic Flight had their Fairey Swordfish which was down as flying but had technical issues.
In fact, the whole of the Royal Navy Historic Flight (RNHF) was programmed to fly at this year’s birthday celebrations but several of the more notable ones such as the Swordfish and Sea Vixen were sadly left sulking on the tarmac. The Sea Hurricane also went unserviceable, a type which was flown at the air station back in the forties when it first opened and the only one of its type in the world in flying condition. So this too was missing from the line.
Onwards from the static, the flying programme took off at 11.00am with the welcome roar of an F-16 Fighting Falcon of the Belgian Air Component which did a fantastic display complete with flares followed by the Royal Navy Jetstream, Royal Air force Harrier GR.9 and French Air Force Alpha Jet. It was certainly a cracking start to the air display.
Shortly after, the Seafire and Sea Hawk did a short formation fly past followed by solo displays.
The Red Arrows conducted their display, sadly without the fly past scheduled with the Vulcan but once they landed, the Vulcan was cleared to do its routine. With the infamous howl of the engines on takeoff, it provided a nice low routine albeit slightly less noisy than usual and less dynamic than expected and it was explained that the crew did not take it up to full power during the display. It did however draw the crowds once again of which most were left smiling and talking about it for some time afterwards.
After the Vulcan it was time for some more Helicopters, with the FAA Merlin having displayed earlier in the afternoon, it was the turn of the FAA 815NAS maritime Lynx demo. Flying Lynx HMA8 and HAS3 helicopters they provided a very active routine complete with fire and large bangs as pyrotechnics simulated attacks and air assaults. After this it was the turn of unpowered flight. The Swift display team is amazing. With their glider parading around the skies as if it had a jet engine it was stunning to see the manoeuvres that a glider can pull off.
More roaring jet engines followed though, this time by the Dutch F-16 solo demo again using flares to woo the crowd, and the RAF Tucano displayed in between the FAA Black Cats helicopter display team and the Spanish Patrulla Aguila display team. The Air Atlantique Vampire did a nice display followed by the Royal Danish Air Force F-16 which again used flares. This is the first year the Danish have displayed their F-16 and it was to see a different routine to the Dutch and Belgian which are more familiar on the display circuit. The Jordanian Falcons were again touring the UK and put on a superb little display as usual with very skillful formation flying in the winds that got up during the afternoon.
The finale was made up of the Royal Navy Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) Assault Demonstration. Plenty of pyrotechnics ensued with lots of smoke, bangs and masses of fire combined with fantastic flying from the Lynx and Seakings. The spectacle which is the “Wall of Fire” again heated up the environment and formed an awesome backdrop to the helicopters lining up for the end of the air day.
With another Yeovilton Air Day over with, the organizers pulled off a great loud display compared with previous years. Plenty of jet noise and plenty of variety from all walks of military aviation and although the static and assault demo was rather short from previous years, it was an enjoyable day made even more so by the fantastic weather over the weekend. The event is becoming a firm favourite on the UK calendar and is now one of the top six air shows in the United Kingdom. We can’t wait to see what 2011 will bring!
Thanks go to the Yeovilton PRO and AHA Events for their hospitality on the show day.